For me, the summer is over. I’ve had a good old break from desk and lab work, with a few weeks spent in my favourite part of the UK.
I’ve been in the Northern Highlands of Scotland on fieldwork this year, as I’m still working on last years’ Shetland samples, there was no need to go all that way again. There’s nothing more depressing than a summer without fieldwork however, so I managed to squeeze myself into someone else’s fieldwork, and sampled some rocks that I’d been thinking on working on for a while – as I was up there anyway!
I’ve had a fantastic time, and this made me think about what actually makes a good field trip? In my opinion, there are several factors that can come together and make a good trip fantastic, and here’s a list.
1) The geology
This should really go without saying, I am a geologist after all, but this is, and always will be, the number one thing to make me happy in the field.
Yes, I know that what ‘good geology’ is, will vary from person to person, but I’d go as far to say that Scotland has enough variation to keep everyone happy.
We saw some cross-bedded sandstones that are over a billion years old:
Some massive garnets in the Ben Hope Sill:
The Sgurr Beag Thrust in outcrop! (above the pencil is one of the most important tectonic breaks in the Caledonides):
Not to mention some really sexy boudinage:
2) Food (and drink!)
I love seafood. And at this time of the year, you’d be hard-pushed to not find some good seafood on the northwest coast of Scotland! It’s important to be properly nourished in the field and there’s nothing better than a good chowder, or seafood platter. We definitely eat well when on fieldwork!
Being geologists, we did partake in a few alcoholic beverages of an evening. It would be rude not to really, when the ale is so good and the whisky is excellent!
3) The weather
What can I say? I am only human, after all. If there’s one thing that can put a dampener on a trip it’s the weather. Highland weather can be very fickle, and I’ve had more than my fair share of wet days in the field, but this time it was glorious. And I don’t just mean for a few days; it was like this the whole time. It’s the first time I’ve ever come back from the Highlands with a shorts-hiking boots tan line.
The single cloud on the day I collected from near Loch Fannich:
And a shot of (L-R) Rob, Rosie, and Anna on the way to look at some outcrops at the beach north of Durness:
Bringing me to what I see as the absolute most important thing for enjoyment on fieldwork (after the geology of course)…
4) The company
People are important, and the company we keep on fieldwork can make or break a trip. I’m very lucky to have had fantastic company on all of my PhD related trips, and this time was no different. Two of my supervisors (Rob Strachan and Anna Bird), a soon-to-be masters student (Rosie), and myself – a real winner for stimulating conversation and good fun, both in the field and the barroom.
I’m sad to not be in the field anymore, but it has really re-enthused me to get back into the lab and answer some questions, and that’s the thing I love about geology. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’re cooped up in the lab all winter, but as the old adage says:
‘You learn geology through the soles of your boots, not through the seat of your pants’
But I have a question for you: what makes a field season for you? Is there anything I’ve missed that you could’t imagine fieldwork without?