30 June 2012

Beauty in uniformity?

These days my house is festooned with supermodels! I have made the switch to haute couture and kilos of make-up. Well, that may be an exaggeration; I bought a dress for the recent wedding I attended, and it was delivered with a concomitant flyer, adorned with two ladies of most decorative qualities. And these ladies, as out of place as they were in my somewhat unmanicured house, provided some interesting insight. 

The first bloke who laid eyes on the picture figured it was a photoshop. And I think it was, to a certain extent; we all know how airbrushed such pictures are. But he didn't mean their perfect skin or long elegant necks; he simply thought it was the same girl twice! When I said it was two ladies he thought I was kidding. I must say I struggled to point out the differences; one has slightly rounder eyebrows and marginally differently shaped lips and teeth. All these models are selected on the same beauty criteria, and I think some personal characteristics simply get airbrushed away. So you can't tell the difference between these ladies anymore! 

It's not only models: other entertainers receive the same treatment. I remember once hearing a comment about a music video, which made it instantly make sense. It featured a gentleman who cheats on his girlfriend, and then gets murdered by her. But as all these singers and actresses look the same as well, I hadn't noticed that there were two different women in the video... 

This, by the way, is not a pamphlet against the beauty industry. I think it's good to pick beautiful people for photo shoots, and the airbrushing is fine with me too. If you are confronted with a more than life-size near-naked lady on a poster at a bus stop she'd better (pretend to) have perfect skin. These people should look better than you and I; it's their job! I want my dentist to be better at dentistry than you and I too (my apologies to any dentists reading this.) And if his dentist skills are very good I think it's fine if these of the next dentist are indistinguishable from his. And I know models get the blame for a lot of self esteem issues in, mainly, young girls, and for eating disorders too, but I think it's a better idea to try to give these kids mental resilience in the face of both beauty and ugliness, than to try to shelter them from people they consider prettier than themselves. Not an easy task, but I think the only good way with dealing with the issue. But, bringing this back to the models; it does sometimes mean one needs one's scrutinising taxonomist's eye to see the different between different specimens of this subtype of the human species!

The ladies that accompanied my newly bought dress

29 June 2012

New lamp!

Well over a year ago, I was in one of the most beautiful mines one could possibly imagine, which has beautiful large open spaces, and my light didn't work. At least, initially it didn't. Luckily, one of the guys shook and prodded it a bit, and got it back to work! But this probably signalled the beginning of the end. Two months ago, when we were throwing a camera crew off the cliff, the lamp refused again. I sought out the very same guy who had saved me the first time, but this time he was powerless. I managed on my spare lamp, which I always have as backup. And, to be honest, with Lionel's spare lamp in addition. Mine is too weak to cave comfortably...

When I got home I contacted a man whose fame in lamp-making had not just reached, but almost engulfed me. He did conversions of defective lamps. Upon seeing a picture he figured he could do that with mine, so I sent it to him. Upon receiving it he said the circuit was dead as king Tut; he suspected water damage. Not THAT surprising given my reputation for jumping into any body of water I can find underground. But it could be repaired!

One day I got it back. It looked cool! And I can't directly compare it with my old lamp, of course, but I can show the difference in brightness with my back-up lamp. One can see why I am eager to try this new piece of technology in a befittingly dark and gloomy place!

My back-up light

My new light

And both!

28 June 2012

Exeter Cathedral

Large, imposing medieval buildings are a good invention. When you happen to wake up in a city that has one, the thing to do is to visit it. So when we spent the night in Exeter after Paul and Lou's wedding, we took the opportunity to quickly visit Exeter Cathedral. A rather splendid building! With a famous ceiling, touching Antarctic memorabilia, serene and less serene grave memorials, and lots more! I must have been there as a child but I couldn't remember a thing. Good we went back!

The ceiling: apparently the longest continuous medieval vault in the world.

I didn't expect to see this artifact in Exeter Cathedral.

Meet Hugh and his wife Margaret! The 2nd earl of Devon and spouse.

I didn't manage to find out what this hapless character was doing there.

The quire with on the right the bishop's throne

Pretty buildings on the cathedral square

"I do!"

They both said I do! So that was the most important part of the day.

I was very honoured to be invited to the wedding of two young colleagues: Paul and Louise. My involvement in the whole thing started out a bit confusing. I got invited to Louise's hen do, but I was in Durham at the time, so I had to skip that. Paul's situation can be described as that he initially might or might not have a stag do. After all sorts of changes he in the end would just have a pint with a few mates. And I was one! So I started out as one of the lads. On the very night the topics of conversation did reflect a male domination; I shall not venture into details. But all would be restored at the wedding itself!

Hugh and I got ready in Salcombe, and drove to Exeter, where we had booked a B&B. From there we walked to the venue. The true test of my new pair of heels! Luckily, the weather was lovely; quite a contrast with the entire rest of the month. This was the time of flooding and gales. But not today. The beautiful hall was baking in sunlight, and clusters of well-dressed people were already festooning the entrance. And if I may say so; we added to it! Hugh looks spiffing in a suit and I was quite satisfied with my femininity-restoring pink dress with black heels.

Hugh and me as wedding guests

We got in, got ourselves a seat, and waited for the bride to come in. In the meantime we could admire the Scottish regalia of the groom's family. It was good they wore splendid kilts, as the bride just wouldn't show up. In the end one of the best men stepped forward and announced that the official who was supposed to conduct the marriage had for some reason been prevented from making an appearance, and that a replacement was on the way. Luckily, that replacement arrived soon. And then all could go as planned after all!

Lou was paraded in by her dad; she looked as beautiful as I had expected. A good match with impressively kilted Paul! When the ceremony was underway I had one moment of cultural dissonance: the official described marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Twice! What century is this? Questionable Brits. But aside from that all went swimmingly.

The beautiful newlyweds!

After the ceremony it was time for drinks, socialising and pictures. And then dinner, including speeches. And then more socialising and drinks. And listening to tall stories from the kilted older generation! And then there was what was a second highlight of the evening: a ceilidh! I had never done one before. In his groomal speech (or whatever it's called) Paul had already announced dancing isn't optional. So even if I hadn't looked forward to it I had to deliver. On 6 cm heels!

Jon has fun with the bride just before the pictures are taken

Lou on her way down the stairs, train and all; notice the two bridesmaids (in purple) enjoying some leisure time on a bench in the extreme left of the picture while Jon does the work!

When the musicians were warming up the small children of a colleague had the dancefloor to themselves. They had a blast! But then the first dance was announced by the caller, and their mother quickly whisked them away. A bit sad, that! But this was the bridal pair's night. They romantically opened the dance. And then I could start my first ceilidh. It involves a lot of circling around in pairs and foursomes, then recombining in other pairs or foursomes, and then doing it all again. The steps are dead easy and with all that changing you get to dance with everybody. I had a blast! Hugh, who had initially been somewhat miffed when he found out this dancefloor was not for freewheeling, took to it too. And I managed on my heels like nothing on earth! I didn't stagger or roll (or fall flat on my face, or break my ankle) even once. I was quite proud of myself! These heels have passed the test. It may have something to do with the anti-slip sole and the stabilising high strap! And they did hurt, quite badly actually, but standing still hurt way more than dancing. so I was on the floor a lot. Great fun!

Later in the evening the dancing got somewhat sillier. There was one dance for trios: one man with two ladies. But that way one gets short of ladies. So one trio solved that by having one lady and two men. Why not! But with the continuous recombining that meant that sometimes we had three lads dancing together, holding hands. Which nobody seemed to mind. That made up a bit for the earlier intolerance!

After I had danced with practically everybody; all present colleagues, and all the other guests too, and after I had really used up my feet, the evening came to a close. So we kissed bride and groom goodbye, and staggered into the darkness. That is; Hugh strode away energetically, but I had to call him back; I can't keep up with his long-legged gait at the best of times, but after 12 hours on heels I can't even do half his normal speed. So it was a slow, and very painful, walk home. Next time I bring a pair of back-up shoes, no matter what Hugh says about a bag (bigger than one that can only hold a credit card and a lipstick) being a fashion faux-pas with outfits like ours. I've now done the whole thing once; no need to do it again!

Even though I was a bit cold in my damp (sweaty!) dress and whimpering with pain I was quite happy: this had been a very good wedding! I do hope that bride and groom feel the same way, or rather, are even much more enthusiastic! May they have a long and happy married life!

27 June 2012

Proper science

That's not what I do! I aim not to unravel the intricacies of the natural world (specifically that part of it which involves foraminifera); no: I aim to invent pseudo-facts in order to destroy the prosperous economies of the world's richest nations. It seems!

Is that true? I'm afraid I can't verify it. I base this on the following quote: "Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world's richest nations", which seems to feature on page 253 of the following book: Russel Kirk, Economics: Work and prosperity in Christian Perspective, 2nd ed. (Pensacola, Fl: A Beka Book, 1999). The quote was given on this website, and they seem to be rather thorough in their research. But I don't have the book. The local library doesn't either (good on them) and Amazon doesn't allow a preview. And I don't want to buy it, as I would be financially supporting their case. And all that means I can't check the validity of this bold statement. 

Those who have followed the above link will have seen what this is all about, but for those who haven't; all this started with Louisiana being about to fund promising pupils from schools who can't cater for their talents to attend certain public and private schools that are deemed better suited for these bright lights. The idea is good! But the problem seems to be: many of these are fundamentalist christian, and teach creationism and the likes. So that means: tax money used for filling the heads of intelligent children with propaganda. And the quote above seems to be part of that. Outrageous! But I would say that, wouldn't I?

I'm not quite sure what's in it for me, regarding my alleged aims; it tends to be the world's richest nations that fund me. The UK seems to reside rather solidly in the GDP top 10. And I don't think I, in general, look forward to global economic collapse! One could say we're already in such collapse, but I think this is more "economic recession" than "economic destruction". (And to make things worse; one can hardly give the credits to the climate change worriers.) The latter would probably involve my neighbours bludgeoning in my skull for my last potato. Not a very enticing thought. 

So I hope we can resolve this. Do I have any readers with access to this book? If so, I'd appreciate a picture of page 253! That would surely resolve if this Mr. Kirk indeed makes this claim. And then I leave it to my readers to decide if he's right! And to decide whether US taxpayer's money should pay for bright Louisiana kids reading his books...

Meet the parents

“I can imagine that Hugh is nervous about introducing such a scruffy girl to his parents!” Roland had a positive view on the situation. Hugh’s parents are rather keen travellers, and had ventured into our neck of the woods. So that presented an excellent occasion for me to meet them! And vice versa.

They had rented a cottage in pretty Salcombe; a much more scenic place to enjoy England than war-flattened Plymouth. It’s one of these cute villages on an estuary on the south coast. So on a slightly gloomy Saturday morning we drove there.

We had an excellent day! The weather was reasonably obliging; we managed to evade the showers. We took it easy; just had a chat on the couch, had a stroll through town, enjoyed a pint on a terrace with excellent view on the estuary, and had a nice meal accompanied by Yorkshire wine (really!). Hugh’s parents turned out be really nice people; if they think I’m scruffy they are too Anglo-Saxon to show it!

We couldn’t stay long; the next day we were off to a wedding. The good thing about that was that I could invoke the help of Hugh’s mother in doing my hair. Hugh was a bit insulted I thought he and I could not do that unaided, but when he confessed he could not braid I brushed his objections aside. And the result was excellent! Watch this space.

Next week they’ll come to Plymouth; I look forward to seeing them again!

26 June 2012

Noam Chomsky

If you go to a workshop on foraminifera taxonomy you don't expect to get the father of modern linguistics with that. But sometimes the unexpected happens! The organiser of our workshop mentioned that at the end of the day, when our workshop schedule mentioned only beer, wine, nibbles and socialising, there would be a public lecture by nobody less than Noam Chomsky. He was in town as he would get an honorary doctorate of the university. I thought the whole workshop would jump up like one man and rush to the venue! But how mistaken I was.

When the foram work was over only four of us walked over to the hall selected for this occasion. Four! How often does one stumble across a lecture by such a renowned and interesting man? And how often can one consume drinks and nibbles? Some people just don't get their priorities right, in my view.

Not many of us foraminifera geeks appreciate Chomsky. But the rest of the wold does! When we approached the building that would host the lecture we saw a queue coming out. We walked around the corner to find its end. Upon rounding the corner our hope faded: we could barely see the end of the queue. No way all these people would fit inside that hall! And indeed; just then some officials came out of the building, telling the queue to go home as it was full. Too bad!

We walked back to university, but Bill kept bumping into acquintances, and that way we didn't move fast. Which meant we were still near the road when we suddenly observed a stampede. Bill immediately realised what that meant: the organisers of the lecture had decided to relocate to a bigger venue! So we didn't hesitate and joined the stampede. We got into the hall, and there Bill quickly assessed the situation again; he figured they would open the balconies. So we queued up at the stairs; if they indeed did we would be the first ones up! In theory.

Queuing up in front of the building (the improvised, bigger one)

It took a while before we gor permission to scale the stairs. In that time Bill, who is very kind and polite, had yielded and yielded to pushier people and lost his pole position. And the two other ladies with him. Fortunately I am Dutch so I stood my ground. And ran up as soon as I could. I managed to get us four good seats! Funily enough, Bill managed to come in last, even behind the 7 months pregnant lady. The Brits sometimes...

But we had our seats! And soon a venerable figure appeared. To great applause.

Chomsky did not talk about linguistics; he talked about the Magna Carta, the distant ancestor of the British Constitution. And of many other important charters, such as the US declaration of independence. One of the things the Magna Carta is famous for is the right for any free man to not be convicted and punished without having been trialled by his peers. No arbitrary executions ordered by the monarch anymore! And of course only a small part of the population counted as a free man. But one has to start somewhere...

Not a bad venue for such a last minute decision!

Since the Magna Carta most countries have realised that a human is a human, quite irrespective of religion, race and gender. Unfortunately, there are still countries that have not realised this also holds irrespective of sexual orientation. And the US seem to think it only holds for "our kind of people". Was Bin Laden trialled by his peers? What's going on in Guantanamo Bay? And Chomsky isn't very optimistic about where this is going. He has seen companies gain rights which are close to these of humans, and now being able to act against those who stand in the way of their profit. He mentioned a mining company suing a South American government for protecting forest land in order to reserve space for their indeginous peoples. That land is on top of mineral richess! He has seen this trampling on the thoughts behind the Magna Carta, he is afraid this is only the beginning of the abuse the document will suffer. And he may well be right.

The man speaking. Note it was so busy they even had people seated behind him...

Listening to Chomsky won't cheer you up. But it's well worth it. So reader, if you ever happen to attend a workshop on foraminifera taxonomy, and you can have Chomsky as bonus: grab that chance! And if you somehow don't end up in that situation (unthinkable!); his website is a treasure trove of information...

25 June 2012

Foraminifera taxonomy

I was hoping for a bit of documentation. I got the experts in action.

I mentioned it before; when I started looking at the forams in the sediments we had retrieved from Norfolk I realised many were unfamiliar. And that, in trying to have someone who had worked on them before send me some PDFs with descriptions, I had managed to get invited to a taxonomy workshop.

I had been quite busy with the project meeting in Durham, so I didn’t have as much time as I wished for preparing for this workshop. But I did manage to bring a lot of specimens. And together with my dear friend and PhD student Rob I made my way to the other side of the country.

The workshop started with some utter gods in the world of foraminifera giving a talk. Karen Luise Knudsen! Elisabeth Alve! I had been looking forward to meeting them. I had briefly met Kare Luise on a conference, but I was sure she wouldn’t remember that. I had never met Elisabeth. And in the audience (he’d talk the next day): John Murray! I had been most apprehensive about him. He’s been in foram research for 55 years and knows practically everything that is known about the little critters. And from reading his articles I had gotten the impression he was somewhat impatient and did not suffer fools. And when it comes to foraminifera I am a fool. I have blundered into jobs in which I was supposed to be able to identify them and I had to learn on my feet. I never learned about forams in a structured way…

After the talks in the morning, and lunch in sunny St Andrews where it was graduation week (lots of people dressed in their finest, which includes kilts, with gowns!) we did some hands-on work. I’ll describe that on my science blog; I’ll include a link when I’ve posted that entry! (And here it is!)

Lunch in the sun

When that was done it was time for beer, wine and then dinner, and then optionally more beer. That first day had taught me a lot about forams. It had also taught me that the world experts are absolutely lovely people. John Murray was as knowledgeable as I knew he would be. And he was not without criticism on contemporary foram research; when I asked him if he thought many people were still inventing the wheel in our field, he answered “I think quite many people have no idea what a wheel is…” But he was very inviting and approachable. A lovely man indeed!

I also got confirmation that the Dutch are a boisterous bunch: easily half the noise made at the 30 person workshop had been made by just two people. One from Yale and one from the University of Angers. But both Dutch. And not afraid to be heard!

The next day there were more talks, including one by John Murray himself, and then time to show each other our samples. I was very pleased to have Bill Austin and Karen Luise look at mine - they were of invaluable help. I’m ready now for doing some proper analysis of my samples!

The dream team. At the front the organisers: Clare Bird, Kath Evans, Bill Austin, and Kate Darling. At the back the experts: Frans Jorissen, Elisabeth Alve, John Murray, Ellen Thomas, Karen Luise Knudsen and Magali Schweizer.

The workshop ended with a group discussion on what we thought the outstanding issues were, and what way we should be heading, and such things. A great way of summing up the outcomes of a workshop! And then, our heads full of foraminiferal thoughts, Rob and I had to make our way to the airport and then home. I would dream of forams for nights to come! I was very privileged to have attended this workshop. It’s great to learn from the best. Especially if the best are also this nice!

21 June 2012

Where bikes go

Don't go look for the bicycle racks at a big English public building. They're probably simply not there. Approaching Plymouth railway station (one of the least welcoming in the country) you can't help but notice, if you're Dutch, that there is no sea of bicycles greeting you.

When I had to travel by train I biked to the station, found the most unassuming and out of everyone's way place to park there is, and chained my bike to a fence. When I came back I saw it was still there. But what was more: it had  note attached to it. It had been illegally parked! I was a bit confused. Where are you supposed to park it then, if there are no racks? But the note provided the answer: these are inside the station! On one of the platforms... and indeed. Next time I parked it there. But can you imagine if in a Dutch town of ~250.000 people you would try to fit all the bikes on a platform!

So this is it: all the bike racks for Plymouth railway station!

18 June 2012

History well-delivered

Durham Cathedral is one of Britain's best buildings. That is, according to the BBC. I must say I agree! I've visited it several times myself, but my first introduction to it happened through the BBC series "Britain's Best Buildings"; a series presented by one of the BBC's in-house historians: Dan Cruickshank. He is your archetype geeky scholar who knows everything, finds everything fascinating, and shares his fascination with the audience in hushed yet enthusiastic queen's English, festooned with the eccentric gesticulation of an Oxbridge professor in history (or how I imagine one to be). In other words: what a man! I enjoyed that series. But then it got silent: I didn't see his face on the TV for years. But he's back!

I recently saw an announcement of some programmes within the framework of "London week" or something; a series of documentaries on London. And the first one would be presented by Dan Cruickshank. I have no specific affinity with London, but of course I watched! It was a pleasure. And then, later that same week, he presented another programme on the bridges of London. I have now increased my knowledge on the capital of my country of residence by many times! And I got to enjoy the erudite excitement and scholarly gesticulations again. And these days you can hardly switch on the TV without having some academic explain you this, that and the other (Stewart, Worsley, Al-Khalili, Cox, etc etc etc), so I hope Cruickshank is high fashion again as well, and have his face on my TV a lot! I will turn into a proper couch potato...

17 June 2012

Throw the stretcher off a cliff

It may sound arrogant, but I’m fairly good at going up and down ropes. The only problem with it is that I have a penchant for ending up as mr. Messy (of the mr. Men series; “meneertje slordig” in Dutch). I once came out of a mine with two bags (I was playing mule for a caving mate), and I also de-rigged as I came up; when I reached the surface it took us a while to disentangle me again, as I REALLY looked like mr. Messy, but then mine-coloured, and not pink.

The cave rescue team had organised a rope training evening. We would practice getting ourselves, and casualties in stretchers, up and down vertical drops. Fun!

I started out just going up and down a cliff face. That was fun! And it is not something I need that much training in, but I tried to get past the points where the rope was anchored in the rock without making a veritable knot-work of myself and the rope. I’m getting better at it!

Pic by Josh

Then I went to the place where others were busy throwing the stretcher over the edge. If we hoist a casualty in a stretcher we tend to have a rope for the stretcher, a safety rope, a rope for someone who accompanies the stretcher to keep an eye on the casualty, and potentially more. Plenty of opportunity for knitting! So I did my best. I get confused in what rope goes where, but every time I do it again that gets less; I’ve now been practicing several times, starting actually on a Norwegian glacier, as glacier rescue involves very similar techniques. So that was very useful!

All these ropes! Pic by Josh

Getting the stretcher to the edge. Pic by Josh

And over the edge!

And then the hauling up. Pic by Josh

Time flies, though; when I felt like I had only gotten started we already packed up. And rightly so; it would be a while before I would be home, and it is a busy foram-riddled week.

As the evenings are long now we intend to do it again some day soon; by then I might manage as mr. Clean!

15 June 2012

Suitcase full of forams

I've worked with tropical planktonic foraminifera of up to ~150.000 years old. And modern Arctic benthic foraminifera. And modern salt marsh foraminifera. But that's only the beginning! In Norfolk we cored sediments that may well be 400.000 years old. And they have lots of shallow marine benthic foraminifera in them. Some I know; some I don't. So I mailed the guy who had published the only article I had found with foraminifera in them from that same time and place. He was the first author; the foram work had actually been done by the second author. He had been cc'd; he immediately mailed back with an offer for help, but not only that. He said he was organising a workshop on foraminifera taxonomy; would I be interested in coming? All the great names in benthic foraminifera taxonomy would be there. So I said yes!

I wanted to have these knowledgeable people look at my specimens; they would be the people to give me a massive leg-up in getting familiar with them. When I mailed them they declared themselves willing. Yay! That will make things much easier. It’s not easy to sort it out yourself; there are so, so many species you can’t just leaf through a catalogue until you find something that looks like what you see through your microscope. One of our retired professors in geology does have a catalogue; it fills a book cupboard. And we don’t have a big reference collection. It really helps if people point your nose in the right direction.

So in order to get ready for this workshop I put many, many forams in microslides. They will come with me! And if that would not be enough microfossil friends; the organiser also asked me to bring specimens of a specific species he was doing research on. We happen to have lots of these in our collection! I hope all goes well.

Blogger insists on having this picture in portrait format! Beats me why...

So with my thousands of little dead friends I will go back to beautiful St Andrews. I look forward to it, but I’m also a bit apprehensive; the grandfather of UK benthic foram research is there… his writing style suggests he doesn’t suffer microfossil fools. And I might qualify as one. We’ll see! I feel honoured to be able to find out. I hope I return with my head filled to the brim with foram knowledge, learned from the best. I will report back!

12 June 2012

More efficient caving

Last week we did a hit-and-run trip down a mine; this week we managed to do it again. This time our goal was Bedford United; an amazing mine where I met the Cornish bunch for the first time. Later I'd been back on a trip that started stressy and then turned very relaxed as I ended up as a surveying assistant. This time all would be different! In spite of this mine being very special it hadn't attracted much attention. We would be only five! And then Dave's shoulder was playing up, which left only four. Two of us, Lionel and me, had been on the faff-free trip a week ago; it would be fairly similar.

We got kit ready and went to the gate. The first thing that happens after the gate is a winze with a ladder over it. As we are very responsible people we only cross that when attached to a safety line; this line you have to first put in yourself. Which involves placing bolts in holes drilled for that purpose. But this time it seemed the holes had eroded too much; the bolts wouldn't bite. We might have to re-drill!

Rick on the ladder on the winze. He is actually taking the bolts back out, but what does it matter. Pic by John

We made it anyway, and got past the climb behind, the partial collapse, the clamber down, the crawl through a wet tunnel and then to the big drop down. The same issue with the bolt holes! So as smooth and efficient as we were ourselves; this required quite some faffing. One doesn't want to go down a proper winze on a rope that isn't decently fixed.

Lionel in the drop; as with the previous one, the pic is taken on the way out! Pic by John

Lunch near the shaft. Pic by John

Once down we quickly went on beyond where I had been the last time; I had forgotten how much fun there is to be had there! Waist deep water, dodgy ladders of both the wooden and steel variety, waterfalls everywhere, a shaft full of chunky bits of mining mechanics, launders and rails, and one winze after the other that could be crossed by a variety of dodgy planks, rusty rails and what have you. Fun! Lots of it!

Me coming down the waterfall. Pic by John

Me having crossed one of the winzes. Pic by John

The chain ladder. Pic by John

Rick crossing another winze. Pic by John

One of the wonkier ladders. Pic by John

We moved fast. Only four works well! And while we were at it we got John SRT-ing. He had only done an inclined shaft before, but he did well! But after a while we found one winze where the planks spanning it were exceptionally wonky-looking. We figured that was even pushing it for us. No need to get ourselves in trouble! So we wisely turned back and took all obstacles in the reverse direction. Halfway back, Rick suddenly disappeared into a hardly discernible hole. Of course behind it there was bad air, waist deep ochreous gloop, and amazing formations. None of us had seen that before! Quite a treat. And even after that we were out before dinner time.

Amazing formations in the rarely visited ochreous level. Pic by John

Me coming out of the drop. Pic by John

I decided to use the outside waterfall to get the ochre off of me. Then I took my thermals off. Then I went back to the waterfall. I was still orange! But after two showers I was ready for a small walk; we had a look at where our gloopy level would come out in the hillside. And then we went to the pub. I kind of like trips like that. Let's see if we can do it more often!

John also recognising the cleansing properties of the waterfall

Suffocating beauty

Death and decay can produce the most amazing of results. If my foraminifera die in, and perhaps because of, oxygen-free conditions, they would decay, which would release sulphur, which in turn can react with present iron to ison sulfides such as iron disulfide. Also known as pyrite! And that is also knwn as fool's gold; this name gives an indication of its prettiness. So if all the forams in your sample you stare at through a microscope have turned to pyrite, it looks like you're looking into a shop window close to christmas. There are worse ways of spending your working hours!