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Andrew Alden

Save Siccar Point

By September 3, 2012

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siccar pointTo those of you who are geologists, it's enough to say that Siccar Point is threatened by a proposed sewage pipeline and direct you to savesiccarpoint.co.uk.

Siccar Point is one of the most important and cherished landmarks in geology. Its spectacular set of unconformities was a famous teaching moment for James Hutton, founder of modern geology, in the late 1700s. His colleague and defender John Playfair was there when Hutton discovered its significance as a signpost of deep time:

On us who saw these phenomena for the first time, the impression made will not easily be forgotten. The palpable evidence presented to us, of one of the most extraordinary and important facts in the natural history of the earth, gave a reality and substance to those theoretical speculations, which, however probable, had never till now been directly authenticated by the testimony of the senses. We often said to ourselves, What clearer evidence could we have had of the different formation of these rocks, and of the long interval which separated their formation, had we actually seen them emerging from the bosom of the deep? We felt ourselves necessarily carried back to the time when the schistus on which we stood was yet at the bottom of the sea, and when the sandstone before us was only beginning to be deposited in the shape of sand or mud, from the waters of a superincumbent ocean. An epocha still more remote presented itself, when even the most ancient of these rocks instead of standing upright in vertical beds, lay in horizontal planes at the bottom of the sea, and was not yet disturbed by that immeasurable force which has burst asunder the solid pavement of the globe. Revolutions still more remote appeared in the distance of this extraordinary perspective. The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time; and while we listened with earnestness and admiration to the philosopher who was now unfolding to us the order and series of these wonderful events, we became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes go than imagination can venture to follow.

About unconformities
Angular unconformity at a California beach — Geology Guide photo


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