Dr Ian Williamson, formerly of British Geological Survey
For many of us, the Palaeogene lava fields of the Inner Hebrides probably conjure up bleak landscapes comprising endless tracts of rank grassland and blanket-peat bogs beset by mist, ticks and midges. The rocks too are often considered unexciting, dull and little more than monotonous piles of old, cold and very boring basalt, and, as such, pretty-well intractable and unworthy of detailed field-based research.
Hopefully, as a result of this lecture you’ll see them in a very different, more dynamic light.
Taking specific case studies from Skye, Mull and Canna, this lecture aims firstly to summarise our current knowledge of the early Palaeocene lava fields and then to detail how recent field-based research has significantly increased our understanding of the physical volcanology, stratigraphy and facies architecture of these rocks. Age relationships, geochemistry, secondary mineralisation and sedimentary rocks (including some palaeontology and palaeoecology) associated with these sequences are also covered.
Finally, in lighter “non-scientific” vein, my talk will demonstrate the legacy of this volcanism in determining present-day landscape character in the Inner Hebrides and how people’s perceptions of these “lava field landscapes”, including for example the iconic features of Fingal’s Cave (Staffa, Mull) and the Old Man of Storr (Trotternish, Skye), have inspired generations and played influential roles in both art & cultural circles and in the (Geo)tourism industry.