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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

Poetry Day 2011


Bryan Lovell OBE, President of the Society, looks back to Poetry Day, when writers, poets, and academics from arts and science came together at Burlington House.

Geoscientist 22.02 March 2012

In July 2010 (Geoscientist 20.07 p21) I proposed a search for the best geological poetry, offering the prospect of an evening of high culture in Burlington House. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our very own Literary Trio (Sarah Day, Michael McKimm and Ted Nield), the inaugural Geological Society Poetry Day, held on 10 October 2011, became something quite special. Just how special you can judge for yourself in the brand-new poetry section of the website:

Here you will find, on a digital video (prepared by the indefatigable Kevin Perry), all the talks given during the day and the verse read in the evening, linked to copies of the poems themselves. There was even song: folk-singer Mike Excell’s ominous ballad The Proof in the Puddingstone received its London premiere.


Our resident poet Michael McKimm persuaded notable literary figures to join Fellows and guests for the day. Judge for yourself the standard of verse, from visitors and Fellows alike. If you could not be with us, enjoy the website now; maybe react, and consider getting involved in the next event. Submit your own poems to Michael, as a claim on literary as well as geological immortality. And listen, please, to ‘Field Notebook’, an exquisite poem by Barbara Cumbers, which for me sets the standard to which we all might aspire.

Where will this lead? I’m delighted to say that I don’t know; for never have I instigated a project that has moved so rapidly and wonderfully beyond the control of an individual. Yet I am a geologist, so I do nurse a practical hope: that our poetry will help to establish true environmental conviction where our scientific prose has failed us. We geologists will need every edge we can gain as the world glides into the Anthropocene, in a fashion brilliantly framed for us on Poetry Day by Jan Zalasiewicz.

Which contemporary poets will best express our 21st Century view of our relationship with Earth? Who can capture the intellectual revolution involved in our transition to a looming Anthropocene? Who will emulate Milton and Tennyson?

First, Paradise Lost:

The ark no more now floats, but seems on ground,
Fast on the top of some high mountain fixed.
And now the tops of hills as rocks appear;
With the clamour thence the rapid currents drive
Towards the retreating sea their furious tide.

Then, through such early geological heroes, Lavoisier, Hutton, Smith and Lyell, to In Memoriam:

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
The melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

We have travelled from a feeling of mastery over all Earth’s creatures, to passivity in the face of geological forces apparently way beyond our control, to a growing apprehension that we may be marking our own stewardship of the blue planet in a fashion we would not wisely choose. Poets and geologists have a common cause: a search for words to help us to understand what we do.

Field notebook

It is drily factual - places, rock types, features,
the numbers of my samples and where I found them,
explanatory drawings. It records all that.

It does not say how the bracken changed colour
through the day, through the year,
how the fronds unrolled in the spring,

stiffening like a butterfly’s wings.
It does not tell how you found the pink spider
rare in the north, camouflaged in heather bells,

how I quite failed to see it until you made it move
to bare its harmless fangs at your finger.
It does not say how you were always there

even after you’d gone, a face glimpsed
behind eyelids, a voice soaking into me
like rain on parched soil.

From my notebook’s pages, speckled sometimes
where ink has run in water, I find my observations
on the day you left seem much as any other.

My notebook records my work in detail.
There are marks on sketch maps like kisses on letters,
all carefully numbered. Its precision surprises me.

© Barbara Cumbers