The Other Arran: Knee Deep in Mud with Trinity Geology

By Paul Smith, Visiting Student Blogger

“A field trip to Scotland (GL3324 – Geological Field Skills 1), which is a 2 week course before the term starts.” That was the only information I was given before I agreed. It ended up being a 10 credit class in ten days, and is in my opinion the best opportunity a visiting geology student could have been given. It amazing from a geological perspective, and it immediately threw me into what would become a tight-knit friend group.

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Above: Standing by Hutton’s Contact, North Glen Sannox

This module was academically and physically rigorous, but never was it miserable. The trip involved ten days of hiking in the Isle of Arran (not the Aran Islands, but a single island off the west coast of Scotland). We walked along breathtaking locations– sheep-nibbled hills, sheer cliff faces, and rocky coastlines–  while being given an introductory survey of skills any field geologist needs. We covered sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, as well as field mapping and a day in economic geology – looking through abandoned mines to trace barite veins. The igneous project involved two days at Drumadoon mapping an intricate series of sills and dikes while watching people attempting to golf against the heavy winds at the course nearby. The last four days in Arran were spent mapping North Glen Sannox – two mountainsides which were consistently covered in at least a few inches of mud despite also having 40% grades. The first day in Sannox I thought I saw a rock poking up from the mud, but in the process of stepping on it I discovered it was nothing but a muddy mirage and I sank, both feet in over a foot deep. This trip is ideal for anyone who remotely considers themselves an outdoorsy type.

paul_blog1_photo2Above: View from the top of Drumadoon, Arran

The accommodations were simple but provided everything we needed. There were two bunk rooms for the students, a lounge, a drying room for wet clothes, and a full kitchen, all above the Kilmory public hall. Every morning we would make our own breakfasts and pack lunch, every day we were in the field from about 9-5 and every evening a different pair of us would get priority on showers and cook dinner. Now, I don’t know what I was expecting a group of college kids to cook on a field trip after a long day outside, but what we got was a delicious, healthy, home cooked meal every single night. We had stews and stir-frys, pasta and potatoes, and vegetables like you wouldn’t believe. I haven’t eaten that well in a very long time.

The only participants on this trip were the entire third year geology class, which this year was only eleven people. In the bunkhouse and in the daily hikes we grew into a tight-knit community which was wonderful considering these people are also in all of my classes here. At Trinity it can be difficult to make friends who aren’t also visiting students unless you join clubs and societies, but this trip allowed me to become close with Irish people my age, as well as build relationships with faculty members in the Geology Department.

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Above: Abandoned office in a limestone mine, Corrie.

There was such a sense of adventure throughout the whole trip, whether I was gallivanting up North Glen Sannox, walking to the pub under a very visible milky way, or sharing a meal with new friends. What a start to what will turn into an amazing semester.

Paul Smith is a Junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Geology and Theatre. He is a visiting student at Trinity for the Michaelmas term, focusing on Geology and has recently been hired as the intern/rocket fuel boy at GeolCorp, an organization/inside joke focusing on global takeover through geologic pun-based products. If you have any questions or want advice on TCD geology feel free to get in touch and leave a comment.

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