Humberside Geologist Online

Humberside Geologist no. 12 - published 1999


Professor Ansel Dunham remembered
Notes and Comments
First UK RIGS Conference



Welcome to Humberside Geologist No. 12. which is the first edition I have had the pleasure to edit. Although the Hull Geology society rightly concentrates on the local area which is mainly Mesozoic I like to examine geology everywhere so am pleased to include a few articles covering subjects beyond our natural boundaries.

One of the unusual things about the City of Hull is a series of sculptures and engravings, set into the pavement, of the fish that were landed in the City when it was one of the main fishing ports of Britain. The purpose of the Fish trail is to encourage people to explore the old part of the City. However like most works of art, different stones have been used and Mike Home has rewritten the Hull Fish Trail from a geological perspective.

There are two articles about dinosaurs, always a popular subject, in this edition. The Jurassic and Cretaceous of the Yorkshire coast has long been renowned for bones of marine reptiles. Now people are increasingly recognising that many of the strange markings in the rocks are in fact footprints of dinosaurs.

Microfossils have long been thought of as the reserve of specialists, in particular petroleum geologists, who use them to date rocks from the drill chippings they have to work with. Mike Home has written a very interesting article explaining exactly how and why amateur geologists should also study the smallest of fossils.

There are four pieces about the chalk in this edition by Paul Hildreth, Felix Whitham, Mike Horne and Ted Wright. As regular readers of Humberside Geologist will know the chalk continues to yield more interesting information the more that people study it.

Rudists are a strange group of bivalve fossils and Simon Mitchell has written an article about the late Cretaceous rudists of Jamaica.

Cyril Dutton has written two of the articles for this edition looking at igneous and metamorphic rocks which can be found as erratics on our coast. Cyril then explains where these rocks originated and how they were formed.

There are reports of Field Meetings to Scotland, Langtoft and to the Boulby Potash Mine by David Hill, Felix Whitham, Mike Home and Nigel Whittington.

The last article is by Ted and Willy Wright who have written a detailed account of their earliest memories of collecting in East Yorkshire. Collecting from the chalk they had become expert in Cretaceous starfish by 1939. The article goes on to explain how they achieved the difficult task of preparing and reconstructing fossil starfish from a collection of disarticulated ossicles.

David Hill

There are no plans at present to convert previous editions of Humberside Geologist to online format but copies are availible:


Professor Ansel Dunham

Professor Ansel Dunham died on January 18th 1998, aged 59. He was the son of Sir Kingsley Dunham, a famous geologist and former director of the Geological Survey. Ansel's early research interests were in igneous geology. He came to Hull to found an Industrial Mineralogy unit, with Peter Scott (now a Professor at the Cambourne School of Mines). As well as teaching a Masters degree course, this unit carried out consultancy work for the local quarrying and brickmaking industries. At that time it was unusual for academics to work so closely with industry.

He had been Head of the Department of Geology at the University of Hull and moved to Leicester University when the Hull Department closed. He was elected as an honorary member of the Hull Geological Society in 1988.

Professor Dunham wished the Society to have some of his journals and so we are arranging for these to be donated to Hull Museums, where members will be able to consult them. Mick Stanley hopes to have a 'hands on' geology display area in the future at the Hull and East Riding Museum, and perhaps these 'journals "I be included alongside specimens, enabling members of the public to study geology in the museum. This would be a fitting memorial to such a lively, friendly and helpful scientist.

Jim Darmody (former President of our Society) writes:

As an undergraduate, 1 was taken by Ansel's calm methodical approach to a problem. There always seemed time to ponder and consider an issue. When replying to his questions there was a humorous glint at the back of his eye of which 1 was never certain what it meant, sorry you're way off the mark or I'm just as puzzled as you. Whichever it may have been, Ansel always had time for young people with his encouragement and a consideration of the scenery around you.

Mike Home writes:

Ansel arrived in the Geology Department in 1978 to head the new Industrial Mineralogy Masters course, a couple of years after my graduation, so 1 never had the pleasure of his teaching as a student. He soon became a good friend of the Society and opened our eyes to a whole new aspect of geology - man made metamorphism and in particular bricks.

I shall remember Ansel for his modesty about his considerable knowledge, his helpfulness and encouragement and most of all his infectious cheerfulness.

Notes and comments.

 by Mike Home

For the first time since 1943 when the museum in Albion Street was bombed, Hull Museums now have a permanent display of local fossils.The new display is part of the Natural History and Archaeology displays in the Hull and East Riding Museum in High Street. The rocks and fossils found in the East Riding are displayed, along with some from further afield. There are about 200 fossils from the Mesozoic, some of which are on open display so that you can touch them and 23 Ice Age and interglacial 'animal remains' (mammal bones).
The display includes fossils from the collections of local amateurs - 42 of the fossils are on loan from Felix Whitham and some others are fromthe collections of Dick Middleton and the late Kenneth Fenton. But none of them are identified to genus or species and all brachiopods andbivalves are simply identified as "shellfish". There are also reconstruction?s of the original appearance during life of some of the animals, including a large ichthyosaur, together with a model of a glacier and Sewerby Cliff.
Mike Boyd started the work on the displays and Heather Rayfield continued the task, after he had left the Museums. Heather consultedwidely with local amateurs and teachers about the content of the displays. The Society attended a preview of the new display in May 1997and shortly after the opening in October 1997, Heather left to travel the world. Matt Stevens replaced Heather in October 1998.

First UK RIGS Conference

A report by Mike Home

   At the beginning of September 1998 I attended the first conference for RIGS groups at University College Worcester, representing the East Yorkshire RIGS youp and the Hull. Geological Society.
   The Conference was convened by Peter Oliver on behalf of the Hereford and Worcester RIGS Group with the support of the College, and was attended by over 100 speakers and delegates. There were 24 invited speakers on a variety of topics, plus optional workshops, a field trip and a tour of Worcester Cathedral led by Eric Robinsoi of the Geologists' Association.
   RIGS stands for "Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Site". The tenn was created in 1990 following the de-notification of several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSS1s). County based groups were created to list and conserve locally important sites. There are now 47 groups and over 2000 sites have been identified. In our area the group was formed in 1992 and rapidly identified 'J9 sites in the Watsonian Vice-County of East Yorkshire. These were submitted to the local planning authorities and accepted as having a special status which would be considered when any planning applications were made for these sites. Subsequently two quarries have been taken off the list because of landfill permissions. We have not undertaken any active conservation or publicity of these sites and the Group has not met for about 2 years. So I was hoping that the conference could give some ideas for the way forward for the East Yorkshire Group.
   As the Conference unfolded, it became obvious to me that the various RIGS Groups in the country were all at different stages of development and faced different problems. Some were very new and had selected only a few sites and were having great problems getting the local authority to talk to them. Others had large numbers of sites on computerised systems. Others were concentrating on public awareness and education and were creating walks, booklets and information boards. Some counties are large with lots of quarries and landscape features, others are urban areas. Overall, considering that RIGS is an amateur movement with almost no funds, it is amazing what has been achieved.
   To me, it looks as if there are three aspects to the RIGS activities: firstly selecting and notifying sites (which we have done in East Yorkshire), secondly active conservation of sites (as we have done with Rifle Butts SSSI) and thirdly telling the public about conservation, the sites and geology in general.
   The four criteria for selecting sites for RIGS status are scientific, educational, aesthetic, and historical. A survey of RIGS Groups showed that a lot of sites were selected for their educational and/or scientific uses. There was some debate about educational use being a priority. Though in our area and perhaps others the one geological resource disappearing faster than quarries is geology teachers! The survey also showed that very few sites are selected for their geomorphology. It was suggested that 'landscape' might be a better term to use.
   A number of groups are linked to local Wildlife Trusts and the (national) Wildlife Trusts (based in Lincoln) have a RIGS Development Officer. Some groups found the conservational skills of the Trusts very helpful, others found that the lack of geological knowledge in their local Trust was a problem. I thought it was interesting that a hundred years ago, geology was part of the activities of 'naturalists' (people interested in botany, zoology, geology, archaeology, landscape and wfldlife), but geology has since become more independent and professional; now the largely amateur RIGS movement sees a return to the idea of the 'naturalist' as an importarft part of creating public awareness of geology.
   After reviewing the history and purpose of RIGS the conference went on to explore practical issues such as health and safety in conservation work, liability insurance, thematic trails, 'geotourism', computerised records and sources of conservation grants (specifically the Landfill tax credit scheme and the Heritage Lottery Fund).
   As the conference continued it was becoming obvious that to take RIGS beyond recording and designation, there would have to be some funding and that the applications for grants would require professional help. On the first day Mark Campbell of Gloucestershire RIGS had proposed a five year plan for full time RIGS Officers to do the paperwork and grant applications for RIGS groups. This was debated at the end of the conference. Delegates agreed that if RIGS was going to obtain funding this was the logical route. Things then became a bit chaotic, due to lack of time to decide how to go forward. Should it be independent of the Wildlife Trust or be part of it? How would local groups be represented on the steering group and management committee? I wondered how such decisions could be made when the RIGS movement has no real organisation or constitution? That is how it ended!
   Since then, a letter has been sent to groups asking for volunteers for a steering group to define a role, create a constitution and democratic process, prepare an application for funding and then report back to local groups. Also, Vicky Mason is writing a RIGS handbook for use by groups, planners and interested parties and had written to groups asking for suggestions for items to be included.
   So here are some ideas and suggestions that 1 picked up at the conference that could be used by the East Yorkshire RIGS group:
:- Create a 'Red List' of rock types or localities that we would like to see exposed, a 'shopping list' for future RIGS sites that the planning authorities would bear in mind or give preference to for geological interest.
:- Make sure our recording of sites is accurate and kept up to date in case we have to defend our selection of a site at a public inquiry. Site boundaries must be clearly defined; it may be worth including a buffer zone around the site.
:- The biggest problem that the East Yorkshire group has encountered has been finding that the quarries we designated as RIGS sites already have an existing landfill permission which we can do nothing about. Creating a buffer zone around these sites and putting the rock on a Red List might help to fill the gaps in the geology after the sites have been filled.
:- "Planners are generalises" and rely on expert advice, we geologists must not sit back and expect the planners to come to us but should bring conservation matters to the attention of the planners.
:- Walking is now the largest 'sport' in the country so we must conserve landscapes and views (geomorphology) and tell the walkers about it.
:- We should be aware of access, safety and public liability when designating (and therefore recommending) a site as being suitable for educational use.
:- We must take health and safety seriously when undertaking site visits and conservation work.. Risk Assessments must be carried out and recorded and volunteers must be give instruction on safe practices and be provided with protective clothing. RIGS groups should have public liability insurance and consider having trained first aiders attending conservation work visits.
:- Create a new class of Urban Geological Sites for interesting shop fronts, building stones and gravestones and encourage their conservation and use as a teaching resource.
:- If we write leaflets, information panels or guided walks we must bear in mind who it is for. Drawings are better than photographs for conveying information. Don't ask questions and not give the answer!
:-Have occasional meetings or field meetings with other RIGS groups in our region.
:-Declare the last remaining geology teacher in our area and his resources as a RIGS site??

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