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A Photographic Guide to Shetland's Geology

dfgstThis book is intended for the non-specialist visitor to Shetland who wishes to learn something of the geology of the archipelago.  Following a basic introduction and summary of Shetland’s plate tectonic history there is a brief comment on Geopark Shetland which has developed an ingenious app linked to GPS to provide visitors with geological information on their mobiles when they arrive at a location of interest.  The core of the book is divided into sections based on rock types each accompanied by illustrative photographs.  There is a section on the Shetland ophiolite, one on landscape, another on rocks, minerals and man and a final section unimaginatively labelled miscellaneous rocks, which deals with diagenesis, weathering and the colouration of rocks by algae and lichens.  There is a two page glossary of geological terms, and maps showing the location of the photographs.

So, does the book fulfil its stated purpose?  Only partly, I think.  A field trip guide might have been a better approach.  Many of the colour photographs are very good, particularly those showing cliff sections, but there are too many photographs of beach boulders and pebbles which frankly are rather unappealing.  The captions are generally clear, concise, informative and entertaining.  The problem is how the visitor is expected to use this book.  It is all very well to illustrate the difference between a basalt and an andesite, but to see them both the visitor might have to trek for miles.  I suspect that the authors had in mind the casual visitor walking along a beach and finding an interesting-looking rock which he wants to identify, in which case the book would probably be helpful.

Shetland has some stunning coastal scenery and one might reasonably expect to see photographs of some of the best examples, rather than pictures of a gravelly bank which opens the landscape section, or four pages showing rocks covered with algae and lichen, or of one showing the difference between wet and dry pebbles.  A few well-chosen aerial views would have been preferable. 

On the whole a rather disappointing book, at a rather inflated price, but which includes a contribution to Geopark Shetland.  I suspect one might do better to download the app, and use that. 

Reviewed by Don Hallett

A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO SHETLAND’S GEOLOGY by DAVID MALCOLM and ROBINA R  BARTON, 2015.  Published by: The Shetland Times Ltd, 118pp (sbk) ISBN: 978-1-904746-97-3.  List price £15.99.  W: