A visit to the Haslemere Museum

The Haslemere Museum is a hidden wonder for geologists. It has a well established rock and fossil collection for such a modest place, and has a connection to a brilliant Victorian geologist, Sir Archibald Geikie (more on him another day).

The fossils outshone the rocks by far. This was mainly because the rock collection, while not bad, suffered a bit of interior design confusion, as igneous and metamorphics were placed too close together without significant distinction. However, it was nice to see a focus on ancient British rocks!

The meat of the pudding was seeing the trilobites . There were a fair few different types of trilobite on display, as seen below.

Parabolina Spinulosa, a Cambrian trilobite
A Cambrian trilobite, Parabolina Spinulosa, found in North Wales
Another Cambrian trilobite, Paradoxides Bohemicus
Another Cambrian trilobite, Paradoxides Bohemicus
An Ordovician trilobite, Ogygia Buchi, with Mr Whiddington's head for scale
An Ordovician trilobite, Ogygia Buchi, with Mr Whiddington’s head for scale
Calymene Blumenbachii, Silurian
Good ol’ Calymene Blumenbachii to round things off!

That was not all. Every drawer beneath the display cases were able to be opened by visitors, and more examples lay there. The lighting prevented me from taking suitable photos, but all the more to surprise you with should you go visit!

Also particularly enjoyable was the ammonite collection. This was significantly more spread-out than the trilobites, but there was one particular example worthy of a photograph, a massive Titanites (and Titanites are always worth taking a photo of).

Titanites, a massive ammonite from the Upper Jurassic period
The one and only Titanites! With Mr Whiddington and Bob the Frog for scale (a.k.a. attempting to ride the Titan)

There was also a nice wee Harpoceras with a beautiful Aragonite glaze that shimmered like it had only just been cut from the ground:

Harpoceras Exaratum, complete with aragonite shimmer
Harpoceras Exaratum, complete with aragonite shimmer

Mr Whiddington also found some dino friends to play with in the kids’ section, which I am sure he was most pleased about.

Mr Whiddington makes a new friend
Mr Whiddington makes a new friend
Whid makes another friend
Whid makes another friend… and then sits on him

There were some nice looking lagerstätten, including this fossil fish, which was so finely preserved it looked more like something you would find freshly grilled on your dinner plate.

A very well preserved Dapedium Polytum, found at famous fossil haunt Lyme Regis
A very well preserved Dapedium Polytum, found at famous fossil haunt Lyme Regis

The museum shop gave much happiness as they had for sale trilobite fossils! I got one, and it looks real enough, but sadly there was no label as to its species, and the shop assistant did not know. It looks to me like a good old Calymene, but if anyone else has any other ideas, do let me know!

Mystery Trilobite!
Mystery Trilobite!

Another thing that made me very happy was that the shop was selling plastic dinosaurs with feathers! Take a look at this beauty:

Feathery plastic dino!
Feathery plastic dino!

It’s nice to see stuff like this, where toys are reflecting the science, and good on the museum for having such awesome stuff for sale!

There were other nice aspects to the museum, including a lot of stuffed animals, butterfly collection, and a beehive viewer, and some lovely grounds you could take a wee walk in.  And being next to a town centre with lots of lovely shops, I’ll definitely be visiting again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I would like Richard Herring to jump into a volcano.”

-foreword: Richard Herring has a fab show out at the moment called We’re All Going To Die! This is a reply to his article in the Metro last week, enjoy –

 

Dear Richard Herring,

I must admit I read your article in the Metro last week with great interest, for I am a geologist and as such I feel I am adequately qualified to assist you in your volcano-jumping quest.

I am very much in accord with your desire to become a perfect fossil, a symbol to the future for our times. But there is one very important thing you must understand first: in order to become a perfect fossil, you must choose the method with the greatest – dun dun duuuun! – PRESERVATION POTENTIAL!

For example, you could choose to walk into the lava lake of the fabulous Nyiragongo. But the surface temperature of the lava here is more than 1000°C. Your body matter would quite simply burn away and leave no trace in the fossil record. Darnit! It would have looked lovely and dramatic too!

Nyiragongo in full blazing lava-lake glory!

Okay, so no jumping into actual lava. What now? Well, you could try jumping into the centre of a dormant volcano, like the island of Vulcano in Italy. There’s no lava, but there are enough poisonous gases to put an end to things within minutes. These gases are so heavy they cannot rise through the lighter air, so stay sunken in the crater waiting for an unsuspecting potential-fossil.

Image of Vulcano's craterBut this option has its downsides too. The dormant volcano may become active again in future, and a massive explosion may blast you out of the crater along with the volcanic plug that’s blocked it up for all that time. Your preservation potential would be – literally – shattered. So maybe this option’s no good..

We could try one of Vulcano’s cousins, Stromboli. If you are lucky enough to get close to Stromboli while it’s erupting, you might stand a chance of being hit in the head by a boiling lava bomb (like my old teacher did – don’t worry, he survived – it was not his time to become a fossil!).

Stromboli generally being badass

Provided enough lava bombs by chance hit you, you could become buried in rapidly cooling rubble, which has a little more preservation potential than the previous options.

But we’re going for perfection here. Let’s skip across to Vesuvius. Everyone knows AD79, the eruption that decimated Herculaneum and Pompeii, right? Okay, most people in that debacle died in the massive pyroclastic flow (a mess of fluidised ash, air and hot stuff from the earth’s belly) that engulfed the region. Pyroclastic flows can move as fast as a car on the motorway, and it would be a pretty quick way to go! Maybe this would be a good option, then? You would be fossilised in ash, provided that nobody disturbed your remains. For what would happen if you were disturbed?

Some bodies from Pompeii, lacking detail in their features.

Volcanic ash is not the strongest of materials, even when it forms a concrete-ish mass called an ignimbrite. It’s still quite easy to disturb, and in a volcanic area, earthquakes and future eruptions seriously lower your chances of perfect preservation. There’s also the fact that the intense heat from the pyroclastic blast will strip away the finer features of yourself, the minutiae that would render you a perfect fossil.

So what is the ultimate solution? There has to be one, right?

Oh, and there is:

Your best bet really is just to wait until a massive volcanic eruption or meteor strike occurs, and while the ensuing particles to taint the atmosphere and the oceans with poison, wait in a shallow muddy sea until the water becomes completely devoid of oxygen (ensuring all the fishy things in the sea won’t nibble at your body), then wait until the toxic atmosphere really takes hold.

Et voilà! A couple of million years from now and your body will be perfectly, wonderfully preserved! (Provided plate tectonics doesn’t get in the way in the meantime!) You would have successfully become a Lagerstätte, which is the word we geologists use for the most amazingly preserved fossils in the world!

Amazingly preserved ichtyosaur agerstatte

Yours most sincerely,

Cambriangirl 😀