Sunday, 23 October 2011

Why lava is unable to cross the state border!

Nimbin Rhyolite (front), Mt. Warning (right), Binna Burra Rhyolite (distant)
It is interesting to see how being north or south of the Queensland border influences so many things. North of the border you can get cheaper car registration, get away from NSW politics, follow a worst rugby league teams, follow the best soccer teams, see narrower gauge railways (which even frequently have trains on them!) and find that even the rocks have changed.

Actually, the rocks have not changed but for some reason I cannot fathom (like most of the other points raised above) the rocks often have different names but many have the same ones. Rocks of the Mesozoic Clarence-Moreton basin have the same names, rocks of the Palaeozoic basement have the same names, but rocks of the Lamington Volcanics are named differently. You can stand on the Lismore Basalt and take one step into Queensland and you are on the Beechmont Basalt. Suffice to say it can be confusing. So, based on Duggan and Mason (1978) here is a table to show what the rocks units in the Lamington Volcanics are called in either state:

New South Wales  - Queensland
Kyogle Basalt - Albert Basalt
Homeleigh Agglomerate Member - Mount Gillies Rhyolite
Lismore Basalt - Beechmont Basalt
Nimbin Rhyolite - Binna Burra Rhyolite
Blue Knob Basalt - Hobwee Basalt

I note that there is some other rock units that are named differently in NSW and Queensland for example McElroy (1969) shows that such as the Evans Head Coal Measures, Ipswich coal measures and Red Cliff Coal Measures (Parts of the Ipswich Basin) are equivalent to each other, but these are separated by different rocks and so occur in distinctly different geographical locations. But as far as I am aware the Lamington volcanics are the most obvious example where an invisible dotted line representing the state border can name one half of the same rock, formed in the same way, at the same time, at the same outcrop something different.

It is also important to note that stratigraphy is often refined once more is known about rock units. A good example is that some authors such as Cotter 1998 dispute the existence of the Homeleigh Agglomerate Member which is considered part of the Nimbin Rhyolite. Also the Mount Gilllies Rhyolite has been renamed the Mount Gillies Volcanics, Therefore a different unit called the Georgica Rhyolite would be an equivalent of the Mount Gillies Volcanics.

I know I’ve said it elsewhere, but geology is not usually too difficult. The worst part is the nomenclature. I think this is a good example. What do you think?


*Cotter, S. 1998. A geochemical, Palaeomagnetic and Geomorphological Investigation of the Tertiary Volcanic Sequence of North Eastern New South Wales, Masters Thesis, Southern Cross University. 
*Duggan, P.B., Mason, D.R. 1978. Stratigraphy of the Lamington Volcanics in Far Northeastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences V25.
*McElroy, C.T. 1969. The Clarence-Moreton Basin in New South Wales. In Packham, G.H.(ed) - The geology of New South Wales. Geological Society of Australia. Journal V16.


  1. More vestiges of old colonial ideas and rivalries. Maybe a conference where the names are sorted out is needed.
    Are the Red Cliff coal measures named after Red Cliff near Brooms Head. I haven't been there for a while but have a vague recollection of exposed coal seams in the cliff faces.

  2. Hi Mark, I think you are right on both accounts. I've not been to Brooms Head for a long time either. In fact I think it was before I even started my geological education so I certainly wasn't looking at the rock back then anyway!

  3. Good to see your involvement, Mark. It's really a great blog!