5 films you didn’t know are about geology.

When I’m not wandering the coast looking for fossils, stitching up a mean quilt or just generally musing about how awesome geology is (and it is. Seriously.), I like to watch the odd film. Or two, or many. In fact it was a standing joke with an old housemate that I could start my own DVD rental if I wanted to. In fact I had to join a DVD postal rental service (which shall remain nameless) just to curb my addiction. It does mean that I have a rather nerdy knowledge of films and am quite often asked which is my favourite geology film. THERE ARE SO MANY!! But The Core has to win hands down for sheer absurdity and comedy value. You want to see someone actually destroy a TV through frustration at the scientific inaccuracies? Watch The Core with a geologist. It’s like watching Avatar with a zoologist – brilliant.

But the Core, although being amazing (ly terrible) is quite obviously a geology film. So what about those hidden gems that you didn’t know have great geology in them?

Here are my top five:

5. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The volcano has it...

The volcano has it…

So apart from the totally awesome fact that J.R.R. Tolkein based the structure of Middle Earth on modern (at the time) theories of contiental drift, let’s not forget that the One Ring that ruled them all was forged in the fires of Mount Doom – not a really badly named forge, but a kick-ass volcano, brilliantly visualised erupting in a strombolian style at the end of the movie, with fantastic volcanic bombs flying all around the outcrop of basalt that Frodo and Sam lay on until they got rescued by the eagles (and did anyone else think ‘why didn’t the eagles just fy them there in the first place?’).

So no volcano, no Ring, no movie.

4. Superman

Watch out for the meteorites Superman!

Watch out for the meteorites Superman!

The original version here not any of the reboots, though I was pleasantly surprised by Man of Steel. One of my favourite recent discoveries was that of actual Kryptonite (OK technically described in Superman Returns, but we see it first in Superman). Yes Kryptonite, or sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, is an actual mineral. Unfortunately it isn’t green, but white and it doesn’t come from the planet Krypton, but still…. cool huh?!

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide!

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide!

3. Billy Elliot

It's all about the coal...

It’s all about the coal…

Another film where the geology is in the background, and yet a central part of the whole film. Billy lives in Everington (a fictional town) in the north east of England and he wants to dance, but his coal miner Dad doesn’t like the idea of it. The film is set during the Coal Miner Strikes of the mid 80’s and actually depicts what happens to a town when the mineral wealth runs out. The coal miner storyline is integral to the emotional plot and you wouldn’t get that without the mine. Plus facing a little of the realities of coal mining in the 80’s is a little scary – it was not a fun job.

2. The Shawshank Redemption

All you need is a rock hammer...

All you need is a rock hammer…

‘Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time.’

Basic motto of this story, if you want to escape from jail – make friends with the geologist. If Andy Dufresne had been a taxidermy enthusiast instead of a geology enthusaist, the story would’t have ended in quite the same way me’thinks.

1. The Poseidon Adventure

Watch out for that giant wave!! And Gene Hackman!!

Watch out for that giant wave!! And Gene Hackman!!

‘From the seismographic station in Athens, sir…..Subsea earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter Scale, epicentre 130miles northwest of Crete…’

So begins one of the best disaster movies of all time. And it HAS to be the original – the modern one doesn’t hold a candle in comparison. For one thing, given the fact that right up until the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, tsunamis were called tidal waves and were depicted as waves crashing on the beach, this film has a lot of good information in it. From the seismographic station giving details such as the epicentre of the quake as well as it’s magnitude, to the way the wave behaves as it approaches the ship, this is a classic hidden geology film. Plus you get to see Gene Hackman playing the PERVIEST preacher ever and Leslie Nielsen, as Captain Harrison, gets one of the best conversations of the whole film

Captain Harrison: [about the oncoming tsunami] It seems to be piling up in those shallows… By the way, Happy New Year.

First Officer Larsen: Thank you, sir. Same to you.

Harrison: [back to business] What’s its speed?

Larsen: 60 knots, sir.

Harrison: It must be mountainous…

Tsunami, what tsunami?! He is so cool!!!!

Anyway, those are my favourite ‘not so obvious’ geology films, what are yours?!

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Fossil hunting in the rain

On Saturday I took my sister (she of the amazing ammonite quilt) to do a little fossil hunting. Now as safety comes first we didn’t head to our favourite spot of Seatown in Dorset, but to Charmouth, which has much better access, even after the recent stormy weather. We also timed our visit so that we would be heading out at low tide, which on Saturday was at about 2pm.

Ideal!!

But did that stop us? Not on your nelly - remember, there is no bad weather - only bad clothing!

But did that stop us? Not on your nelly – remember, there is no bad weather – only bad clothing!

Low tide at Charmouth

Low tide at Charmouth

Our first fossil spot is a small ammonite (super over exposed!)

Our first fossil spot is a small ammonite (super over exposed!)

When the tide is this low you can see where the Piddock shells bore into the rock.

When the tide is this low you can see where the Piddock shells bore into the rock.

And these ammonites are ussually underwater!

And these ammonites are ussually underwater!

The day wasn't without the rain...

The day wasn’t without the rain…

But there was sunshine too!

But there was sunshine too!

And a nice man even gave us a fossil.

And a nice man even gave us a fossil.

We managed to do a fair bit of collecting – mostly ammonites and belemnite fragments (I love belemnites!), but unfortunately no 5ft long ichthyosaur fossils. Grrr.

When I got home it was time to clean and properly catalougue what we had found..

When I got home it was time to clean and properly catalougue what we had found..

There were ammonites...

There were ammonites…

Some were encrusted with so much pyrite (fool's gold) you could barely see what it used to be!

Some were encrusted with so much pyrite (fool’s gold) you could barely see what it used to be!

Others like this Liparoceras ammonite were easity identified.

Others like this Liparoceras ammonite were easity identified.

If a bit squished!

If a bit squished!

Could this be coprolite?!

Could this be coprolite?!

Nah, this is some more pyrite - really weathered though.

Nah, this is some more pyrite – really weathered though.

This looks like it could be something...

This looks like it could be something…

So long as that something is plastic!!

So long as that something is plastic!!

There were some beautifully cubic pyrite crystals...

There were some beautifully cubic pyrite crystals…

Although I love finding fossils, after my time as the Identification Officer for Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London I also like to try and spot the stuff that looks like it should be something, but isn’t – the pseudofossils. Hence the fake coprolite and fake ichthyosaur bone fragment!

But does anyone know why the pyrite has grown like this? They look like mushrooms!

But does anyone know why the pyrite has grown like this? They look like mushrooms!

I was stumped by why this pyrite had grown like this – there was loads of it! Does anyone know why this pyrite grows like mushrooms?!?

By the end of the day we were tired, muddy and a bit rained on, but very very happy!

Thanks Charmouth, you were awesome!

All in all, a very satifying day!!

All in all, a very satifying day!!