EGU Blogs

Matt Herod

Matt Herod is a Ph.D Candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. His research focuses on the geochemistry of iodine and the radioactive isotope iodine-129. His work involves characterizing the cycle and sources of 129I in the Canadian Arctic and applying this to long term radioactive waste disposal and the effect of Fukushima fallout. His project includes field work and lab work at the André E. Lalonde 3MV AMS Laboratory. Matt blogs about any topic in geology that interests him, and attempts to make these topics understandable to everyone. Tweets as @GeoHerod.

A GeoPoetry Anthology – Accretionary Wedge #51 Compilation

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone that participated in this edition of the Accretionary Wedge. There were a few comments that the topic was somewhat out of people’s comfort zone so I am glad that there was still fantastic participation and people willing to try poetry writing out even if it was a different sort of medium. As you know poems come in all shapes, sizes and subjects and a key part of any anthology is how to organize the poems. Many are organized according to poetic style or author. However, since we don’t have all that many poems for this anthology I thought it might be best to organize them according to geologic theme.

Therefore, without further ado I present the Accretionary Wedge: A Collection of Geology Poems. Enjoy!

Volcanoes and Igneous Rocks

The first in this category was submitted by Jessica Ball at her blog Magma Cum Laude and is a “classic” to say the least. It is a song called High Magmification set to a very catchy 1950’s tune…just try and keep it out of your head. The lyrics themselves are pretty catchy too.

The next submission was submitted as a direct comment to the Call for Posts and is a wonderful poem written by a truly gifted poet who goes by the name of Gillian B.

I think that I shall never see
A lava flow more sweet than thee.
Thy blackened edges, smould’ring still,
That skirt around the little hill
And leave a green kipuka bright
Illumed by lava day and night.
The steady fumes of CO2
With sulphur touches through and through.

So lovely is thy lethal heat,
The radiation by my feet
That indicates the magma’s reach
From mountain high to black sand beach.
When first I knew thee, thine own birth
Was posited as cracking earth
And isostatic movements great,
Yet now I know ’tis moving plates.

I long one day to see thee more,
To walk upon thy shifting shore,
To watch the glow upon the rise
That shows where vent and tunnel lies.
I’ll see thee yet, and walk thy ways
In shoes that have seen better days,
And give to Pele that which she
Demands of vulcan-philes like me.


Ron Schott has posted a poem by Teufelin Peare aptly called Metamorphism at his blog: Ron Schott’s Geology Home Companion Blog. It is full of fantastic lines and clever puns. Here is a an excerpt that got me laughing. Plagioclase twins! Great pun!

Here was garnet, red and gaudy,
There was hornblende, horribly baudy!
Biotite, he laughed with mirth,
And the Plagioclase twins did hail their birth.

Field Trips

Karen Locke has written a wonderful story in poetic form about a trip to Vaughn Gulch. This poem really brings the feeling of the place out and the experience of being on a geology class trip. A truly remarkable piece and I really love the end and how it captures the feeling that there is always more to see.

Back to the Suburbans; time to visit another canyon, learn another clue.
picking our way through purple flowers
and granite Volkswagens
off to a new view.


Anne Jefferson at Highly Allocthonous has posted a great piece about the upcoming past Hurricane Sandy which is a great synopisis of the varying forecasts of Sandy. Indeed, it is always interesting to compare the accuracy of the forecast to the actual storm. In this case they were pretty accurate. To conclude her post Anne embedded a song called Storm’s Comin by the Wailing Jenny’s that really captures the foreboding feeling that accompanies a really big storm. (Also, the video is from CBC Radio 2! Awesome!)



I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I posted a self-written poem on glaciers. Check it out. It is part of a larger post on my favourite poet: Robert Service. These are probably the best lines of my poem, if I do say so myself.

scraping the land at your base;

shaping it like a colossal fresco

receding, advancing, apparently still

yet always in motion, inexorably flowing

Geology Appreciation

The geology appreciation category is our largest and rightly so since we are all lovers of earth science after all.

Leading things off is Hollis over at Plants and Rocks who posted two poems! Yeah! Move and Carmel Point are both fantastic poems about appreciating the natural world. Carmel Point, by Robinson Jeffers,  has this line which is one of the best of the carnival if you ask me.

Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,

Next is Lockwood who posted a poem called Oh Lovely Rock also by Robinson Jeffers at his blog, Outside the Interzone. Oh Lovely Rock is a terrific ode to geology.

Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the flame-lit surface into the

real and bodily

The Geology Classroom

Danny Rosen submitted this original poem about is experience of Geology 101 as a comment on the Call for Posts.

In The Beginning
(for Doc Mears, Univ. of Wyoming)

The professor enters the lecture hall silently.
He loves the anticipation, the sequence of classes,
row upon row of young students, semester on semester,
like the strata beneath his boot; he finds himself
firmly within the infinite.

Gazing up to his new crop, cigar snuffed on the chalk tray,
stub in the pocket of his ancient jacket, battered
slacks stuffed in boots caked in mud that reek
of deep time. I lean forward.

The last of the cigar smoke rises past his wide ears,
close-cropped hair, almost moist eyes, he sighs and says,
“Well, I think it’s time to begin.”

Geology 101. High school a dim memory,
many smoky years ago; all those toilets cleaned,
trash collected, lawns mown, tables bussed, nails banged,
all those rock towers climbed with foreign labels: sandstone, granite.

“Geology.” the professor says, in a calm strong voice.
“Why would anyone want to study geology?” He walks
to the chalkboard and writes in huge capitols, G, E, O, stops,
cocks his head back to the 150 students, looks right at me.

“Because we love the earth and we want to learn
as much about it as we possibly can,” returns to the board,
finishes spelling out, L, O, G, Y, turns to face his captives
and says, “At least, I hope that’s why we study geology.”

I see years opening up: walking through that breached anticline,
traversing this topographically reversed basaltic ridge,
climbing an aplite dike into the sky, wandering
to planets beyond the sun, to the most distant stars,
feeling at home more than ever.

Garry Hayes of Geotripper has a unique post: a submission by one of his students from 1990. I have to say that I hope she got full marks for this poem because it really is great. Here is one by Vicki…and it has some great, and humourous, lines in it like this one:

Let’s check out that iridium layer
In our search for ultimate truth
Or did the dinosaurs really die
From drinking tainted vermouth?

We’ll have to ask Jon, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t the bad vermouth that killed the dinosaurs.


Danny Rosen was a double submitter to his great credit. Here is his second contribution.

Erosion of the Ancestral Rockies

Gravel and sand layed down on a broad flood plain.

Piled muck thick and thin, marsh and dune, humid-lush,

low-land-like long-ago-Georgia. Coal in the western swamp.

Laramide Orogen: a slow mountain building event. A slow

crushing dislocation—as when any life is shaken

up go mountains, down fall boulders, our ancestors

all in gym shorts, running on a sinking shore, running

on marine shale, past dying turtles and a mass fish death:

the deposit asquirm, a while, a settle down. And conduits

of young black rock, frozen and left behind, harder than

the lapping stone, topography reversed——

black snake ridge. 

Uplift, erosion, long time, and us, spilling out our earthen guts.


The final submission is an original by Dana Hunter and posted at her Scientific American blog home, Rosetta Stones. (I love that blog title!) It is called Nothing Lasts, Eternal and is a fitting way to end this compilation. It really captures the never ending cycle of geology and the underlying linkages all earth systems share. I leave you with these lines that illustrate this concept so poignantly.

Mountains rise, plains fall
And it is often forgotten 
 That this mountain was a plain once
 That this plain washed down from a peak

A beautiful vista of Coal Lake and Coal Ridge in the Yukon. (Photo: Matt Herod)

I hope you enjoyed this fantastic collection of geology poems to conclude the Accretionary Wedge 51. It has been a privilege to host and I thank all the contributors for their fantastic submissions.



Geology Photo of the Week # 10 – Nov 4-10 – A Mysterious Monster!

I apologize for the delay posting this. I was in Washington DC earlier this week to take in a Supreme Court hearing that never actually happened due to Hurricane Sandy. My flight out was also delayed and thus many other things in my life are delayed right now including this post.

This photo poses a bit of a conundrum…since I don’t have a clue what it is! I have an idea, but I’d like to get other opinions as well. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. I had to climb up a 5m cliff and then take the photo of the overhang above me at full zoom with my little point and shoot. The rock is a reddish sandstone and is the bottom of a rippled bedding plane. You can kind of see the ripples at the right side of the photo.  As for scale I don’t have an exact one but it is approximately 10-15cm long and 5cm wide. The location is the southern end of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, about an hour’s drive north of Port Augusta (see the map below).

So here is your challenge: what do you think that oval-like shape is? It appears to be a fossil of some description, but what is it? I am not ashamed to admit that I don’t know.  Please guess in the comments section below.

(Photo:Matt Herod)

(Photo:Matt Herod)

Approximately where I was staying just north of Port Augusta on the sheep and cattle station of some friends. The Flinders Ranges are just to the east.

As I said I have a suspicion what this could be although I am not sure. I believe it is an Ediacaran fossil that dates back between 635 and 545 million years ago. Indeed, the Flinders Ranges are home to a little village called Ediacara only a few hundred kilometres north of where I was and the namesake of the Ediacaran.

I suspect that these impressions are possibly of the Ediaracan creature Spriggina or maybe Dickinsonia? It appears to have bilateral symmetry and is reasonably large and ~10 cm long and 5 cm wide.

File:Spriggina Floundensi 4.png

Spriggina Floundensi (Image: Wikipedia)

The other possibility that I have been considering is Dickinsonia. Dickinsonia is classified as likely an animal of an unknown kingdom. Regardless of its affiliation, or lack thereof, it also has bilateral symmetry and can be quite large. Indeed, the species D. lissa has been found up to 15 cm. It can also have similar morphology to my mysterious fossil as D. lissa can have an elongate shape.

File:Dickinsonia species 2.png

Dickinsonia species and their morphologies. (Image: Wikipedia)

So I leave it to you to figure this out. Please let me hear your opinions since I certainly am no paleo expert, but I’d love to get to the bottom of what this mysterious fossil is.

Thanks for reading,



Geology Photo of the Week #9 – Oct 21-27

Check out this wicked awesome rock!!

This awesome formation is aptly known as “Split Apple Rock”. It is probably one of the more unique rock formations that I have seen. It is located in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand’s South Island. As the with the Pancake Rocks post a few weeks ago I was in the area for a conference and was touring around afterwards. Split Apple Rock is composed of granite.

The theory on its formation is an interesting one. From what I have been able to discover online, which is very limited,  the consensus is that this formation had a glacial origin and that it formed due to freeze-thaw fracturing, although I am not sure that this fully explains it. I realize that this area was glaciated, however, I would think erosion by sea spray on an already existing fracture could make something like this too. If you know more about this rock please comment or simply state your opinion!! Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures.



Geology Photo of the Week #8 – Oct 14-20 – Guessing Game!

This weeks photo is a giant bone! I leave it to you to surmise which creature it belongs to….I hope you accept the challenge. Please post your guesses in the comment section below. If no one gets it within the first few hours I’ll start posting hints about the creature. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. Have fun!

Hint 1: This bone was discovered in the Yukon Territory and is housed at the Yukon Archaeological and Palaeontological Survey, which is where I took the photo. Their facility houses all of the bones found in the Yukon as well as all of the archaeological artefacts.

Well, the mystery has been solved.  Congrats to everyone who provided the answer on Twitter as well.

The answer that you have all been waiting for is Wooly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius). Yep, this is a bone from a mammoth and it is all of a metre long!! Absolutely massive!

Here are some other pictures of mammoth remains that I snagged from the collection and the local museum.

A complete and gorgeous mammoth skeleton at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse.

A tusk at the survey.

A newly discovered tusk that just arrived at the survey and had yet to be catalogued.