Hokusai’s volcano

At the British Museum, there is an exhibition of the popular paintings by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). There are several images of the Fuji volcano.hokusai_highlight_fuji_1000.jpg

They are symbols of natural power and human vulnerability.  Hokusai’s infatuation with Mount Fuji was much more than an admiration of its beauty. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter told that a goddess placed an elixir of life at the top of the peak, and thus the mountain was a secret source of immortality, as well as a secret reason for Hokusai’ obsession with the mountain.


This gave him a chance to explore and experiment with its beauty. hokusai_highlight_snowy_1000.jpg

A section through a present-day volcano shows its hidden structure:

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Cross-section through a stratovolcano (vertical scale is exaggerated):

  1. Large magma chamber
  2. Bedrock
  3. Conduit (pipe)
  4. Base
  5. Sill
  6. Dike
  7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano
  8. Flank
  9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano
  10. Throat
  11. Parasitic cone
  12. Lava flow
  13. Vent
  14. Crater
  15. Ash cloud

By Jupiter

Some early findings from NASA’s Juno mission are published today in Science magazine (papers by SJ Bolton et al and JEP Connerney et al). They present some of the pictures from the orbiter that arrived at Jupiter last July. The familiar stripes appear to be hot bands seen through layers of cloud:



The top and bottom of Jupiter are pockmarked with a chaotic mélange of swirls that are immense storms hundreds of miles across.


The planet’s interior core appears bigger than expected, and swirling electric currents are generating surprisingly strong magnetic fields.


Auroral lights shining in Jupiter’s polar regions seem to operate in a reverse way to those on Earth. There appears not to be an entirely solid or gaseous core to the planet. One clue to what is at the core is a belt of ammonia that may be rising around the planet’s equator.

What they report is nothing like Jupiter Ascending, the 2015 film, written, produced and directed, by The Wachowskis.

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By Jupiter was a Rogers and Hart musical production in New York during 1942. Such human creativity is not a patch on what NASA is finding.


Mount Katahdin (Maine) was painted in 1939 by Marsden Hartley, and is soon on show in a new exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


The show opens with an inspired stroke of scene-setting: a mural-size film projection of waves crashing against a bleak stretch of Maine’s Atlantic coastline.


The artist had conflicted feelings about his spiritual home at Lewiston. His father was an English immigrant and worked in a textile mill. His mother died when he was eight. Hartley was inconsolable and stayed that way. The earliest picture in the show, “Shady Brook ” from 1907, is a landscape in a wispy Romantic style and may depict a scene he recalled from childhood.


“Log Jam, Penobscot Bay,” is from 1940 (Detroit Institute of Arts) and hints at other plants of the Maine landscape, long extinct.

These are the famous Early Devonian fossils from the cliffs where New England faces the Atlantic. Psilophyton grew there 400 million years ago.

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A well-known Hartley figure is more recent and is on show at the Met:




Impressions Down Under

London’s National Gallery’s Australia’s Impressionists exhibition last until 26 Mar 2017. The exhibition shows the global scope of impressionism in the late nineteenth century and its leading picture (below, left) is Arthur Streeton’s  Ariadne. Is there some hidden characteristic in these pictures that means they can only be landscapes of Australia?


Above, right, is A Holiday at Mentone by Charles Conder, 1888.

Australia is the lowest, flattest, and oldest continental landmass on Earth, with a relatively stable geological history. It is situated in the middle of the tectonic plate, and therefore currently has no active volcanism.


The terrain is mostly a low plateau with deserts, rangelands and a fertile plain in the southeast. Tasmania and the Australian Alps do not contain any permanent icefields or glaciers, although they may have existed in the past.



Below is John Peter Russell’s Les Terrasses de Monte Cassino. Geological forces such as tectonic uplift of mountain ranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia’s early history, when it was still a part of Gondwanaland. Its highest peak is Mount Kosciuszko at 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), which is relatively low in comparison to the highest mountains on other continents. Erosion has heavily weathered Australia’s surface.  1043875.jpg



Deep-Time Maps

The “Ancient World” as Deep Time Maps have just become available at a new website from Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc. The series of paleogeographic global maps is based on the latest geologic information. Go to https://deeptimemaps.com/

Global Paleogeography and Tectonics in Deep Time
©2016 Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc.


The global maps go back more than 300 million years and show the latest interpretations of plate movement, boundaries and present national outlines. Some of the land masses have familiar shapes but there are mysterious connections that represent a ghost-like world.

Prized Rocks

The Geological Society of London announces the winners of its 2016 Calendar Competition. They show a range of well-known landscapes from around the British Isles, good examples of classical geological features.

There is columnar basalt at Staffa, formed 55million years ago, folding strata on the beach at Milhook Haven in Cornwall:

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Layers of sedimentary rocks show through the snow at Pen y Fen on the Brecon Becons, and the glaciated volcano at Glencoe is brightly lit by the winter sun:

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The cliffs at Hunstanton in Norfolk show the unconformity at the Albian / Aptian from the Early Cretaceous period, 100 million years ago, while the granite of Lundy Island forms an isolated landscape in the Bristol Channel::

_78158313_506209611   _85960666_lundyislandc.stevemcausland

Greek Catastrophe

Greece is used to being the site of catastrophic events.

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These maps show its underlying fault lines (above left) and geologically recent earthquake epicentres (above right). They are associated with the proximity of a major boundary between two tectonic plates, The North Africa plate is moving north. Along the southern line of the faults and earthquakes it moves underneath the more northerly Eurasian or Balkan plate.

Greeks have learnt to live through these shocking episodes through centuries, both on land and at sea.

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………………………………………………………………………………………fresco of a fisherman, Akrotiri