Monday, 30 November 2015


Cuddly dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum Shop

As I have discovered when teaching English to groups of Spanish teenaged students, during summer schools in Sheffield, shopping is high on their agenda and, on field trips to places like York, Lincoln, Oxford and Cambridge, they would all come back with reminders of their visit to take back home with them - or to give as a present.

A greatly appreciated gift from the City of York

I usually returned with maps or some kind of guidebook from a place that I had visited during my own free time, which would help me to plan future field trips that I might wish to undertake with groups of Geotourists.

During my last visit to the Natural History Museum, I was so impressed by the fossil marine reptiles that I had seen and, knowing very little about Mary Anning and her contributions to palaeontology, I was particularly pleased to discover the book, Jurassic Mary, in one of the shops that can be found in the museum.

A simplified geological map of the North York Moors
Having just finished the Lie of the Land, which throws light on places that I only know from lectures as an undergraduate geologist – such as Lewis, Scourie and Laxford – I wanted to learn a bit more about fossils

The coastline of the North York Moors National Park is just over a 2 hour drive from Rotherham and I now feel better prepared  for the next time I go there.

Although the purchase of a book was enough for me, seeing the vast range of products for sale at the Natural History Museum reminded me that it is time to start thinking again about my own ideas  – based on my Glowing Edges Designs and GED Rock Art.

The Cranbourne Boutique in the Red Zone

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Red Zone

A specimen of orbicular granite in the Lasting Impressions gallery

Once you ride up through the globe, from the Earth Hall at the Natural History Museum, you enter an area of the museum now known as the Red Zone and, just following a sign, I set off into the Power Within gallery, where I would learn some more about volcanoes and earthquakes.

The Power Within gallery

Again, the time available to explore the Red Zone was limited and, only stopping to photograph specimens that I found particularly interesting – such as the melted glass items retrieved after a devastating pyroclastic flow, when Mt. PelĂ©e erupted  in 1902 – I moved on to take a very quick look at the Restless Surface gallery.

The Restless Surface gallery

This wasn’t my favourite part of the museum, with too much emphasis on the graphics and interactive displays for my liking, but a large polished slice of a course conglomerate particularly caught my eye, as well as a slab of rock that was crammed full of brachiopods.

The Earth's Treasury gallery

Moving down a level, the Earth’s Treasury gallery contains many more minerals, particularly cut and polished gemstones and also places emphasis on their economic value and the practical applications of some of the metals that have been extracted from them.

The From the Beginning gallery

The last gallery that I visited was From The Beginning but I didn’t stay around long enough to look at the specimens in any detail and, returning to the ground floor and passing through the Lasting Impressions gallery - where I saw fine examples of orbicular granite and petrified wood – I made my way to the bookshop...

The Earth Hall

Passing through the globe in the Earth Hall

Entering the Earth Hall from Exhibition Road, apart from the reception area and the staircase, the layout of the old Geology Museum, where I became interested in a subject that has fascinated me ever since, is unrecognisable. 

The sky at night and the solar system in the Earth Hall

Replacing the light galleried atrium that once rose above the main exhibition space in the main hall, dark slate clad walls - which have been sandblasted to show the main stars in the night sky and the planets in the solar system – now form the backdrop to an escalator that rises up to a once spinning globe, through which visitors pass on the way to the top floor.

Sophie the Stegosaurus

Before ascending the escalator, you pass by the only geological specimen that I can remember seeing in this large open space – the most complete example of a stegosaurus skeleton that has ever been found; however, in my opinion, this detracts from the magnificent, elaborately carved staircase, where decorative stones from Britain and Ireland have been used in its construction.

Decorative stone from England and Ireland

The Vault

A piece of the Tissint Martian meteorite

Discovering the Mineral Gallery at the Natural History Museum was a very nice surprise for me, made even enjoyable by also finding the Vault, which is tucked away at the end of the gallery.

Various precious stones

Although again having only the time to take a few general photos, taking advantage of the occasional gap that appeared among the many visitors who were also in this small exhibition space, it was enough to see the magnificent specimens that are held there.


Behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum, some very serious scientific research is undertaken and I remember a former curator at the museum appearing on TV, whenever the subject of meteorites appeared in the national news. I have seen a few meteorites in various geology museums that I have visited, but never anything that came from the Moon or Mars.

The Latrobe nugget

Saturday, 28 November 2015


The mineral gallery at the Natural History Museum

When I first visited the old Geological Museum, not that long after its redesign in 1996,  I was very disappointed to see that the old fashioned displays that I had been fascinated with, as a child, were no longer there; however, during my most recent visit to the Natural History Museum, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover the Mineral Gallery and the Vault.

Various minerals in traditional wood and glass display cabinets

As El Museo Geominero in Madrid  clearly demonstrates, minerals do not need fancy graphics or interactive displays to make them attractive and interesting – their natural beauty is quite enough - and the Mineral Gallery also possesses very many fantastic, simply presented specimens.

Blue John from Castleton

With still much more planned for the rest of the day, I didn't spend as much time in this gallery as I would have liked to have done - taking only a few general photographs - and I could have been here for well over an hour...


Fossil Marine Reptiles

The fossil marine reptile gallery at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is an extremely popular tourist attraction in London and there are often long queues to see the dinosaur gallery with its animatronic models, which can make the visitor experience a bit cramped and rushed.  Having seen these before, I chose to spend my time taking a closer look at the equally spectacular fossil marine reptiles.


Including several finds by Mary Anning and her brother Joseph, from the area around Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast, the discovery of these fossils provided a great challenge to the biblical account of the formation and age of the Earth, from which the modern geological sciences and the concept of evolution subsequently developed.

Mary Anning

The story of Mary Anning – a poor, working class and self educated woman in a rich and privileged man’s world – is fascinating and provides a great insight into the pioneering work of Henry De la Beche, William Buckland, Roderick Impey Murchison, Gideon Mantell and very many other geologists during these times.


I have seen other fossil marine reptiles at the Sedgwick Museum and there are many more museums where they are exhibited – including Whitby Museum on the coast of North Yorkshire, which I haven’t yet seen – but to see so many different species all together in one place makes the Natural History Museum worth visiting just for these alone.