“Inside the globe [there] exist mysterious forces, whose effects become apparent on the surface. Eruptions of vapors, glowing lava and new volcanic rocks…”
Alexander von Humboldt
At the end of the 19th century and after the victory of “Plutonism” in the great Granite War, geologists accepted the idea that igneous rocks originate from deep inside earth. However the great variability of volcanic and plutonic rocks, from dark basalt to light-colored granite, was difficult to explain, as Earth´s interior was assumed to be relatively uniform.
The “evolutionary tree” of igneous rocks (1954).
In 1820 the Italian engineer Count Giuseppe Marzari-Pencati (1779-1836) published a short article about the stratigraphic succession found near the small village of Predazzo. At the “Canzoccoli” -outcrop Pencati observed a grayish granitic rock overlying white marbles. What today is described in any geological textbook as an “unconformity” was at the time a geological impossibility.
“Humanity’s genius is to have always had a sense of its weakness. The physical energy and strength, with which nature insufficiently endowed humans, is found in animals that help them to discover new territories.”
Thanks to this special kit and also to the donkeys carrying it onto the rugged terrain of the mountains, Italian geologist Sismonda was able to publish the first geological map of the Alps…
The expedition to the land of gold, also referred as Punt, from a relief in the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The ships are loaded in a harbor of unknown location with precious gifts for the Pharaoh and with exotic animals and plants as tributes. Note the baboons on board (from J. DÜMICHEN “Die Flotte einer ägyptischen Königin aus dem 17. Jahrhundert vor unserer Zeitrechnung” 1868, image in public domain).
May 9, 1871 after a one year long search, the German geologist Karl Mauch finally spotted was he had hoped for: the ruins of gigantic buildings of stone – the remains of a long lost city, at least for the European explorer. The local people of the Shona tribe know the ruins well, in their language the buildings were called “dzimba woye” – the venerated houses – and build long ago by an ancient African civilization. Mauch however, following the racial ideas of his time, was sure that the buildings “could not possibly being built by Negroes.” He thought that he had discovered the ruins of the mythical city of Ophir, build by an unknown civilization and known in legends for the immeasurable wealth treasured there.
“The sun fades away, the land sinks into the sea, the bright stars disappear from the sky,
as smoke and fire destroy the world,
and the flames reach the sky.”
The End of the World according to the “Völuspa“, a collection of Icelandic myths compiled in the 13th century.
June 8, 1783 marks the beginning of a volcanic eruption that will change history…
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is today remembered for his contributions to optics, mechanics and gravity, but as a typical polymath of his time he was also interested in alchemy. And through his interest in this early predecessor of chemistry he became also involved in some geological research.