Posted by: paulgarner | June 27, 2011

Notes from the field: the Permian sandstones of Scotland

Last week I was engaged in field work with John Whitmore on the Permian sandstones of Scotland for our ongoing Coconino research. Things went well and we had an enjoyable time. Despite the unpromising forecasts, the weather was reasonably good. The only day it poured with rain we were in the car travelling and so it didn’t really matter much.

I collected John and his wife from Glasgow airport on Saturday 18 June and we immediately drove to Ardrossan to catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran. On Arran, we examined the cross-bedded “windblown” sandstones exposed along the shoreline near Corrie. We also had the opportunity to walk along the northern coastline to Hutton’s unconformity, where Dalradian metasediments are unconformably overlain by the Carboniferous Kinnesswood Formation. There were also good exposures of the Permian breccias which interdigitate with the Corrie Sandstone.

On Tuesday morning we caught the ferry from Brodick back to the mainland and made the long but very scenic drive to Drumnadrochit. Our journey took us past the tourist hotspot of Loch Lomond, through the brooding valley of Glen Coe and then along the Great Glen, a dramatic SW-NE-trending faultline that cuts right across the Scottish Highlands. We spent the next day sight-seeing around Loch Ness.

On Thursday we headed out to Hopeman on the southern shores of the Moray Firth. East of the harbour there are magnificent exposures of the Hopeman Sandstone, another “windblown” Permian unit. These outcrops were very reminiscent of the Coconino Sandstone of central and northern Arizona, but, if anything, displayed even larger-scale cross-bedding. We also drove a little further east along the coast to Covesea and dropped down onto the beach from the coastal path to view the sandstones in the cliffs.

On Friday morning we made further progress to Dumfries. There we were able to visit quarry exposures of the Locharbriggs Sandstone. We saw further outcrops in Castledykes Park, where the relationship between the Locharbriggs Sandstone and the Doweel Breccia was nicely displayed.

Finally, on Saturday I dropped John and his wife back at Glasgow airport for their flight home, before making the seven-hour journey south. I arrived home late that evening, weary but pleased that another round of field work had gone successfully. We made some field observations that we think are significant for understanding the depositional environment of these sandstones and also collected several samples for petrographic examination. We’re looking forward to seeing how they’ll compare with the Coconino.

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