Friday, 23 June 2017

Eich: Charlotte Hibbert sketches...

Charlotte Hibbert provided the pictures and made the map for the study by Samuel Hibbert (1832) of the Extinct Volcanos(sic) near Neuwied.  This is the village of Eich, in the loess region. The map was the first(?) to show loess anywhere. [see Loess Letter 67 for real words by Hibbert on loess - at ]


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Charlesworth encounters the Steinsohle

"A pebbly base, the Steinsohle of German geologists, is common in north Germany, especially near the Mittelgebirge, and is general in Mississippi and Missouri basins where it may be 10-15 ft (3-4.5m) thick."  (p.515)


Charlesworth cites Hardcastle

This was unexpected; reference 159 in the Charlesworth loess section includes a mention of John Hardcastle (inventor of loess stratigraphy, father of palaeoclimatology, hero of Timaru). The amazing thoroughness of JKC is revealed again, but there is the dawning apprehension that he was too thorough- that the reader is buried in data, that JKC might have been better advised to have fewer references and more discussion..

We reproduce reference 159 as it appears in JKC vol.1 (the vol.1 references refer to the vol.2 references- all will become clear).

159  679,  367;  1246,  240; 1633, VII (3), 31;  L.Cockayne & R.M.Laing, T.N.Z.I.  43, 1910, 344;  J.Hardcastle ibid. 22, 1890, 406;  R.Speight,  ibid. 40, 1908,  16;  A.Heim,  Njahrsbl. 1905, 1.

Now- the italics belong to JKC, the JH emphasis is ours. Italic numbers are references in the reference list in vol.2:

679  J v Haast  1879  Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland

1246  Park J  1910  Geology of New Zealand

1633  G Steinmann  1910-1950  Handbuch der Regional Geologie

TNZI is the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, and the Hardcastle reference is to his paper on the Loess of Timaru- not to his other famous paper on Loess as a Climate Register. It looks like 159 was a catch-all reference to all aspects of loess in NZ. Its a pity that JKC did not see the relevance of the JH work- but the oversight is totally excusable (to read the JH paper go to Loess Letter 72  ..)


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Steppenheidetheorie (via JKC 1957)

Early in the Charlesworth chapter on Loess we encounter 'Steppenheidetheorie' which JKC obviously thought was important. In the text, on pp.511-512, the word Steppenheidetheorie always appears in italics.

"On both the Steppenheidetheorie and the theory which believes oak forests grew on loess, the distribution in central Europe of Neolithic peoples is linked with the loess- the blackearth of central Germany, Bulgaria and Rumania however was free of Neolithic settlements...
The loess-covered valley of the Danube provided a highway across central Europe by which the Neolithic invaders and Beaker Folk from the Black Sea diffused their civilisation into Bohemia  and by the Elbe, Neckar, Main and Rhine into Belgium and north-west Europe. The Slavonic languages may have taken shape on the loess of the Carpathian region and radiated thence eastwards and westwards."

"The Steppenheidetheorie is, however, strongly contested since among other things it may take insufficient account of man's clearance of previous forests. Man's preference for loess soil may be connected with its fertility, its ease of working with primitive implements, its dryness and suitability for pit dwellings and its level surface. Forests may formerly have grown on the loess of the U.S.S.R.

Loess is supremely important too because of the light it sheds upon the climate of the Glacial period and upon the succession of glacial and inter-glacial epochs and their relation to human cultures and animal life (see chapters 37, 39)."


Monday, 12 June 2017

Loess in 'The Quaternary Era' (Charlesworth 1957).

Loess in 'The Quaternary Era': a study of 'a study of'' by J.K.Charlesworth.  It seems amazing that all aspects of the Quaternary might be included in one book (even a vast 2 volume work like JKC's amazing opus).  Maybe that was just possible in 1957; it would be hard to achieve now, 60 years later in 2017.

J.K.Charlesworth 1957. The Quaternary Era: with Special Reference to its Glaciation. in 2 vols.  Edward Arnold London .
[LPB 177]  Loess in vol.1 pp.511-558, 709 references

Some of the references are multiple so there are in fact probably about 1000 references attached to the Loess section- this is one of the most interesting loess bibliographies. Loess-A Partial Bibliography [LPB] (Smalley 1980) which is totally devoted to Loess has just over 1000 references. Actually a comment is required at this point. The Charlesworth reference system is ridiculous; using it was an absolute mistake and its use may have reduced the appreciation and effectiveness of the great volumes.

The Loess section is complex and full of detail. It has not been fully appreciated- there are treasures therein which have still to be unearthed. This blog is a relatively unstructured poking of the Loess section, to increase appreciation and to provide a view of loess scholarship at the mid-1950s. This is a sort of 2nd order loess history. 1st order loess history is a study of KCvL and Charles Lyell and other pioneers; 2nd order loess history concerns people looking at the development of studies on loess and loess history. TQE shows that Loess was considered important in 1957; it shows Loess relative to other aspects of the Quaternary..

"Loess, by far the most important periglacial accumulation, was first recognized and given its rightful prominence in the valley of the Rhine where it is well developed in the Kolner Bucht and Neuwied basin.
Here A. Braun (1842) accurately described it- the name, which belongs to the peasants and brickworkers of this region, came into the scientific literature about twenty years earlier (Leonhard 1823, p.722, cf G.Dubois & F.Firtion. B.Sv.Carte.G.Als.Lorr. 3, 1936, 21)"

These are the opening words of the Loess section. JKC opts for a distinctly glacial approach to loess (emphasis added).  The references have been tweaked. It is surprising that JKC cites Braun as the opening reference- why have Braun (1842) as the basic reference? this is a very difficult to find paper and it deals with snails rather than loess. Had JKC actually read it? it seems doubtful..

Braun, A.[Alexander] 1842.  Vergleichende Zusammenstellung der lebenden und diluvialen Mollusken fauna des Rheinthals mit der tertiaren des Mainzer Beckens.
Amtlicher Bericht uber die Versammlung Deutscher Naturforschung und Artze (zu Mainz im September 1842) 20, 142-150.
reprinted in Loess Letter 69 (see April 2013

 Here is Braun on the nature of the Loess (LL translation):
"Loess forms the gulf between the present epoch and the geologists diluvial period, and was deposited in extremely large quantities from a high ascending but transient flood (not from a permanent water basin)."

His Leonhard reference should be 1824 rather than 1823, but this is not a real error, he simply refers to vol.1 of CdF rather than vol.3 where loess is discussed (see LL67 for the Leonhard material)
The Dubois and Firtion reference is eccentric; what is the function of this reference?

Dubois,G et Firtion, F. 1936. Esquisse de l'extension des limons loessiques en France. Bulletin du Service de la carte geologique d'Alsace et de Lorraine 3, 21-26.  [World List 11754]


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Ami Boue (1794-1881) and the loess of south-eastern Europe

Ami Boue; a blog about Ami Boue [ami- short for Amedee; he was always called Ami Boue]. Born in Austria, spent time in France. Educated in Edinburgh, at the same time as Sam.Hibbert- and on the same course (medicine; some years ahead of CD). Much influenced by Robert Jameson, lecturer in mineralogy and long-time editor of the Edinburgh (New) Philosophical Journal. We are interested in Boue for several reasons- he is one of Lyell's loess team; one of the people listed by Lyell in PoG as having an interest in the loess of the Rhine valley. So he is a bona fide loess pioneer and it is possible that he made significant observations about the loess in the Danube basin. S.Z.Rozycki (1991, p.12) claimed that Boue (1836, 1838) established the presence of loess in the drainage basin of the middle and lower Danube. An interesting observation which is certainly not true because Murchison was reporting loess near Vienna in 1832 [in Trans.Geol.Soc.London 3 (ser.2) 301-420, 1832].

However we think he made significant observations of loess- before it became 'loess'. We go back to 1823; Boue submits a paper to his friend and mentor Robert Jameson in Edinburgh..
'Dear Sir: I have prepared a very full account...   I remain your affectionate pupil.  Vienna 24 Feb.1823. to Prof.Jameson, Edinburgh.

Boue, A. 1823. ART.XII- Outlines of a geological comparative view of the south-west and north of France, and the south of Germany.  Edinburgh Philosophical Journal 9, 128-148.

"The alluvial matters are very abundant upon the base of the Pyrenees. They are divided into older, very much above the level of the present rivers; and into modern; and consist of pebbles, sand, rolled masses, marls with land-shells, like those found in Austria, and various tuffaceous calcareous rocks..

Great alluvial deposits, and accumulations of marl with land-shells, accompany the Rhine, and hide, at the base of the Kaiserstuhle, a basaltic group.. " [our emphasis]

'Marl with land-shells'  what else can this be but loess? ; another description of the material that would become loess; another term to add to Mergel and Britz and Schneckenhausel-Boden. And, significantly Boue reports this proto-loess in the valleys of the Rhine, and the Danube.

Boue can be seen as a great generaliser; he wanted the big picture, the overview. He worked at producing geological maps of the world, and he liked the idea of basins. He was keen on basins. He had the loess in Europe deposited in vast lakes which were the basins of Europe. Hibbert (1832, p.185) reported that..

"The latest tertiary deposit which appears to have characterised the valley from Mayence to Basle has been properly considered by M.Boue as the product of a great freshwater sea that filled the whole basin of the Upper Rhine. It has been described under various names, of which the one most adopted is the of loess."

The Hibbert-Boue connection would bear more examination. It appears that they were exact contemporaries at Edinburgh University and attended the same classes and listened to the same lecturers. One imagines Boue and Hibbert sitting next to each other, listening to Robert Jameson expound upon the wonders of geology. Hibbert was great friends with Sir David Brewster, who was the driving force behind the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal. Brewster was present on the famous occasion when Hibbert's nighcap caught fire (but that's another story).

Boue produced the first geological map of New Zealand- and he did this without ever visiting the country. A true leap of the imagination. He did however make extensive voyages in south-eastern Europe, at the time when it was part of the Ottoman Empire. His lasting fame perhaps stands on his observations and writing on 'Turkey in Europe'..

Boue,A. 1840.  La Turquie d'Europe ou Observations sur la Geographie, la Geologie, L'Histoire Naturelle, La Statistique, les Mouers, les Coutumes, L'Archeologie, L'Agriculture, L'Industrie, Le Commerce, Les Gouvernments Divers, Le Clerge, L'Histoire et L'etat Politique et cet Empire.  Arthus Bertrand Paris 4 vols. vol.1 555p deals with geol.& geog.

Boue, besides fine titles had a good line in acknowledgements and he made mention of the various groups who had assisted him in his travels and labours..

"Nous avons voulu pouvoir causer a couer ouvert avec le grave at bon Ottoman, comme avec le spiritual Albanais, le fin Grec ou la ruse Valaque; avec le laborieux Bulgare, comme avec le belliqueux Serbe, le rustique Bosniaque ou le jovial Hertzegovinien."

Boue and Lyell. Boue was third on the list of people interested in loess in the Rhine Valley which Lyell constructed in vol.3 of PoG. [Leonhard, Bronn, Boue, Voltz, Steininger, Merian, Rozet, Hibbert, Noeggerath, Meyer, Horner}- these were people who, by and large, had written about the Rhine Valley deposits, and hence touched on loess. There was not much writing about loess as stuff, it was more loess as incidental. It may be significant that Boue is no.3, near the top of the list. Obvious why Leonhard & Bronn are top of the list; these are the heroes of Heidelberg, the 'onlie begetters' of the loess concept. Lyell knew Boue, he was aware of Boue; here he is on his way to the German Naturalists meeting in Bonn in 1835: he writes to Sedgwick from Paris-

"I found here Von Buch, Beaumont, Dufresnoy, Constant Prevost, Virlet, Boue, Alex.Brogniart, and had much talk with all of them..

I am reading you and Murchison on the Eastern Alps, as I am going so near your section. Your elaborate joint paper is now quite a treat. Boue has given me many Gosau fossils. He is going to live four years in Vienna, and next year to do the Balkan. My wife says 'Give my kind regards to Mr Sedgwick, and tell him it is dreadfully hot'".

Note that reference to the paper by Sedgwick & Murchison:
Sedgwick,A., Murchison, R.I.  1832.  A sketch of the structure of the eastern Alps, with sections from the newer formations on the northern flanks of the chain, and through the Tertiary deposits of Styria etc.etc. Transactions of the Geological Society of London 3 (ser.2) 301-420; with supplementary observations, sections, and a map by R.I.Murchison. doi:10.1144/transgslb.3.2.301

This was a vast paper; its very size may have caused relative neglect. In it, we think, is one of the very first definitive references to loess in the Danube basin- which did not escape the eagle eye of Leonard Horner- "In the synopsis of the successive deposits in the basin of Vienna, given by Mr.Murchison, the uppermost is described to be 'alluvial loam, called Loess, with terrestrial shells of existing species..    mixed with bones of elephants of extinct species.." that is Horner (1836) addressing the loess at Bonn.

Boue and Horner. The connection is not all that close- but interesting. Horner writes from Paris- he is on his way to the famous 1835 meeting in Bonn:

"I drove to the Geological Society, and found the clerk, who told me the address of M.Boue, near the Palais du Luxembourg. I found his house under repair, and after knocking at several doors came at last to the kitchen, wher I found Boue and his wife, both in dishabille, sitting at a table with bread, butter, greengages, peaches and wine, and the servant washing by their side. Boue recognized me at once, though he had not seen me for twenty years."

Twenty years- so 1815, when Boue was a student in Edinburgh. A geological meeting? had Horner known at the time that Boue was to be famous he would certainly have recorded it..

Balkan Boue.

Boue,A. 1837. Some observations on the geography and geology of northern and central Turkey. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 22, 47-61, 253-270.

"Another considerable basin, also higher than that of the Morava, extends from Turkish Banja, near Nissa [Nis] to Bulovan, and along part of the course of the Morava and Topolitza. South of Nissa it is alluvial as well as tertiary, having marls and molasses with sands above, and lastly alluvial loam or loess."   (1837,p263)


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Loess History; the Loess Letter chart

We all need history. This is the Loess Letter chart of Loess History- very slightly updated..