08 November 2016

Hit and run mission to the BGS

If you date a fossil or mineral or bulk sample or whatever with some radioactive isotope, you can generally go back about ten half-lives of the isotope you're choosing. Radiocarbon has a half-life of 5730 years so the oldest things you can date with this method are some 50.000-60.000 years old. In our project, we have a lot of radiocarbon ages in the forty thousands. That's a bit old. It seemed that the radiocarbon lab could improve the accuracy of these age determinations if they would have comparable material from beyond 60.000 years. I'm not quite sure how that works, to be honest, but well, if that makes them do their job better, then why not. It did mean I would have to go to Keyworth (near Nottingham), where the BGS has a core storage, and subsample a core of which we had reason to believe it would have cold-water benthic foraminifera of the desired age.

If you travel during rush hour, Keyworth is ~4 hours from here. About 3.5 if you avoid the busy period. Subsampling the core would take about half an hour. Oh dear. But the BGS prefers scientists to do their own sampling, no matter how trivial it is. So on a sunny Wednesday afternoon I set off.I drove in one go to the B&B I had booked; I was welcomed by an elderly couple that made me a cup of tea. Very good! I was very hungry by then too, and I asked their advice on where to go for a meal. They suggested a pub in the next village; a 25 min walk. That sounded excellent! I like cosy pubs, and after the 4 hours of driving I was also very keen on some fresh air. And their advice was sound! It was a nice pub with good food and even a flirtatious pub cat.

The Plough in Normanton-on-the-Wolds

The next morning I rose early and went for a run. It was lovely! The fields were frosted and the air was fresh. I bumped into a plethora of cute dogs that wanted cuddles or to play with me. After the run I ate the breakfast lovingly prepared by the B&B folk, and then it was time to say goodbye.

Looking into the valley north of Keyworth

I arrived at the BGS and waited for Tracey, my host, to takle me to the core store. Things were not set up yet; she asked me to sit down for a minute. Soon she had sorted everything and I could start. I only had minutes of work, really! I just needed sediments from two selected intervals to sieve out in the lab in Wales. I was done in no time with the sampling, but the BGS has a very detailed protocol with respect to indicating in a core section where samples have been taken, and documenting what has been removed, and what for, and whether it will be returned, etc etc. I sorted the paperwork (much of which is actually digital), and went back to her office, where Tracey wasn't. I sorted things with her office mate and went to drag her out of the coffee room to say goodbye.

The core I was sampling from; It's a bit old. Taken 27 years ago, to be precise. 

This is what I travelled so far for! 

With all waiting around it had become 10:30; altogether I had spent 1.5 hours at the BGS. Now it was time to drive all the way back! Luckily, this time I avoided rush hour. At 2PM I dropped by bag off at home and went back to my office. Mission accomplished! That is, if I find enough forams...

No comments: