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Andrew Alden

A yearning for chalk

By March 19, 2007

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I just finished reading a lyrical article by John McPhee in the March 12 New Yorker about, among other things, the great chalk beds of northern Europe. Seek it out and enjoy the way McPhee weaves the human and the geological together. Chalk is largely unknown in the United States, but it's a key ingredient in European lifeways and commerce. All I can do now is gaze at my gallery of limestones and think of England.

UPDATE: Perhaps I should think of Kansas instead, where Ron Schott points out there is plenty of chalk. All over the Plains states, in fact. But the east (at least the northeast) and west have little—as McPhee points out in his article (and as I mention in connection with aragonite), chalk forms only during certain geologic periods, depending on the magnesium in seawater.


March 20, 2007 at 11:25 pm
(1) Ron Schott says:

Chalk it up to Geological Ignorance

No offense meant, Andrew, but there’s plenty of chalk in the USA.

March 21, 2007 at 1:59 pm
(2) Don Thieme says:

There is chalk throughout the Cretaceous embayment, east as well as west of the Mississippi River. It is so thick and dense in both Mississippi and Alabama that it retards groundwater movement and has important implications for both the migration of existing hazardous waste and possible deep storage. I believe that deep well injection into and beneath the chalk there is already being done, for example. Chalk microfossils are also studied by paleontologists here in the Southeast, many of whom work in the petroleum industry.

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