Over the last week I have had a thrilling geology adventure across Pembrokeshire. This was my first visit to Wales and there were a lot of adventurous geology visits along the way. In all these years I kept putting myself off going to Wales because of several reasons, but until now I finally have a good opportunity.
In the past I had been meaning to visit Wales because of the Doctor Who connection. The BBC’s Drama department was based in Wales and Doctor Who had made a comeback to TV in 2005. Over the next few years the Welsh government made a number of capital connections getting people to visit Cardiff and the locations used in filming. It’s a shame I kept putting it off all those years that I was a fanboy, but it was an expensive hobby that made me change my priorities in life. Those priorities led me to finding a new way to embrace the Welsh country.
So I headed off with my Earth Science friends on a five day project studying the geology of Pembroke. We explored 8 different locations across the area from St David’s in the west to Amroth in the east, followed by a quick stopover to Ogmore-by-Sea on the way back to Egham.
There is a lot of geological history that can be found at these said locations. What makes a beach or a cliff basin useful is the way that the bedding and the rock types are exposed as they jut out of the land. Take St Nons Bay, which is near St David’s. The geology here was rich in pre-Cambrian to Cambrian era layers made up of shale, limestone and sandstones. This was the earliest part of Earth’s history which accounts for 88% of Earth’s geological time. From here I started a rock collection taking a piece of Wales with me. It is a rhyolite, an igneous volcanic rock with a porphyritic texture.
The tasks we had to do is something that I am going to share with you for your own benefit to work as your own geologist. Many scientists and geeks start off their passion for science as hobbyists. I would recommend anyone with a curious mind to go out in the field and get adventurous with the playground of rocks and minerals. To start with get the Dorling Kindersley Rocks and Mineral handbook and carry it with you. Learn about the Earth’s treasures and then start locating them.
The first thing to look for is the rocks and what types they are. Identify them and then log them in the order that you see them. Start with the types that are dipping in a direction to the shore. Measure their thicknesses with a measuring tape and with that you can work out the true thickness. This is the thickness of a geological layer that is found at the site.
Another exercise you can try is to work out the orientation of the bedding by measuring their strikes and dips. To do this you will need to invest in is a compass clinometer. It’s a useful gadget that every geologist should have to hand. It allows you to make a graphical picture of the location to show the direction of the layers and the path they are plunging into the ground. You can then plot these onto a stereonet.
The types of rock around the whole of Pembroke span a period of 500 million years. Wales itself also contributed massively to the study of geology. The Cambrian era gets it’s name from the Latinised name for Wales. Wales in Welsh is Cymru, in Latin it’s Cambria. Wales was the first place that the Cambrian era was first studied.
I took probably over 300 photos from across the 8 locations. My tutor got some good shots as well with some of them featuring me at work. One of which shows my best side, with me using a compass clinometer at Broadhaven which had a massive circular fold.
One of Wales’s most famous contributions to modern life is coal. Geology helped the Welsh to find coal and it provided a way of life to the Wales. Throughout the industrial revolution the coal industry made Wales one of the most valuable economic assets to Britain. While I was at Amroth I found the site of an exhausted abandoned coal mine. There was a public walkway made out of an old narrow gauge railway that used to run along the seafront to carry the coal to shore. I managed to spot a small layer of coal that was protruding through a syncline fold structure. I took some pieces of it with me and now I have something that Wales is famous for, the black gold that is coal.
It was a good trip for me and I am glad to say that I finally got to Wales in the end. Not as a tourist but as an environmental geologist. It was the best fun that I had in my entire academic career. I have realised that I have fully embraced the scientific career that I am destined for. There are plenty of useful jobs for geologists with environmental, political, and engineering applications. All I need to do now is prepare for exam season in the summer. Now it is time for me to take a break from studying and enjoy the Easter holidays for now.