Rocks with Copper at Bunmahon

Colour and texture in quartz with copper minerals

Beautiful green-blue stained rocks are frequently found in stone walls at Bunmahon in southern Ireland. The small  village was at one time home to a successful copper mining industry. The copper is thought to have formed 354 million years ago at the beginning of the Carboniferous Period but possibly even earlier. The village is now the centre of the Copper Coast GeoPark and has a lovely roadside rock garden illustrating the geological history of the area. The copper mineral chalcopyrite (copper-iron sulphide) occurs as veins in white crystalline quartz and alters to copper carbonate forms such as green malachite and blue azurite.  Weathered stones show these colourful blue-green variants of the mineral, with the rusty patches representing the iron component. Stones of this composition are found in walls all around the area.

Silurian Rocks at Arisaig, NS

Silurian rocks from Arisaig, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Northumberland Strait shoreline of Arisaig Provincial Park in Nova Scotia, Canada, is described as one of the best sections of Silurian rock in the world. The strata are shales, sandstones, and siltstones from the Arisaig Group which was deposited in the early Silurian Period dating from about 443 to 424 million years ago.

I was fascinated by the way that some of the rocks were made up hundreds of extremely fine layers that were breaking up very easily. As far as I understand it, these darker shale layers were the result of deposits created in the coastal waters of the time by storm events rather than by tides or currents; and they are known as tempestites.

Hickman Hild and Barr (2015) say that the uninterrupted accumulation of fine-grained sediment during the Silurian Period, exposed here along a continuous 5 kilometre stretch, suggests that the area was tectonically quiet for at least 20 million years.


Donohoe, H. V. Jnr, White, C. E., Raeside, R. P. and Fisher, B. E, (2005) Geological Highway Map of Nova Scotia, Third Edition. Atlantic Geoscience Society Special Publication #1.

Hickman Hild, M. and Barr, S. M. (2015) Geology of Nova Scotia, A Field Guide, Touring through time at 48 scenic sites, Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. ISBN 978-1-927099-43-8, pp 50-53

Fault Zone Rocks at Clarke Head Part 2

More pictures of rock textures and patterns seen on the shore at Clarke head, near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. At this site the fault zone sedimentary rocks include Blomidon Formation Triassic red sandstone and siltstone with strata laid down in repeating cycles, and preserved water ripple marks much in evidence. Igneous North Mountain Formation basalt from Jurassic period rift volcanism is present high in the cliff and not shown here for lack of accessibility. Light grey sedimentary Windsor Group Carboniferous limestone strata is also present. Large blocks of Precambrian metamorphic rock have been brought up from deep down by the faulting. These blocks, sometimes huge, are found in the breccia and include garnet-grade schist. Gypsum is common in the breccia, as boulders and as matrix. The boulders from the mega-breccia weather out from the cliff deposits and lie together with numerous smaller boulders, shards, and fragments littering the beach, varying in colour and composition as you walk along the waterline.


Nova Scotia Field Guide, Arthur D. Storke Memorial Expedition, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University in the State of New York, August 23 to September 2, 2012.

Fault Zone Rocks at Clarke Head Part 1

A mélange of rock textures from the fault zone at Clarke Head, near Parrsboro in Nova Scotia, Canada. The geology here is extremely complex and I have only just begun to unravel what is going on. Key research papers with precise details are not easily accessible. Others are a bit too generalised to enable me to identify exactly each rock type that I photographed….for the moment. I will update when I can be sure I have accurate identifications. The variety was wide and included igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. It is the same place that I photographed the satin spar gypsum. The colours, textures, and patterns are amazing.

Rocks at Moulin Huet Part 2

Contrasting rock textures at Moulin Huet Bay

The metamorphosed igneous rocks of Moulin Huet Bay in the Channel Island of Guernsey, the Icart Gneiss, are traversed by later intrusions of molten volcanic rock that filled spaces where fractures opened up in the gneiss. These intrusive rocks are sheet-like formations of varying extent and thickness, appearing on the weathering rock surface as narrow bands of contrasting colour and texture, and they are known as dykes. Dykes are igneous rocks that can be composed of different combinations of minerals, and they can also be metamorphosed later into yet more compositions. On Guernsey there are apparently six different types of basic (as opposed to acid) dyke and it is difficult to distinguish between these types when just observing in the field. According to the simple guide written by Pomerai and Robinson (1994) most of the dykes at Moulin Huet are made of dolerite, as shown in the examples illustrating this post. [There are also a couple of lamprophyre dykes which I will show in a separate post]. I am aware that this identification as dolerite may be an over simplification but will investigate further.

The photographs here show the contrasting textures and colours of the rocks, with the relatively fine-grained, smooth, and homogenous grey-green dolerite dykes within the coarse-grained Icart Gneiss and its large, squashed pink-orange feldspar crystals. In some instances, there are pieces of the Icart Gneiss within the dolerite, these having broken off the sides of the bedrock and become incorporated into the molten lava as the dyke was formed – these inclusions are called xenoliths.


De Pomerai, M. and Robinson A. 1994 The Rocks and Scenery of Guernsey, illustrated by Nicola Tomlins, Guernsey: La Société Guernesiaise, ISBN 0 9518075 2 8.

Rocks at Marble Bay 1

There is no marble at Marble Bay in the Channel Island of Guernsey! It looks as if there is but really there is none. The name is thought to be due to the massive vein of white quartz that crosses the beach. Equally, the name may have arisen from the phenomenon of encrusting bio-films of various types (algae, bacteria and lichens) that coat the rocks with vivid coloured patches of red, orange, yellow, and black.

The main bedrock in the bay is in fact Icart Gneiss with its large squashed pink-orange feldspar crystals (as found in the nearby Moulin Huet Bay on the other side of the Jerbourg Peninsula). This metamorphosed type of granite is riven by a single massive 2-3m thick vein of quartz in a fault zone that extends right across the peninsula so that the same vein reappears at Petit Port adjacent to Moulin Huet. Smaller branching veins of quartz also appear in the Icart Gneiss. What seems to be a large dolerite dyke with grey fine-grained texture and smooth surface additionally crosses the beach. The true appearance of each of the rock types is mainly masked by the bio-films and larger seaweeds attached to the rocks. Inter-tidally, however, some outcrops remain clear of growth, and the location of the wave-cut notch at the base of the cliffs is especially good for viewing the Icart Gneiss natural pattern and texture.


De Pomerai, M. and Robinson A. 1994 The Rocks and Scenery of Guernsey, illustrated by Nicola Tomlins, Guernsey: La Société Guernesiaise, ISBN 0 9518075 2 8.

Rocks at Moulin Huet – Part 1

General view looking east from the base of the steps at Moulin Huet Bay in Guernsey

Moulin Huet Bay lies on the edge of a plateau in southern Guernsey that is largely composed of Icart Gneiss. It forms part of the Southern Metamorphic Region in this Channel Island. Icart Gneiss is a pale grey, coarse-grained metamorphic rock containing large pinkish feldspar crystals in the midst of deformed masses of quartz, mica, and hornblende (de Pomerai and Robinson 1994) giving the rock a rather “squashed” appearance. It was originally an intrusion of granite, dating from around 2000 and 2500 million years ago, into even older rocks.

The colours and textures are extremely varied, depending sometimes on the angle and section viewed, the freshness of the exposure, degree of weathering, and number of encrusting organisms like lichens and algae. Some of these rock texture photographs are taken really close up so that you can see the individual crystals, especially the pinkish-orange feldspar. Others were taken at a greater distance showing the patterns of all the crystals within the matrix. The base of the cliffs was composed of this gneiss and so were the jagged outcrops on the beach (up to 5m in height) and the scattered boulders.


De Pomerai, M. and Robinson A. 1994 The Rocks and Scenery of Guernsey, illustrated by Nicola Tomlins, Guernsey: La Société Guernsaise, ISBN 0 9518075 2 8.

All sorts of colourful & interesting rocks

This gallery displays a selection of the most colourful and interesting rocks that have been featured in posts here at Jessica’s Nature Blog over the past couple of years. While I am out walking on beaches, I am always drawn to the colours of the rocks, sometimes bright and other times more subtle, and the many different patterns and textures. Initially it is the way that the rocks look that is so appealing. So much of what I see seems like amazing natural abstract art. I try to frame the composition so that it stands alone as an attractive image in its own right. But then I get curious and lots of questions come into my mind. I always want to know what kind of rock is it? What is it called? How old is it? What is it made of? How did it get to look like that? What happened while the rock was buried? What are the elements doing to it now that it is exposed?

As an amateur with a keen interest in geology, I start by looking at maps. I try to pinpoint the exact location where I photographed the rock. Then I try to get hold of the correct geology map. Geology maps have a lot of information about the age of the rock, the type, the period in which it was laid down or developed, as well as the distribution of the different rock types in the locality. Often there are references to special papers, memoirs and so forth that discuss the geology of the area. Sometimes these publications are available on-line. I do a lot of Googling. Sometimes a visit to the library is needed. Libraries and the internet don’t always have the information I am seeking so I buy books too. Sometimes books about a specific place, and sometimes more general textbooks. I need those too because it is quite difficult to understand everything. Geology is a complex subject with a great deal of specialist terminology.

Once I am fairly certain what the rocks are, I try to write a bit about them in a straightforward way so that anyone else who is truly interested will be able to understand. It is fascinating. Slowly I learn more about the rocks and can fit the pieces together into the bigger picture. Walking along shorelines becomes a whole new experience when you are able to visualise the former environments in which the bedrock originated, or the drift geology was created, when you begin to understand what has happened to the strata over the millions of years since they came into being, and when you first begin to grasp what processes are affecting them once they are exposed to air. I love it when I can recognise strata belonging to the same geological period in different parts of the world, and see their differences and similarities, whether in situ or in buildings, walls and other structures. I begin to feel an enormous sense of wonder and awe, as well as an enormous feeling of humility, at this hugely significant part of the natural environment, a part on which everything else in nature depends or by which it is affected.

Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

Red cliffs at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick, CanadaYou don’t have to be a rockhound to be impressed by the spectacular scenery at The Hopewell Rocks. Tall cliffs of sloping red strata rise high above the Bay of Fundy shore, with an abundance of naturally worked shapes, caves, arches, and free-standing pillars of rock called sea stacks. At high tide, people can kayak around the stacks, also known locally as “Flower Pots” because of the groups of full-grown trees that grow on top of them – as they also do right to the cliff edges, with their root systems often clearly visible.  At low tide, it is possible to descend a staircase to the ocean floor itself and explore these geological phenomena close up. Viewing time on the seashore is limited by the enormous and potentially dangerous rise and fall of the tides in this narrower northern neck of the Bay, where in some places, and at certain times, the sea can rise by as much as 56 feet.

At one time, about 600 million years ago, this part of Canada’s New Brunswick Province started its life near the Equator. Here it was subjected to uplifting earth movements that incorporated it into the Appalachian Oregon, an ancient mountain chain that now stretches from New Foundland to Florida. By 360 million years ago, the Appalachian building activities had ended and were followed by predominantly erosional processes.

The rocks exposed at Hopewell originated specifically in that part of the Appalachians called the Caledonian Mountains. Erosion by water and wind about 350 million years ago, in the Lower Carboniferous Period,  steadily wore down the mountains, creating massive volumes of boulders, stones, gravel, sand and mud. Near the highland areas, flash floods tore through the valleys and canyons, washing away loads of eroded sediment and depositing it as stony and gravelly debris. Further from the highlands, sediment formed alluvial plains with sorted layers of sand and mud. The region covered by these terrestrial deposits in present day Atlantic Canada is called the Maritime Basin.

Over time, the coarser material in the erosion deposits on the flood plain became consolidated and cemented together with finer sand and silt. Because the land lay near the equator, the climate was hot and dry. Iron-bearing minerals became oxidised, and the rocks turned into redbeds. The series of red rock layers is now known as the Hopewell Cape Formation; this is the rock exposed in the cliffs and sea stacks at Hopewell today – eventually brought to its current position by Continental Drift, the tectonic movement of continental crustal plates.

In the first instance, the variably-textured sedimentary strata were deposited in horizontal layers. However, earth movements tilted them to angles between 30 and 45 degrees. The tilting of the rocks caused horizontal cracks to form parallel to the bedding planes, and also vertically at right angles to the strata. These lines of weakness in the rocks have become the points of entry for weathering agents – glaciers, tides, snow, ice, and winds. Erosion by these forces widens the cracks and steadily works away at the softer horizontal strata. The expansion of water as it changes to ice is a significant factor in the enlargement of cracks and crevices, and the breaking up the rock. Sandstone is softer than the conglomerate and easy for waves to wear away. The overall result is that broad columns of rock are carved into the cliff face. Undercutting at the cliff base creates caves and arches. Eventually, some columns are completely separated from the cliff face and become sea-stacks or “flower pots”.

Redbeds of alternating tilted layers of conglomerate and sandstone from the Hopewell Cape Formation of the Lower Carboniferous Period in Canada.The erosion activities are on-going. Extreme weather events and storms of recent years may accelerate the processes. The cliff face is gradually receding. Sea stacks eventually collapse and new ones are formed. A sea stack can last as little as 100 years or as long as a thousand. However, there is no need to panic about seeing the sights at Hopewell as soon as possible for fear that they will all disappear into the sea – geologists have calculated that there is enough conglomerate in the Hopewell Cape Formation to make “flower pots” for the next 100,000 years.

Rock Patterns & Textures at Tenby – Part 4

This is the fourth part of the series of rock texture pictures from Tenby. All so far have been from South Beach where the Carboniferous strata range from Hunts Bay Oolite, to High Tor Limestone, to Caswell May Mudstones, and Gully Oolite. Many of these close-up images have shown erosion patterns, caused sometimes biologically and sometimes chemically, or a combination of both. The first four photographs in this post show the fine, and approximately-linear ridges and grooves (click the pictures to enlarge them for a better view), that seem to be restricted to the otherwise smoother, un-pitted, darker patches on the surface of the rock. I am thinking that whereas the pits are probably caused by various effects of bio-erosion or bio-erosion plus solution, the almost microscopic grooves here could be the result of chemical erosion which sometimes occurs from contact with acid rain. If so, these micro grooves and ridges are microrills, and like miniature rillenkarren – a feature of karst topography – and they are evidence for relatively recent erosional activity.

The patterns of grooves and fissures in the four images below, could also be a karstic type of solution feature. I am not sure – but they are certainly intriguing and look to my eye rather like the tough wrinkled hides of elephant or rhinoceros.


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