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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The work of ice -- dismiss at your peril!

 Grundvigskirken, East Greenland (Photo:  Troels Jacobsen.)

I was talking to somebody at a party the other day.  He said he visited the MPP dig at Rhosyfelin during the summer, and embarked upon a little conversation with the boss himself.  He had the temerity to mention the possibility that the bluestones at Stonehenge might have been carried by ice, only to receive the rebuff: "Forget it.  That theory has been comprehensively dismissed."

If I had been there I think I might have pressed a bit, and asked (ever so politely)  "By whom?  When? And on what basis?"  But unfortunately (or fortunately) I was elsewhere at the time.

But it does make me angry that a senior academic who clearly knows nothing about glaciation and the work of ice should pontificate in this fashion and should appear to have a closed mind on the matter, simply because it is inconvenient to the fantasy world which he has created around Stonehenge and Rhosyfelin. 

Anyway, for those who do not know what to think,  here is another little reminder of what ice is capable of.  Grundvigskirken again, in the inner reaches of Scoresbysund, East Greenland.  And just round the corner is Nordvestfjord, the biggest fjord in the world, in which the ice has cut into the ancient landscape so deeply that one can measure 11,000 feet from plateau surface to fjord bottom.

Professor MPP, you underestimate the capabilities of glacier ice at your peril!

15 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,
Quoting MPP from your post, "Forget it. That theory [ice transport] has been comprehensively dismissed."

Assuming this is accurately attributed to MPP, his choice of words is revealing. Note, ice transport of bluestones is 'dismissed' and not 'disproved'.

Would you trust MPP to sit as judge and jury in the 'ice transport' case to be made? Any ideas where he keeps proprietary data favoring ice?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

I wouldn't put too much stress on the words, which might or might not have been accurately reported to me. But I tend to agree that "dismissed" is not the same as "disproved".......

Dave Maynard said...

What would the volume of material moved out of Nordvestfjord by the glacier be? I guess there would be an existing depression, so perhaps 5000ft in depth of material excavated, how wide and for what length? I'm sure it would be a big figure, even if it were only moved 10 miles or so, down the grade and deposited there.

The question is what percentage makes it's way to further away points?

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Dave,

Ice can form the landscape in many more ways than glacier advance. A point not well considered at all by both archeologists and geologists. What often passes as 'lack of evidence' is evidence of a different kind!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas, there are indeed other processes by which ice can affect a landscape -- but these are very small in scale compared to the effects of glacier ice overriding a landscape. Both aerial scouring (beneath an ice sheet or ice cap) and concentrated downcutting, where conditions are right, at the bed of a valley glacier or ice stream, can remove hundreds if not thousands of metres of bedrock.

Dave, as for Nordvestfjord, if we just take the main fjord branch, it's more than 200 km long x 10 km wide by 3 km deep -- so that means that from this one fjord alone, 6000 cubic km of rock have been removed -- and it's still going on......

Some of the debris has been carried out to sea, some is on the floor of Scoresby Sound, and some is dumped on the shallow section at the exit of the fjord, where erosive power is lost as the Nordvestfjord Glacier has spread outwards from its contained channel.

Anonymous said...

Brian,
don't you think your time would be better spent stacking bake beans cans in a supermarket?

BRIAN JOHN said...

You may be right -- it would probably pay better. But maybe I would not find it quite so stimulating. Wealth or wisdom? The same old dilemma........

Myris of Alexandria. said...

Better that than to be a bean counter!!
Rather reminds me of the old bacon slicer joke- same style of pun.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Mind you, I was only ever a humble geomorphologist. As I understand it, Gove only really went after geologists, who presumably have nothing much to offer in his brave new world. If he thinks that geologists are useless abominations, then I'm sure the feeling is mutual....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

I think Anon speaks from experience advising you to stock bean cans! Too bad if (s)he has not experienced the thrill of z' ice and the agony of de feet!

Kostas

TonyH said...

Robert Zimmermann, otherwise more famously known as Bob Dylan, wasn't too proud to count bean tins in the film "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid". Presumably he was well paid for this contribution to the film (as well as by composing a rather more memorable song, "Knocking On Heaven's Door").

TonyH said...

Myris of Alexandria and others have recently brought up the topic of HORSE EATING on a more recent Post than this. I should now like to link the ongoing topic of BEANS with horses.

Apparently, according to Countdown's lexicographer Susie Dent, the reason why we refer to energetic people like Brian as being "full of beans" goes back to 19th Century England. The idiom originated as a piece of slang from England's stables. It referred to the sprightliness of a horse that had been fed on horse beans (what today we call broad beans). She says the Romans were equally aware of the effect of horse beans, and would regularly increase the bean intake of their own horses before chariot races.

BRIAN JOHN said...

This is a long way from glaciers and the Ice Age, but we do indeed get some wondrous information on this blog. Very educational, we are. Thank you Tony!!

TonyH said...

All we need now is to find some evidence, by pollen analysis, of some "horse beans" along The Stonehenge Cursus, and we will have proved William Stukeley correct in his notion of the reason why The cursus was constructed! (notice also how I have cunningly contrived to bring us back to the topic of Stonehenge!!)

TonyH said...

Mind you, these days HORSE MEAT contamination is getting everywhere (this very afternoon came news it has reached the Newport that is in east Wales's Monmouthshire....), so it is hardly surprising if it has infiltrated this Blog Site. Why the long face?