Fieldwork in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Monday, 15 April 2013

Slapton Field Course - Important life lessons for aspiring rock-botherers

So the first year field course in Slapton has been and went for another year, and again I spent the week pointing at rocks in the rain and drinking too much cider. One of my first posts was about this trip last year and it was much the same this time. However, this year’s first years were rather more interesting/fun/drunk – so this post is focussed on what the students ACTUALLY learnt on their first field trip, rather than what they were supposed to…
  1. All rocks look the same in the rain
  2. Do not ask questions of hungover PhD students if you do not want a sarky answer 
  3. Burrowing granite worms aid the process of kaolinisation (hope nobody writes that one in an exam)
  4.  You can still injure yourself quite spectacularly after the coach arrives at the end of the field day
  5.  Crutches do not float in the sea (same student as #4)
  6.  Some students will do/lick ANYTHING for free beer
  7.  If you pour water on a slug it will NOT get bigger and you will be laughed at
  8.  If you do/say anything mildly stupid it may haunt you for the rest of your university career
  9.  Don’t try to have sex in the smoking shelter
  10.  Don’t try to have sex in the labs
  11.  If you walk into the sea you will get wet
  12. Skinny jeans and Ugg boots are not suitable field kit
  13. Even a year into an Earth Science degree it is still possible to mistake slate for wood (second year in a row I've been asked, ‘Is this graveSTONE made out of wood?)
  14. Bear in mind that PhD demonstrators and lecturers have got years more practice at holding their ale than you
  15. Loose sheets of paper don’t fare well as a notebook in the wind and rain
  16. Mud may be deeper and sinkier than expected
  17. Cool packs containing months’ worth of insulin should be clearly labelled so they are not mistaken for, and handed out as, ice packs
  18. Being tired is not an excuse for not climbing down to the exposure we’ve travelled over 300 miles to look at
  19.  Don’t have a birthday on a field trip, it will not end well for you
  20.  No matter how much you drink if we have to be ready to go at 9am and pretend to be enthusiastic so do you (even if #19)
  21.  ‘Draw a sketch of the outcrop’ does not mean take a photo of it
  22. Demonstrators can’t be bothered to learn all of your names, don’t complain about the nickname you’re given or you’ll get a worse one (just ask Sexpest)
  23. If your compass points the opposite way to everyone else’s don’t keep trying to take orientation measurements with it
  24. Don’t lick the demonstrators
  25. ALL pebbles on the beach are flint if you're not sure

So all in all while they may not have learnt a huge amount of science from the trip, even with our best efforts, some valuable life lessons were (hopefully) taken away.

And here’s some nice photographs of rocks from the field course…

Lichen bothering in the graveyard, attempts at lichen chronology were very slightly more successful than last year

Angular unconformity between heavily folded Devonian limestones and overlying Quaternary beach gravels

Erosional transgressive lag deposit at the unconformity

Devonian Bryozoa and calcite veins in the limestone

Boudinaged limestone bed amongst less competent marls

Didn't feel like we'd seen enough rocks all week so took a detour to Stonehenge on the way home!


  1. You realise this has been shared on the ENV1 facebook page and everyone knows who you are talking about?

    1. Ha, brilliant, I did miss out a few things just in case the wrong people found it