28 June 2009


Interesting post from Ian at Hypo-theses about what inspired him to become a geologist. This is part of a thread accumulating at Volcanista under the "Accretionary Wedge" festival.

A couple of things influenced my career choice. I grew up on a small farm in mid-Wales and always enjoyed being outdoors, I knew from a pretty early age that I didn't want to be stuck in an office wearing a suit. Infact it never really occured to me that I cound end up in an office. I knew that I was going to work out doors and it would be something that involved both my hands and my brain.

The second major influence on my career direction was my parents. Before settling on the farm, both of them had travelled extensively. My mother had toured the US, Canada and Europe with a Circus in the 1950's and my father had spent 17 years in the far and middle East with the Special Forces and later as a mercenary. I grew up in a world where far-away places were desirable and obtainable, you just had to want it and work for it!

By the age of 15 I had already dropped the idea of farming, long days, bugger all money and no travel. I briefly considered being a vet but soon found out that I was not smart enough. After that I started to consider forestry, I knew how to use a chainsaw and had met some people who had worked in Canada and parts of Africa, it sounded like it fitted the bill.

Then at some point around the age of 15 I read a novel called "Landslide" by Desmond Bagley. The lead character was a geologist working on a site survey for a dam in BC, camping-out in remote terrain and mapping. This simple story, combined with a strong love of physical geography, which had been inspired by a great teacher called Michael Trew planted a seed. The more I read about the early oil explorationists in North Africa and the Far East the more I knew that I found something that was both interesting and could also give the lifestyle that I wanted.

At my school Geology was only an option at A'level*. It was an odd set up where you took both the O' and A'level in two years. I returned to the sixth form and signed up, also taking Biology as a way of keeping the Forestry option open.

The geology teacher was a nice guy, but had some pretty dated views on the subject. We learned about mio-eu-geosynclines, continental drift and various other 1950's concepts which had filled the text books when he had been a student. Totally unaware of how completely dated all this material was, I lapped it up. Come the final exam I was the only person in the class to pass, infact I was the first person in 10 years to pass, and although not great, the grade that was just enough to get me to Cardiff Uni. Nice guy, shitte geologist.

Cardiff was a whole new World, some awesome lectures who really got my started. The rest, as they say is history...

To be continued...

* Note to readers who are not middle aged Brits - an A'level is the exam you take at aged 18(ish) at the end of your school career. Most students do 3 or 4 subjects. The choice and results have a major impact on your subsequent career path. O'levels were the exams that you took at 16. Most people did a broad spread of subjects and the results of these determined which A'levels you could do. They have since been replaced with something called GCSE. I am too middle aged to understand how these are actually any different and why this was not just a cynical re-branding exercise.

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