ROCKS AND FOSSILS ~ A FASCINATION

Stones…..over the years I have gathered a huge collection of rock samples, of stones. I’ve had an interest in stones, in rocks and fossils ever since I can remember. I’ve always had this connection with the earth , and to me a stone was never a dead thing, no, rocks are alive, definitely in the sense that they evolve, they change, over millennia they change, and what is a millennia in context with the unfathomable, expansive, and the immense timescale of the cosmos. And so, yes, I think rocks are alive. And I’ve always had this affinity with rocks, but also with sand, and what other is sand than tiny pieces of rock, and what does sand do under pressure and given time but change into rock.

I was, for a large part when I was young, living in that part of Antwerp where sand had been dredged up from the river Schelde, this sand that we had in our gardens and everywhere else, was sea sand, and it was full of pieces of shell and other sea creatures. In a way it was like living on the beach. One day while on a walk with my family I happen to see something curious, I picked it up and identified it as a fossil, a fossil of a conch or some type of sea shell. I was eleven years old. It was the start!

And yet I did not end up studying geology, but in later life I did do a geology course with Tel-Aviv University and I loved it. At the time we were living in Gozo and all my research was done on the geology of the Maltese islands. I’m retaking this course in September but doing my research around West Cork. That’s the plan.

I always said that I would label all my rock samples when I retired, but to date, and after several years, this has not happened, that is until a few days ago when I had to move all the samples out of an old glass press in order to redecorate the living room. So, they are all spread out in the conservatory and now demand my attention totally. Some of my smaller samples I brought back from India, Mauritius, New England, Spain, Gozo, France, Uk, Portugal and Naxos. And of course I have some very interesting samples of Ireland itself. Among my many samples are limestone, basalt, quartz, marble, malachite, soapstone, etc.

A little sample of copper ore in quartz, from the ancient disused copper mines in Ballydehob.
Not too sure if this is actually weathered corral or rock?

Over a life time I found more fossils too, and I found crystals, as it’s not only rocks I’m interested in. It is a fascinating subject to be sure and there’s always plenty of rocks and fossils around. When we were in Gozo, I found the most beautiful citrine crystals, but I left them where I found them, like wild plants I don’t think I should indiscriminately just take away natural treasures from wherever I go. But I always take photos of course.

Our earth sure is a fascinating place and I mean to enjoy another bit of what it has to offer so freely, for us to admire and examine, study and enjoy.

Part of the collection of samples

FROM TRAGUMNA BEACH TO TOEHEAD

Tragumna beach is small but very much used and liked by the local Skibbereen folks. Every year on Christmas day there is a swim held here by some brave women and men, usually in aid of some charity. The beach lies about 5 km from the town via the Castletownsend road.
The coastline along here is very rugged with many inlays and rocky outcrops, which makes the landscape interesting and beautiful. Many wild plants and flowers grow along these shores.
Our drive took us along this Wild Atlantic coastline towards Toehead
(Ceann Tuaithe in Irish, Ceann meaning head, and Tuaithe meaning
a clan or community gathered under one chief, the name Toe Head is a bit of a bad translation ). Looking out West towards the Atlantic ocean, we know that’s where most of our rains come from.
Along the rugged coastline where lots of fresh sea air was to be enjoyed.
Toe head is a most beautiful headland. Birds were singing but I did not identify any on this trip.
At Toe Head we found this signal tower, these type of towers were found along the southern and Eastern coast in Ireland, they were used to give advanced warning of any invasion. The interesting thing is that every signal tower could see two other signal towers to either side of them, they would use visual means (semaphore) to signal. These towers date to 1806.
Looking out towards what looks like a little island some distance from the shore. I went checking it out on Google Earth and it seems that it is just rocks – nothing else.

AN ADVENTURE IN BEAUTY

“When you regain a sense of your life as a journey of discovery, you return to rhythm with yourself. When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you. Moments of beauty begin to braid your days. When your mind becomes more acquainted with reverence, the light, grace and elegance of beauty find you more frequently. When the destination becomes gracious, the journey becomes an adventure of beauty”. John O’Donoghue
Excerpt from his books, Beauty.

A very simple walk but nevertheless full of little beauties that lift the heart. A view on to the pastoral landscape beyond the hedgerow and seen through the presently opening hawthorn bush.
One of the impressive treasures on this walk is the stone wall, Ireland has a great reputation for building beautiful stone walls and this is a good example. Seeing that I am trying to learn a lot about and become really familiar with the rocks and geology of the area, I took a keen interest in all this rock.

And so this walk, while very easy and on flat ground was a delight, it took me 50 minutes from where I had parked my car on the other side of town to when I returned, and by that time my head was cleared, and I felt happy with my small discoveries. Along this road I also came across many other wild flowers, and another garden escape was the tree mallow which I did not quite expect to grow here but had seen very many growing in Gozo. Further along this road there is a large area of wild garlic plants growing, I saw them there last year. It is amazing what is found along the roadside and hedgerow, for example, if this road is followed for quite a few miles there are large patches of wild roses, some dark red and beautiful, I used to take this road to work (it eventually leads to Bantry where I worked in the library) during June/July when these roses would be in bloom, it sure was lovely. I had three or four different roads that I could take to work and used to vary them according to what plants were in flower as every road had some difference in habitat and hence in plant growth.

I’m calling this walk the stone wall walk, my sister Josefine who is coming to Ireland in the summer will be walking with me, I sure look forward to this, even when I am normally a solitary walker.

THE AZURE WINDOW

On a most beautiful late January day, today, with the sun pouring over the island, and not a breeze to be felt, there was nothing better to do than to take the bus to the Azure Window at Dwejra on the West coast of Gozo. Quite a few tourist were there with us, many Chinese in fact and I also heard some Northern Irish accents. Everyone was soaking up the sun, and unlike us, who are still wearing socks and woollies, I saw women in sandals, in bare arms and very light clothing, some were working on their tan in fact, others were taking selfies or photos like myself. The ambience was pleasant and the views breath-taking. We had been there before, I was very impressed with the amount of fossils under our feet in the rocks. Rocks are very much eroded here making for all sorts of strange and interesting shapes. The rock pools too had mirror-clear water standing in them. The sea and sky were both so very blue!
The Azure Window is special, very nice to see time and time again.  The inland sea too is a place where it is so nice to sit and see the little boats come and go

One sweet girl asked us if we would like our photo taken together, we said yes as this does not happen very often, the result was good. We took coffee in the only café that was open, and just soaked up the sun.
What a most beautiful day it was, and for a while we could forget about all the world events that has kept our minds so busy this past week.
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DELIGHTFUL CLIFFS

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Xlendi, is a village on the South-West coast of Gozo, it is surrounded by steep cliffs to one side, they look very impressive from every angle.  One can climb them via stairs that lead one to the Caroline cave, this walk gives lovely views over the bay, the clear water, sometimes blue, sometimes green.  It is of great interest to people that are interested in the rocks and flora that grows in the crevices.  Beautiful!  So one day we walked, or rather climbed this delightful hike and I like to share some of what we found.

20161221_134732The limestone rocks along the walk. 20161221_135022The rocks are amazing, full of fossils, beautifully light in colour.

And finally one goes down to the Caroline Cave where the water laps against the weathered rocks.

Some of the flora along the walk, amazing how the plants grow out of the crevices of the rocks, and look so healthy and fresh!

Back down at the sea front. Xlendi is actually a fishing village, though a lot of it’s income these days comes from tourism too.  We always love going to Xlendi, it was the first place we stayed in last spring, we get there by bus in about five minutes from here and because there are more and other beautiful cliff walks to be found there we never get bored, always we come across something new, a plant, an insect, always something interesting to see.  I also love the trees in the square, there are some old Tamarisk trees, which look like old men riddled with arthritis, but they are beautiful too.

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I guess I will never, no matter how small the island of Gozo is, find at a loss of what to go and explore, so much to see and do, in fact a great place to live.

 

NATURAL DIVERSITY ON GOZO

I walked up a rocky path along the deep blue water today.
Lizards were scuttling about all over the place. Their green skin beautiful. It was sunny and hot, very hot, water dripped from my cap and down my forehead. I saw so many wild flowers and plants around me and I wanted to record them all, like I usually do. It is then I saw the black bees, lovely, a type I do not know.
People are swimming in the creek this afternoon, and snorkelling and diving. The walk takes me up along the hot rocks, and then down to a small cave and to the water. The views are magnificent. The rocky outcrop consist of limestone in white, grey, black, and brown. I take photos, lots of them. The rocks are quite eroded in some places, making for interesting shapes and hollows.

SHALE – A COLOURFUL ROCK

While documenting a procedure at Ian’s boat the other day, I had the opportunity to take a few photos of some of the local rock structures. I found these particular rocks, which had been exposed when the owners of the boatyard wanted to extend their working space, and just had to photograph them.

I believe these rocks are shale, but I am not a geologist. The whole rocky outcrop looked amazing, the colours of the shale quite bright and beautiful. I read that the yellow colours are caused by iron oxide or iron hydroxide which can cause reddish, yellow or brown colouring. The shale came apart in my hands, very poorly compacted material.

Ireland is an excellent place, like so many other places on the earth, to look at and have an interest in rocks and minerals. I have a large rock collection, I only wish that I knew more about it all, something that I always wanted to get absorbed in when I retired. It is a fascinating subject with plenty of examples all around us.

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MAURITIUS JOURNEY PART 2

The beauty of the island of Mauritius, experienced some years ago when I went to visit a friend of mine from over there, and I was warmly welcomed by all his family and relatives. Situated on the less touristy South side of the island, It was a very interesting journey, with an introduction also to Mauritian foods, cooking, flora and fauna, and golden sand beaches where the women would dance to very cool music.  Very friendly and lively people, many are from Indian descent.   I was and am still very impressed.  I took so many photos some of which I am revisiting these days.

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Fruit tree Mauritius

Some fruit tree, not sure what exactly it is called.

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At the village of Chamarel, the coloured Earths, this natural phenomenon is due to decomposed basalt gullies.  The hot and humid climate helps in the decomposition of the (volcanic rock) basalt into clay.  As a result of total hydrolysis (chemical breakdown of minerals by water, leaving a large composition of iron and aluminium which constitute a ferralitic soil.  the iron sesquioxydes have a red and anthracite colour, whereas the aluminium sesquioxydes have a blue or purplish colour.  It is a most beautiful sight to behold.

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OLD RED SANDSTONE

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It is old red sandstone that is mainly found on the surface here in West Cork.  And this Red sandstone is covered generally by carboniferous limestone.  There are also areas of Carboniferous shales and slates.  I don’t know that much about geology yet, but I am very interested in learning more, especially as I have an extensive collection of rocks in my living room.  Collected over the years, some from all over the world when I travelled.  I found my first fossil when I was eleven years old.  Rocks are fascinating, they are ancient and their mineral composition is interesting.  I always thought that when I retired I would find the time to take up geology and identify all my rocks.  So far that has not happened in a serious way, but it will.  I will do a course online or something and learn a lot hopefully. 🙂

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These rocks I found mainly at Kilbritain beach County Cork.

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