Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Why I Love Geology [repost]

It’s a bit of a long story really – I suppose I have my dad to blame for it too (like lots of things). I’ll try and explain my passion for this subject, and then when I tweet something along the lines of ‘UGH I hate this module!’ or, ‘I really hate structural geology’ or, ‘GAH’, then point me back to this post, and remind me why I love it.

I lived in Saudi Arabia for 7 years when I was little – went out in 1989, came back in 1996. I can remember going out into the desert with my family and our trusty 1984 left hand drive white Range Rover ‘Foggy’ (which we still have). I can remember camping, Hamilton-style, with camp beds, sleeping bags, pillows, my teddy (who I still have), travel stove, gas bottle, travel kettle... but no tent. I can remember the drives, on the tarmac road that seemed never-ending, the road that just appears out of the mirage in the distance, the one that needed sweeping off because the sandstorms obscured it from time to time, the one that took me on all these adventures. I can remember, quite distinctly, going out to the wide open space of the Arabian Peninsula, where there’s *nothing* but sand and sky, and looking for sharks teeth (and boy, did we find em!). I can remember marvelling at why there were sharks teeth in the desert – we lived in Riyadh, nowhere near the sea! So how did they get there? Since when did sharks live in the desert?

I can remember my dad taking us out to different parts of the desert, just to explore. We’d spend ages flying kites, sitting on the drop-down bit in the boot of Foggy trying to find some shade. We’d watch the lizards scurry around, trying not to burn their feet on the sand, and the birds, flying overhead trying to find dinner.

I can remember the great big steep cliffs, with the layers that made them so prominent and jaggy, and how some stuck out more than others – I now know that this is differential weathering, as some rocks are more competent than others. I remember the drives through the wadis, to find the next fossil hunting place. I can remember my mom complaining because her feet would swell in the heat & with altitude. My sister and I, sharing earphones on her Walkman, with some dodgy (but now super awesome) 90s mix cassette.

Fast forward to the summer of 1996. Probably the best summer I’ve ever had, even though I can’t remember most of it.

We left Saudi.

But not by packing our things and getting a plane back to Blighty. Oh no. We packed up the 1984 left hand drive white Range Rover and DROVE. Dad at the wheel, Mom up front, Me, Brother & Sister squished in the back. Boot FULL. Trailer FULL. Roof rack FULL.

And off we went!

Down the Christian Highway, along the desert roads I miss so much, and onwards, towards the Red Sea. I won’t give you all the details of this trip – that’s either for another blog, or for a book (it’s typed up already, just needs tweaking and editing).

We crossed the border to Jordan – we went to Petra and we went all over. Petra is one of those places you really have to see to believe. The thing I remember most is the walk down the great big ‘alleyway’ called the Siq, and moaning to mum that I was hot, my feet hurt and I didn’t want to go. And then we got there. WOW. We walked 16kms around Petra that day, and I got a piggy back off our guide.

After Jordan, we went through Syria, Turkey and Greece, before reaching Italy. In Italy, we did the usual – Amalfi Coast (sicked all over my siblings), Herculaneum, Rome, Sorrento, and climbed Mt Vesuvius. Amazing. Aged 7 and I’d conquered a volcano. From Italy we went to France, and then crossed the Channel to England. After this, we didn’t do much international travelling, but every year we went camping, usually to a different place in Wales, before doing Great Yarmouth and then the South Coast.

I don’t remember doing much fossil hunting in Wales, or Great Yarmouth, but I do remember going to Lyme Regis one year and doing a fossil hunting trip with one of the local guides (who we dubbed Indiana Fossil) and me finding LOTS of Ammonites. Love of fossil hunting was reborn.

I’ve been back to Lyme once, and that was only to kill time. I’d love to go back, do more fossiling, and I’d love to go to new haunts.

With School & College (GCSE Geology and then AS/A Level Geology), we went to the Wrens Nest in Dudley, as well as week residential to North Wales & South England. Field Trips are fun, they’re brilliant weeks where you get to spend a week with your mates, larking around, out in all weather conditions, not having a clue what you’re doing, but then realising, ‘hang on – I get it now!’.

Geology is a subject where you can learn so much – something that when I was younger I couldn’t fathom. I never understood why secondary school maths would be different to primary school maths, surely I knew it all? Of course I was wrong, and it’s the same with geology. I got a B at GCSE and a B at A Level. I know I can achieve a high First at Degree level, but I know I need to put the work in. I feel like I need to do this subject justice – I love it so much and I want to prove that I do. It’s difficult to put across in words just how I feel, but if you actually talk to me, I can get quite animated.

You can pick up a rock and work out so much stuff to do with the past. A fossil suddenly becomes more than a fragment of shell or bone; it becomes a window to a time so long ago we can’t even imagine how long ago. It becomes evidence of how life was – the conditions, the extent of the seas, and the location of the continents. A sedimentary rock can become a massive clue in telling us how rivers worked, are they similar to rivers today?, what was the flow direction, how strong was the current... all these things can be identified by just looking at a rock.

I love this subject. I love how something so inanimate, so mundane to some people, tells us so much more than we ever thought. I cannot wait to graduate. I want to get out there, and do Geology. I want my life to be one long Field Trip, full of awesomeness, rocks & beer.

After college I decided I hated everything, and cancelled my UCAS application. So, I trained to be a plumber. I thought, I can become a plumber; do something entirely different but have the skills if I need them; or do a geology degree, combine it with my plumbing skills, and become a Hydrogeologist. So that’s what I did.

After 2 years of training I ended up working as a part time Cleaner at the University of Birmingham. It was while doing this job that I realised, I DID want a degree, I DID want to do Geology, and that that’s where my heart lies. So I applied! And better yet, I was accepted.

I started my Geology BSc in September 2010. I’m now a second year student and I’m happier than ever. I love this course, I love learning something new every day (literally). I may moan a lot, I may rant a lot, I may claim to hate the tutors a lot, but they’re all good eggs, and it’s a great department.

All I need now is to get some relevant work experience, and then get a job when I graduate in 2013.

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