Monthly Archives: October 2012

Excursion 3: Dorset

How do you go about looking for oil?  This was the question posed to a group of PhD students from the BP Institute at Cambridge University this weekend, on a field trip in Dorset led by Dr Bryan Lovell, Dr Andrew Leonard and BPI’s Dr Andy Woods. Bryan had invited me to join them and it was a fascinating, inspiring trip, taking in Kimmeridge Bay, Lulworth Cove, the Wytch Farm Oil Field and Bridport Sands. It was great to be given such an insight into the complexities of reservoir access and production – the scientific, social and environmental factors – as well as to meet such a wide range of researchers. I’ll post a full report at some point – but for now here is a selection of pictures from the weekend.

Kimmeridge Clay Formation at Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset – a major source rock for hydrocarbons

On the cliffs to the left of this picture are Wealden Oil Sands

Bridport Sands.

A member of BPI makes calculations for a fantasy oil reservoir.

The nodding donkey at Kimmeridge Bay. The UK’s oldest working oil pump, it produces around 80 barrels of oil a day













The Crumple, Lulworth Cove – layered Purbeck rock strata folded by the collision of two continental plates











The Geologist by W. Hart-Smith

The Geologist
W. Hart-Smith


I know a man who regards rocks as books.
He breaks open their covers with a hammer, prises leaves apart with a cold-chisel. To him
the earth is a library of neglected books.

He can interpret language of fault-scarp, valley and dome:
a mountain is not a mountain so much
as an item of incunabula,
a rare old tome.

Nothing’s neat here, though: nothing’s undisturbed.
Time is both illuminator and vandal.
Chaos and carelessness are magnificent, even if
he regards it all as something of a scandal
books should be left lying about so
with their pages cemented,
whole collections, first editions,
tumbled, cascaded, tilted, upended,
sprawled over the floor, scrawled over
with crude green comment.

It almost drives him demented –
the destruction… the teasing of a flaked fragment.

But sometimes Nature herself
will turn a page for him,
peel a whole cliff away
spectacularly …

He dances to see
the clean, undisfigured print there,
especially when the sun, setting,
touches it lovingly
and calls up an echo in his soul
of the same golden glint there.


This poem was selected by Joe McCall to be read at Poetry and Geology: A Celebration at The Geological Society last year.  (Every attempt has been made to find copyright holder).