Dying Glaciers

A recent (September 2023) press release from the Swiss Academy of Sciences contained a startling statistic: over the past two years, the volume of glacial ice in the Swiss Alps decreased by ten percent (see It doesn’t take advanced mathematics to conclude that at such a rate all Swiss … Read more

Endless Novelties of Extraordinary Interest

Endless Novelties of Extraordinary Interest - The Voyage of HMS Challenger and the Birth of Modern Oceanography by Doug MacDougall - cover

A landmark book about a landmark voyage
Nick Fraser, National Museum of Scotland

Charting the course of the famous 1870s Challenger expedition through the exploits of its ever-curious scientists as they investigate everything from deep sea corals and fish to cannibalism on the islands of the South Pacific.

Katie Paterson’s First there is a Mountain project

Imagine a group of people gathered on a beach. They all carry small buckets, but they aren’t normal sand pails. They are precisely molded replicas, in miniature, of five of earth’s mountains, all nestled together: Kilimanjaro, Shasta, Stromboli, Fuji, and Uluru. The beachgoers are about to scoop up sand in … Read more


Arthur's Seat

Magma intruding into sedimentary layers at Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh At the end of May, during the Edinburgh Marathon Festival weekend, I ran the 10K, and it got me thinking about time. Runners are obsessive about time, of course, always trying to improve their best time over various distances, but so … Read more

Diamond Men (a novel)

Diamond Men by Doug MacDougall - cover

A great Grisham-style thriller. Amazon (UK) customer review Money laundering. Secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. Murder. What do these things have to do with a respected engineer working at a remote diamond mine in Canada’s far north? Unknown to his colleagues, William Thompson has a secret: he’s leading … Read more

Iceland: Scars on the landscape

Distant fractures, Iceland

Faults in the distance, looking east across the valley at Thingvellir Iceland is splitting apart. One side is moving west, the other side east, and roughly down the middle of the island – if you know what to look for – you can see signs of this process. In the … Read more

Sandstone Marvels


Most of the buildings in Edinburgh’s New Town are made from hard, fine-grained sandstone that originated in a tropical river delta about 340 million years ago. I live in a building that is just a few years shy of being 200 years old. It’s also in a part of the … Read more

Rocks within rocks

Quetico portage

End of a portage over 2.7 billion year old rocks Most of us don’t pay much attention to the rocks under our feet. But portaging a canoe over rough terrain that seems designed to frustrate canoers somehow focuses the mind. Even if you are carrying a modern lightweight Kevlar canoe, … Read more

India 2014

Ganesha, with a coconut

Ganesha, with a coconut In February 2014 I spent several weeks in India, a country where I did geologic work for many years but had not visited recently. The first – overwhelming – impression was one of change. The cities, at least, appear much more modern and prosperous than they … Read more