Category Archives: Geology

Delving into the Cornish mining industry

Few industries have reshaped and redefined the Cornish landscape over the centuries as tin mining. The area is still synonymous with mining more than a decade after its last remaining mine closed down and put rest to the industry in the area. The first mining activity in Cornwall began in around 2150 BC, with underground mining taking hold from the 16th century onwards.

Ruined Cornish tin mine

Ruined Cornish tin mine

The rapid growth of the tin mining industry in Cornwall and neighbouring Devon made the region increasingly important economically from the 14th century, and in the late 15th century Henry VII came to see the area as a cash cow for the raising of revenues to fund the war effort against Scotland. Cornish miners, however, were none too impressed by the new taxes, prompting the Cornish Rebellion of 1497. From the 1540s, Cornish tin production came to outstrip that of Devon by a wide margin, and the introduction of open cast mining at around the same time fuelled a renewed boom in the industry.

Cornwall’s tin and copper mining industries really reached their peak in the 19th century, with metals exported from the thriving port of Looe. The modern-day Kit Hill Country Park is steeped in mining history, with its last mine – that of East Kit Hill – finally closing in 1909. As the 19th century progressed, increased competition from low-cost foreign sources would later come to drive the price of the metals down to such an extent that mining was no longer financially viable. By the end of the century, many Cornish miners had been forced to leave in search of work overseas. Thousands of Cornish workers made their way to the United States, South Africa and Australia, where their skills were in great demand.

Although Cornwall’s tin mining industry survived well into the 20th century, the collapse of the global tin cartel in 1986 sounded the death knell. South Crofty, the last working tin mine in Cornwall and in Europe, was closed in 1986. The mine was subsequently considered for re-opening after a rebound in tin prices, but the site continues to lay dormant. However, the legacy of tin mining lives on, and the industry has left an indelible mark on Cornwall. Geevor Mine, located between the villages of Pendeen and Trewellard, was acquired by Cornwall County Council in 1992 – two years after its closure – and parts of the site remain open to visitors curious to learn more about the industry’s history.


This post was contributed by Sam Williams, a freelance writer who is always on the lookout for places to visit for family days out.

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Rare Meteorite from Mars is Donated to Science

The Natural History Museum in London has recently become the proud owner of the largest piece of the Tissint Martian meteorite. The new addition is now the largest piece of meteorite held in the prestigious museum, weighing in at 1.1kg. The museum is delighted with the donation, but do not know who to thank because the donor has decided to stay anonymous. The piece of meteorite would not have come cheap, and is thought to have cost much more than a Mediterranean cruise or a flashy new sports car.

Scientists hope to find answers to questions about the Red Planet, like what its atmosphere used to be like and whether life could have once flourished on the planet. Dr. Caroline Smith works at the Natural History Museum, and has said the Tissint meteorite is the, “most important meteorite to have landed on Planet Earth in the last 100 years”.

How the Martian Meteorite Ended up at the Natural Science Museum

Last year in July, eyewitnesses in Morocco heard two loud sonic booms as a bright light sped towards the ground leaving a distinctive trail behind it. That bright light was a meteorite, which entered Earth’s atmosphere and broke up into smaller pieces before landing in a desert in southern Morocco. The pieces of rare Martian meteorite, called Tissint, were quickly searched for and collected up before the Earth’s atmosphere could contaminate them too much.

A man named Darryl Pitt, of the Macovich Collection in New York City, heard about the meteorite landing and set out to track a piece down. Rumors spread about it being retrieved and Mr. Pitt frantically searched for people possessing the alien rock. He almost gave up his quest, but then a phone call out of the blue lead him straight to the largest piece recovered. Mr. Pitt purchased the meteorite on behalf of an anonymous benefactor and then donated it to the Natural History Museum in London.

Details of how much the rare space rock actually cost have not been revealed, and the donor wishes for their identity to be kept private. But a spokesperson from Sotheby’s auction house in London has said that meteorites had previously sold for sums between £10,000 and £20,000, but the origin of the meteorite makes a lot of difference, as does its size. It might be the case that the Martian meteorite in question reached a price similar to the Moon Rock sold at Sotheby’s in 1993, which reached a staggering £250,000.

Why the Tissint meteorite is so rare

There have only been four recorded meteorites from Mars landing on Earth, and the last most recent one landing in Nigeria 50 years ago, in 1962. The three other occasions where in 1911, 1865, and 1815. In the last fifty years technology has developed so rapidly that there are new ways to analyze Martian rock, and scientists are excited at the prospect of studying a piece of the Tissint meteorite. Another reason that this particular meteorite is significant compared to earlier landings is the short amount of time between landing and collection. They landed in a dry area of desert, so contamination from the earth’s environment and organisms has been minimal.

Out of the 41,000 known meteorites in the global science community, only 61 of them originate from Mars, only 0.15% of all meteorites. Material from Mars has never been able to be transported back to Earth by human efforts, although this may happen in the next decade. Even so, the process of collecting rocks from Mars and bringing them back here would costs billions of dollars. So having them blasted from the surface of Mars and land on Earth is much easier, but it doesn’t happen often.

What scientists hope to find out from the meteorite

It has already been estimated that the Tissint meteorite was ejected from the surface of Mars approximately 600,000 to 17 million years ago. Scientists hope to be able to glean information about the history of the Red Planet, and maybe gain evidence on whether life existed on Mars in the past.

Further analysis will look at the exact chemistry of the rock, to see what elements it is made of. In particular they will see if any minerals that form when water is present are in the rock, and if it contains molecules rich in carbon. If these things are found, they would provide evidence that there once was life on Mars.

Knowing exactly what secrets the rock holds about the planet nearest to earth is some time away at the moment, but the investigation has begun. Let’s hope this donation inspires other people to help science unravel the many mysteries of the universe.

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I am a paleontologist

I love the science of paleontology for many reasons. The science combines so many other areas of study into one bundle, such as geology, biology, functional morphology, evolution, stratigraphy, and systematics.

Not only that, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are just fun! And being fun, paleontology is a great way to introduce people to science in an engaging way. How many young people start their interest in science by learning about dinosaurs, and say they want to be a paleontologist when they grow up–a bunch!

Well, someone shared this video with me and I love sharing it with you. Enjoy! (you may need to scroll down).

Related Posts: check them out.

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Bring Uniqueness and Style to Your Jewelry With Moissanite Rings

If you are looking into having a unique gem for your ring, you can look into getting a moissanite gem.  Moissanite rings are gaining in popularity due to its properties and price, making it an alternative to diamonds.  These gems are more affordable, and ethically produced.  The characteristics of this gem, and its background, are also good reasons to get this gem.

Moissanite was discovered in 1893 by Dr. Henri Moissan in a meteor crater in Arizona.  Dr. Moissan also became a Nobel Prize winner later on–imagine getting a gem discovered by a Nobel Prize winner?

Moissanite rings can be bought online. There are websites that specialize in these gems.  One option is to get moissanite gems in color.  There are three popular colors–yellow, green, and pink.

These colors are light and can be partnered with different metals.  The subtlety of the colors work with yellow gold, white gold, titanium and platinum, with the settings dependent upon what particular design you have in mind.  Moissanite rings can be set with only one gem, a combination of gems, or it can even be done in an eternity setting.  The sparkle of the moissanite gem is enough to take anybody’s breath away.

Since moissanite was originally associated with a meteorite, you can say that it is a piece of a star.  Star colors work well for either men or women.  It all boils down to the design and the setting.  For men, it works best to have the band wider and the gems will act as an accent.

In designing moissanite rings, you can go to your jeweler and describe what you like, your jeweler will be able to do an illustration of the ring before you can finalize it and have it done.

Related Posts:
Learn about moissanite

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Finding Amethyst Crystals

If you are looking to add some amethyst crystals to your mineral collection, then you have a few choices. You can head down to the local hobby shop frequented by rock hounds and shell out some cash for a few dollars in exchange for some amethyst.

You can head to your local store for New Age supplies and related materials and rifle through their crystal bins. They’re sure to have some stones as well that you can purchase.

But if you are a hardcore mineral collector – whether you use your stones for health and wellness or simply to admire cool rocks – then there really is no substitute for heading into the field on your own. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of digging up your own specimens.

The trouble is, when it comes to amethyst, that’s a bit trickier than finding, say, a few samples of quartz. These days, the biggest deposits of natural amethyst are located in Brazil. Yes, you can find some in other parts of the globe but you have to be ready to hire a geologist!

Still, it’s not the worst way to spend one’s vacation. You can spend a few days taking in the culture of Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, then throw on your Indian Jones duds and see if you can’t score some quality amethysts. Either way, you’re going to return home tanned and with a few good stories.

But if you don’t have the time or the money to head into the Southern hemisphere, you still have some options. One is to simply buy a lot of geodes from Brazil. Geodes are hollow rocks inside of which minerals – such as amethysts – are formed. They’re like a rock enthusiast’s ultimate holiday gift. Break one open and see what you got!

There’s no guarantee, of course, that your geode will contain any amethyst, much less an amethyst for which you would actually pay money. But that’s the joy of buying in bulk – after a while, the law of large numbers pretty much ensures that you’re going to find something.

If you do it his way, you have to remember that what you get are not likely to be jewelry quality gemstones. You won’t be making any money, in other words. But the odds are much more likely that you will turn up some pretty good crystals that most collector’s would envy.

Any amethyst collection takes time to build. Your short-term goal should be to acquire some lower or mid-range quality stones. Use those to trade up for one or two higher quality crystals. After a while, between trading and cracking geodes, you’re likely to have the sort of collection that even the experts would admire.

And remember – amethyst is worth a little effort!

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