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Faculty of Science


If you’re reading this, there is probably something about Geology that interests you; or perhaps you thought “Strike and Dip” were the latest in martial arts tactics and wanted to read on. In this case you’re unfortunately on the wrong page but you’re encouraged to linger here a while – of course, to a geologist that could be anything from a minute to an epoch. Or, perhaps you enjoy the tendency of geologists to make a pun out of everything, from their faults to their failures, and you’d like to see how many come up on this page. In any event, this article is about the most recent 3rd year/Honours Geology field trip to Steytlerville and Kirkwood (27 Aug – 01 Sept 2016).

There are certain things that can be expected on any geologic camp. Let’s start there:

Fun? Lots of it. Heat? Even more of it; in 45˚ heat mass wasting becomes a medical term rather than a geologic one. Learning? Less than the lecturers would’ve liked; but more than we’d anticipated. Stress? The rocks and the students. Strain? See Stress. Bad hair? Don’t care. Braaivleis and boerewors? Euphemism for associated kuier. Bonding? Nothing builds friendships like common confusion, and the mountains in Steytlerville provided the perfect setting. Sometimes schist was less of a deformed rock and more of an expletive, but on the whole the trip was more than just gneiss.

So what set this field trip apart? Perhaps it was the bright red walls of conglomerate standing tall beside the river channel that made this experience so special. Or even the series of (non-venomous) snakes that came out to bask in the sun right where the Geologists were working (followed naturally by waves of screaming). Maybe it was the Oom they met at the campsite who offered up his own camping light so our students could complete their mapwork when the power went off.

This time, however, the difference was perspective. We’re always looking for a new one. The mark of a good geologist is one who can see the same thing for the thousandth time and notice something he’d never seen before; to conceive of the significance of viewing a quartz grain through a glass lens. So there they stood, looking at each outcrop, viewing each one through the lenses of GoPro, loupes, iPhones, spectacles and drones; filtered or not, magnified or from a distance, strategically planned or completely raw. These experiences were captured for science, for learning, for the memories.

But, more than that, the most mundane thing could be captured as beautiful; while the feeling of camaraderie was as tangible as rock, and as elusive to the lens as time. Some things just can’t be captured; they need to be experienced. NMMU Geology field trips fall under this category, and this one did not disappoint.