Notes from Deep Time by Helen Gordon

4 out of 5 stars

If you were to compress the entire life span of the earth on a clock face, then humanity would only appear in the final two minutes. The two hundred thousand years that we have been around as a species is almost no time at all compared to the 4.5 billion years that the earth has existed as a planet.

For most people getting a grip of how vast geological or deep time, takes a lot of doing. Ten thousand years ago, a mere moment in this timescale, we were still connected to mainland Europe. To see this deep time laid out before us we need to look at the rocks.

Helen Gordon has an obsession with one type of rock, chalk. She had headed out of London to the North Downs just to get some space and thinking time. Near Caterham, she came across a board explaining that the ground she was standing on was once the bed of an ocean around the time of the dinosaurs. Amazed, she decided to find out more so when back in London headed to the Natural History Museum. She looked at the dusty exhibits and wanted to know more. Books on geology led to field trips learning more about the rocks below our feet that tell the story of the deep time of our country and planet.

Finding out more will take her from the glamour of Cambridge Heath Road, to see ice cores in Copenhagen, the Siccar Point to see the place where a man called James Hutton had looked at the granites and sandstones and realised that the earth was much, much older than 75,000 years. She heads to the deserts of America to see where dinosaurs once trod and spends time in Naples learning about volcanos.

I really enjoyed this. If you want a well written and nicely balanced introduction to the field of geology and deep time you cannot go wrong starting with this book. Gordon mages to make this vast subject approachable and also reminds us that we are a mere footnote in history, the planet will continue with or without us.

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2 Comments

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Sounds like a really good introduction to the subject!

    • Paul

      Geology rocks! It is, Karen. I have read some written by experts and they can be very dry, but this wasn’t

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