Thursday, 9 March 2017

Where you are: GDA2020 on the way

Australia's main datum for mapping and locating points on the australian continent is changing. You can occasionally find old maps using AGD66 in some shops, these are out of date. In 2000 GDA94 was adopted and now it too is changing. GDA2020 is here! Have no idea what I'm talking about?

Here is a good video that explains the change:

While I'm on spatial data... why not increase the accuracy of your GPS? Many new GPS units have a WAAS option. Enable this and you will have greater accuracy in all three spatial dimensions. Of course it only works when certain satellites are visible to your GPS, in northern Australia it will detect the Indian and Japanese satellite systems but in Victoria and Tasmania you may find it harder to find a satellite that has WAAS type capabilities.

Want to know more about WAAS:

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Stunning in Red and White

A friend and colleague showed me his new lifestyle property on the edge of Armidale a couple of weeks ago. He is an observant soil scientist and noted that his land consisted of poor quality soils which grew only resilient grasses and some typical New England gum, stringy-bark and box woodland. He was curious about the rocks that were common on the surface of the dusty grey-brown soil. I was not surprised of the poor soils because the property is located on a geological unit called the Sandon Beds.

The Sandon Beds are common in the Armidale district, especially just to the north of the town. They were laid down sometime during the Devonian to Carboniferous periods. The rocks of the Sandon Beds are varied and include mudstones, conglomerates, volcanics and bio-chemical sedimentary rocks. The deposition of the unit was in the ocean debris flows from the continental shelf would form turbidites (coarse to fine grained repeating sequences), layers of fine mud would accumulate and occasional basalt volcanic rocks would occur. Sometimes, while a long distance from landmasses or spreading ridges very little would happen - only the gentle settling of dead primitive ocean organisms with silica skeletons.
Brecciated Jasper (chert) of the Sandon Beds

The settling of silica on the sea bed produces a rock called chert. It is common in the Sandon Beds with a red colour. The chert occurs in beds interspersed with dull mudstones, siltstones and the like. Possibly because of regional scale metamorphism or the effect of fluids in the rock the chert has been affected and displays its red colour. Because of the red colour it is often referred to as Jasper which is seen by some as a semi-precious stone.

Throughout my friend's property could be traced lines of chert running essentially north-south. This is because the beds have been tilted to a nearly vertical direction. There was nothing out of the ordinary with these beds but in one area some of the red chert caught my eye. I could not see the actual outcrop but scattered around one little area was red chert with bright white quartz veins. The chert had been broken apart and re-cemented together with the quartz rich fluid. The result was quite striking, a stunning red and white. In this one little area, at some time after the chert had formed and turned into hard rock it had been blasted apart apparently by hot fluids. A 'brecciated jasper' occurring in a little area that just happened to be on a friends new property just ready to be discovered.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Blog Update #11 - More rocks in our region

Not a lot to mention as far as the blog goes at this point, except that I've added photographs of three more stratigraphic units to the Rocks of the Region page. These are three of the many 'granites' in the Armidale district:

Gara Monzogranite --- Fickr Photos --- Stratigraphic Names Database
Glenburnie Leucomonzogranite --- Flickr Photos --- Stratigraphic Names Database; and
Rockvale Monzogranite --- Flickr Photos --- Stratigraphic Names Database
Typical landscape and outcrop characteristics of the Rockvale Monzogranite, Wollomombi area

On another note, while visiting a friends property near Armidale I observed a brecciated jasper in the Sandon Beds. I was aware of an abundance of jasper beds (red chert) in the region ever since my university days, however, I'd never seen a brecciated type and this was quite attractive. More to come in a week or so.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Blog Update #10 - Pain and a paper

Eleanor Faith Holland
The blog has been on hold for a while. But I have always intended to keep on writing. There has been some major changes in where I live and work and most recently our lovely 6 year old daughter Eleanor passed away. There has been much pain but there is much celebration too for our special girl. My wife Becky and I are in feelings of loss. That said, we want to celebrate the life of our daughter who demonstrated so much strength in so many ways. A service will be held at St Peter’s Cathedral in Armidale at 2pm on Monday (19th December).
Coming to Christmas it is a subdued feeling at our home and my birthday was yesterday as well so I didn’t feel like celebrating. However, there was something I was excited to see. A confirmation that a paper that I was a co-author of has been accepted to the journal Science of the Total Environment (Santos et al 2016). I was only a minor co-author but there is something about having your name up there that caters for ones ego.

The highlights of the article are:
  • We assess groundwater recharge through a pervasive layer of floodplain muds.
  • Modelled groundwater flow paths were consistent with tritium dating.
  • The clay layer did not prevent recharge because of macropores and cracks.
  • Fine-grained floodplain soils do not necessarily protect underlying aquifers from pollution.
  • Combining multiple techniques gives more confidence in recharge estimates.
The article can be found here:


*Santos, I.R., Zhang, C., Maher, D.T., Atkins, M. L. Holland, R. Morgenstern, U & Li, Ling. 2016. Assessing the Recharge of a Coastal Aquifer using Physical Observations, Tritium, Groundwater Chemistry and Modelling, Science of The Total Environment, Available online 15 December 2016, ISSN 0048-9697,

Monday, 24 October 2016

Blog Update #9

Frequent readers may have observed that I have not updated this blog for some time. Due to changes in my personal arrangements I have run out of spare time! My computer has also died! I have therefore had to put this blog on hold until I can find some more time and purchase a new computer. I envisage this will probably be late December. Until then, there may be an isolated post or two but I can't promise anything. Sorry all.

I have had some opportunity to update the rocks of the region page.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cutting Through Mysterious Granite on a Country Highway

Australia is known for its remoteness. There are some quite remote areas in the Northern Rivers too. Along the escarpment there are rugged areas and visitors are rare. This means that sometimes rocks even though mapped broadly have geological units that have not been researched enough to relate them to surrounding units. It is a rare thing though, and rarely have rock units not been named, and categorised, even rarer is when a rock is found by the side of one of the national highways!

un-categorized granite on the New England Highway, Glencoe

The picture shows a granite that is currently mapped as "unassigned Permian intrusive - felsic". There may have been some investigations here in the past. I just can't believe some place so obvious like this one has not been investigated in detail.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Blog Update #8

The Rocks of the Region page has been a big success and will continue to be expanded on. Unfortunately I've had very little time to do some actual blog posts recently. This is not for want of material (there is a huge range of topics and places just asking to be covered) but due to a change in my work commitments. I have taken up a new job with much longer days and therefore my free time is very limited. I have also relocated away from Lismore to Armidale and taken my family with me. We are still very much settling in.

Thank you to all the readers out there. I hope that I can continue to build a blog that is a good resource for the community to use. I guess there are people still reading this blog since there are more than 150 000 page views!

Coming up soon... what is going on with this rock?
Coming up