We are all familiar with their beverages, their Kilts and their music, but did you know that Scotland is considered “the birthplace” of geology, that our modern understanding of earth history, geologic processes, and the concept of “deep time” is something that originated in Scotland? In May of 2015, 20 members of the Geologists of Jackson Hole (GofJH) traveled half way around the world to Scotland to enjoy spectacular scenery, but also to see in that scenery features that led to an understanding of how our earth works, of how long earth history truly is.
In Scotland GofJH members were able to see an incredible spectrum of fossils, rock types, sequences, and fault systems, which is why Scotland remains a mecca for geologists from around the world. We reviewed more than 3 billion years of earth’s geological history and saw the major faults (thrusts) that occurred 400 million years ago when the North American and European plates collided. The plates then separated 90 million years ago and Scotland, which was part of North America, was left attached to the European plate. When the Scots say they are different than the English they know what they are talking about.
Our modern understanding of earth history & geologic processes was largely developed by the Scottish naturalist James Hutton, who is considered to be the “Father of Geology” for the concepts he published in 1785. We will review some of this history and the “Highlands Controversy” which ended up showing how thrust faulting was first demonstrated to explain how “old rock” could be on top of younger rock.
This talk will use photos from the field trip to Scotland, including key sites studied by Hutton and others, allowing our audience to see what they saw and how it greatly influenced their development of the current theories of geology. The trip traversed the Highlands of Northwest Scotland and the Isle of Skye covering a wide array of dramatic geological settings and amazing scenery.