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Mid Ocean Ridges

kljhBack in the day, when I was an undergraduate ('the day' will remain some indeterminate period in the not-too distant past), I had the pleasure of sitting through Prof. Searle’s lectures on Earth Structure and Processes. So, it was with great relish that I offered to review this volume on mid-ocean ridges that promises to introduce a wide audience to an under-explored aspect of our planet.

What Prof. Searle has produced here is indeed a thematic volume that covers a wide range of topics that specifically relate to mid-ocean ridges. After a brief introduction, there is a historical perspective of techniques used to explore mid-ocean ridges – an essential guide for those of us who do not necessarily use techniques more sophisticated than a rock hammer and the application of elbow grease. For those with a rudimentary understanding of geophysics, this will seem a little simplistic, however, for the non-specialist it provides a suitable introduction to exploration techniques in a jargon-free manner.

The succeeding sections on the oceanic lithosphere, ridges as plate boundaries, and crustal structure and composition, take me straight back to the lecture theatre, where I acquired the majority of my understanding of mid-ocean ridge structure and kinematics – rest assured, these sections of the volume have been updated since my undergraduate days, but the pitch and delivery are in the same enthusiastic and inclusive style that I remember from Prof. Searle’s lectures.

Once the fundamentals are squared away, the rest of the volume comprises good all-round introductions to volcanism, tectonism and hydrothermal processes in mid-ocean ridge settings. While a volume of this size (238 pages before the glossary and references) cannot possibly deal with any of the chapter titles in an exhaustively comprehensive manner, the volume does provide clear signposts towards more detailed literature, should a deeper investigation be necessary – the volume is densely referenced (50 pages of appropriate and up to date references, in fact). While the volume is packed with informative figures, my only criticism is that, to me at least, it feels increasingly dated to pack all of the colour figures into a central section of colour plates, rather than having them interspersed at the appropriate points in the accompanying text.

Overall, this a sound introduction to the subject area and I look forward to dipping into it for guidance when geochemistry alone fails me.

Reviewed by Jason Harvey

Mid-Ocean Ridges by Roger Searle. Published by Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-01752-8. 318 pp. List price £45.00.