Excursion Six: Flamborough Head

I was back in Bridlington last weekend to stay with the artist Anna Kirk-Smith, who I met on my Barmston field trip in the summer, and to meet the artists Carlo Verda, Cath Keay and Jo Ray.  We’re working on an exhibition, based on the geology of Flamborough Head, which will take place next January in the Studio Eleven gallery in Hull.

2013-02-10 10.46.08The weather outlook was not good, and we heard on Sunday morning that the geologists from the Hull Geological Society would not be joining us, which was a shame. But, with plenty of resources and Anna’s impressive knowledge, not to mention as many layers as we could possibly wear, we weren’t to be put off. Our first stop was Selwicks Bay on the eastern tip of the headland, an area of tectonic disturbance that has left major faults cutting wildly down the cliffs and daggering across the huge chalk platform, which is visible here but stretches for miles out into the North Sea.

2013-02-10 11.34.08In the end we were joined by two members of the Flamborough Quaternary Research Group – whose names I did not catch – who had not heard about the cancellation. What I’ve learned to love about geologists is how, despite having clearly visited an area many times, they always find something they’ve not seen before and which they can’t always explain. In this case it was a heavy concentration of calcite which seemed unusual to them, and then later a slump in the fault-line, a tiny irregular dip. They planned to show it to the other geologists when they return in April.

At the beginning of the year, Anna had sent each of us a parcel, containing the Ultimate Flamborough Geology Field Kit, complete with essentials such as a waterproof notebook, a hand lens, hand warmers and, of course, the obligatory geologist’s beard! I made good use of the hand-warmers to thaw my fingers as we drove round the coast to our next area of interest, Danes Dyke. Research is being done here on the glacial deposits, with implications for further understanding of the last ice sheet in eastern England. We searched for erratics and fossils, finding belemnites, fossilised oysters, fan corals and inoceramids, amongst many others. The cliffs towered above us, seagulls struggled to land in the fierce wind, and the tide was coming in fast, so after about an hour we headed for the warmth of the pub.

2013-01-07 19.05.10Things from this trip that interested me: the chalk shelf which stretches far out to sea and is an important marine habitat, with an abundance of plants and animals, including a vast kelp forest; fault-lines and the general idea of faults; the creation of flints; evidence for climatic cycles in the chalk; horizontal boreholes; how amber is manipulated for jewellery; snails evolving differently on one side of Flamborough Head to the other; ‘getting your eye in’ as a fossil hunter. I look forward to working towards the exhibition – will put updates on here.

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