Natural fracture patterns in drying mud

At Eype beach in Dorset, on England’s south coast, the Jurassic cliffs comprise an unstable combination of rocks that are prone to land slips, especially in wet weather. The Eype Clay Member near the top of the cliff is mostly composed of blue-grey micaceous mudstone. The layer can be 65 metres in depth with little stratification. It seems to liquefy when subject to heavy rain and then pours down to the shore. It eventually dries out, contracts, and cracks, resulting in an infinite variety of natural fracture patterns.

8 Replies to “Mud Cracks in Eype Clay”

  1. Years ago we stayed at Bridport when our children were young and visited Eype beach, I remember the clay, you’ve captured some really interesting patterns Jessica.


  2. Thank you, Julie. It is indeed an interesting place. So many attractive rock textures, patterns, and fossils. I am not so good at locating the fossils, though some are obvious like the bivalves and belemnites. The museum in Lyme Regis shows fossils with brittle stars from Eype – but I have still to find them.


  3. I was just drawn to the patterns but they do have a relevance to present day research projects into understanding rock formations and other amazing topics. I recently had a request for a particular photograph showing natural fracture patterns in limestone because the patterns were near identical to the results achieved in some experimental modelling for processes in the petro-chemical industries. The title of the research paper is “A microfluidic investigation of the synergistic effect of nanoparticles and surfactants in macro emulsion-based EOR”, the abstract of which has been accepted for the 2016 Improved Oil Recovery Conference, to be held by the Society of Petroleum Engineers. A micro-model was constructed to simulate the natural fracture-matrix system, and it turned out that my picture is very similar to the micro-model and so they wanted to use it in the Conference paper and presentation.


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