Book review: Logging the Chalk, by Rory N Mortimore

Jon Trevelyan (UK)

I have stood several times in front of an (apparently) plain white, chalk cliff-face along with others, while Prof Mortimore discussed the implications of what we were seeing. And, every time, I left not just thinking but knowing this was the most fascinating piece of geology I had ever seen. That is it the man. As an internationally renowned expert, over the last few decades, he has changed geologists’ appreciation and understanding of chalk geology: using charm, intelligence and inspiration throughout. (See also his fascinating article – Flints in the Late Cretaceous Chalk of Northwest Europe.)

This book is not cheap but will undoubtedly become a vital, comprehensive manual about geology and construction projects in the chalk, for professional geologists, geotechnical engineers, hydrologists and civil engineers alike. In fact, it turns out that chalk is a remarkably difficult rock to core-log (as it tends to fall apart during the drilling process). However, for engineers, getting the correct grade to define the depth of weathering and at which fractures become closed is essential, when example, for tunnelling beneath London (or, indeed, the Channel) and creating foundations in chalk for offshore wind turbines.

To provide this essential information for geologists, who rarely will have seen the relevant field sections in the chalk, the author provides details of both field and core sections. In addition, he covers chalk stratigraphy and standard lithostratigraphy by illustrating key formations and marker beds, and by identifying the best field sections for viewing them. In fact, the author has undertaken some 3,000 onshore and offshore chalk-cored boreholes, so has an immense reservoir of data to call on.

If engineering and constructing on or through chalk is not your thing, keep a look out for the next edition of Rory’s GA guide on the chalk of Sussex and Kent. Or, if this does not appear soon (come on Rory), the current one is pretty good and is my most well-thumbed GA guide.

Rory Mortimore is Managing Director of ChalkRock Limited, Emeritus Professor of Engineering Geology at the University of Brighton and Visiting Professor of Engineering Geology at the University of Leeds. He has also published numerous papers and books on the chalk, and has been President of the Geologist Association.

Logging the Chalk by Rory N Mortimore, Whittles Publishing, Caithness, Scotland (2014). 357 pp., hardback, ISBN: 978-184995-098-5

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