West Coast Field Trip
This weekend I took my first field trip with the UCD Geology department. As part of the Basin Analysis course I’m taking in the geology department we traveled to look at a sedimentary basin fill sequence on the west coast of Ireland near the town of Kilkee. We stayed in Kilkee and drove about twenty minutes south to begin our trace of the northward dipping stratigraphy toward Kilkee and just north to a town called Listoonvarna. Apparently Listoonvarna is somewhat well known for it being featured in a song, but I’ve never heard the song.
The field trip was quite a bit of fun we woke up every morning, got on our reflective vests, hard hats, rain gear, and headed for the coast. Unlike in Pennsylvania where I’m used to looking at regional stratigraphy via road cuts for the highway, a fair portion of the rocks to be seen are along the coast in the forms of cliffs. Much of the department’s focus is on the geology of industry so much of the focus of this class is on studying basin formation and fill for how it relates to the petroleum industry. In fact, two gentlemen from an Irish company were accompanying our class on the trip and we’ve been told many other schools and companies travel to this area for similar purposes. The weather was very nice the entire weekend compared to the forecast, it was supposed to rain day and night for the duration of the trip. There were showers scattered throughout each day, but only one or two lasted more than 30 minutes. For the most part, it was fairly warm (for the time of year) and sunny, the best weather for looking at rocks. The basin stratigraphy starts with a quiet deposition with the Clare Shale and finished with delta build-out in a series of cyclothems a difference in sea level of hundreds of meters. We followed channel scours, channel fills, fan build-outs, and mouth bars all the way up to the atmosphere interface. It was a great sequence to hike along from day to day. Apparently, this class has experienced a number of accidents while on their field trips from breakdowns to broken legs. This time an “accident” manifested in one of the two vans getting stuck in a ditch on the side of a dirt farm-road. Luckily within about an hour we’d found a nearby farm with a tractor and a few gentlemen willing to drive out to pull our van out of the ditch. We’d tried ourselves to push the van out, rock it back onto the road, and shove rocks under the tires for traction. Luckily these farmers were friendly enough to lend their tractor because none of our efforts had yielded the slightest result. Sunday evening we made the trek back to Dublin via Galway meaning we had to pass through another area of geological interest in Ireland: The Burren. The Burren is a succession of hills made up of reef limestones that had build up in the geologic past leaving behind large grey, mostly bare, hills that provide a spectacular sight. It was a pleasant drive especially in the evening sun. Unfortunately, our class won’t be taking any more field trips this semester.