Going Underground: Insight and Loss - Conversations with an exploration Geologist.
On the surface the Lake District is beautiful, but underneath that surface, literally, are other treasures. Millions of years of geological processes arriving in a unique formation to produce the landscape designated as a UNESCO Heritage site. That Geology is also one of the reason we are drawn to the area, for the valuable resources of coal and copper.
To understand all that, to place that knowledge and history usefully into a project, we can’t rely just on turning up and looking. We need to pick the brains of experts, people who work with and know about geology and mining, historically, and in a contemporary context. We were fortunate in this project to have Ben on board, a professional exploration geologist. But what are we looking for from him? Everything and anything: Specialist knowledge, details, oddities, the big picture, and the general mindset of someone who works directly with and in our subject matter.
Ben was kind enough to spend some evenings with us telling us everything we wanted to know, and telling us things we didn’t know that we would find of interest. The process is reciprocal, the more we share with Ben about the project, the more he understands and is able to hone in on what we need.
He gives us the casual technical language of mining, he draws the interior of the earth, he brings us examples of rock. All of these are now incorporated into the project. Finally we get something of the big picture: how Geology is the start and end of everything, we get corrections to what we know, and welcome ideas borne directly out of a mind experienced in the field.
This is also how the Lakes inspire, indirectly by inspiring someone else who inspires us. This is also the value of experts, an expert is not only someone who ‘knows’ a subject, an expert is someone who ‘lives’ a subject.
‘The moment of insight, is the moment of loss...’ This thought occurred to me while discussing geology with Ben. I wanted to know ‘how’ we knew, what we knew about the centre of the earth (for example how big the core is and what it’s made of). I wanted to know how much of what we knew was just guess work, theory, or evidenced, especially as we cannot, nor likely ever will be able to visit the Core. I was clearly missing something about how we knew all this without going ‘in’ the earth.
‘Nuclear Explosions’ are the answer. We know what we know, because of nuclear explosions. The seismic ripples they create are been picked up, recorded and measured. That data, combined with other knowledge, allows us to produce a picture of the centre of the earth.
As with most knowledge it it the confluence of other knowledges coming together, if you know these three things, you can figure out the fourth.
But, it took the detonation of nuclear bombs, which will leave a poisonous radioactive legacy in our geological record, to give us this insight. The moment of insight, is the moment of loss.
The Lake District, must be preserved. If not, we wouldn’t be able to know all the things that Ben gave us. If not, we obliterate discoveries and solutions to problems that we haven’t even encountered yet. If not we lose a treasure, of nature, culture and heritage.
It seems impossible to imagine that landscapes can be eradicated, especially protected ones, but all it takes is for public opinion to turn and for short-sighted self-interest to gain sway.
Landscapes like the Lake District, remain at risk because they are unable to speak for themselves, on our terms, we do not give them agency.
Surely the Lake District with it’s human history, cultural treasure, and geological value has a voice, it’s own voice. A voice we must listen too, give time and space too. Lakes Ignite is part of that voice, or at least a context to hear it.