August 30, 2016

35th International Geological Congress: Day #2

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

IGC Banner near the convention center entrance.

IGC banner near the convention center entrance.

This post continues my daily blogging about the 35th International Geological Congress (IGC) being held in here in my home city of Cape Town, South Africa. You can read my post on Day #1 here.

Today was another busy day at the congress!

In the morning I attended a few talks on the history of geology and was particularly interested in a talk by Martin Pickford on the history of geological research in the Sperrgebiet or “Prohibited Area” of southern Namibia. Since the discovery of diamonds on the southern coast of Namibia in the early 1900s, access to the Sperrgebiet region has been tightly controlled. Thus, compared to most other places in the world, very few geologists have worked on the rocks found in the Sperrgebiet. Of course, a number of geologists working for or on behalf of the diamond mining companies have spent some time in the Sperrgebiet, but even so relatively few geologists have spent substantial time looking at the detailed geology of the region. Furthermore, the diamond geologists generally focused on the diamonds, and relatively little time and energy have been put into other, more academic areas of geological research. Thus, there is still much to unravel and understand about the geology of the Sperrgebiet.

Through my work for De Beers, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Sperrgebiet and to conduct a little geological research there, including some collaborative work with some academic researchers. It’s very exciting to work on an area where there’s still so much to understand about the local geology. I hope that in future years more geologists, including more academic geologists, will have the opportunity to work in the Sperrgebiet.

Later in the morning I gave my conference talk, which was about the mineralogy and chemistry of some placer platinum group element and gold grains that have been recovered from diamondiferous sediments offshore of Namibia. My research colleagues and I will be writing a scientific paper about our research, so stay tuned for more details once the paper is published. One of the most exciting aspects of the research is that, to our knowledge, this is the first time that platinum group element and gold grains have been reported in this particular placer, at least in the publicly available scientific literature. I’m very grateful to De Beers and Anglo American for giving us permission to share some of our data with the wider scientific community.

Presenting my talk on placer platinum group element and gold grains from offshore southern Namibia... stay tuned for more once our paper is published!

Presenting my talk on placer platinum group element and gold grains from offshore southern Namibia… stay tuned for more once our paper is published!

After my talk, I attended a very interesting session on some recent geological mapping, as well as some geochronological and geochemical research, that has been undertaken in northern South Africa and southern Namibia, mostly focused on better understanding Namaqua-Natal Province rocks. There was even some discussion of the geology of Fish River Canyon, which I recently hiked with a group of friends. I really enjoyed hearing about some recent scientific research in the canyon… although having just hiked the canyon I cannot imagine having to hike it with heavy rock samples. I found carrying a sleeping bag, some food, and a little extra clothing was difficult enough!

After lunch, I spent most of the afternoon attending the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) sessions. I particularly enjoyed the keynote talk by James Austin, who discussed nearly fifty years of oceanographic research that has been undertaken as part of IODP and the related precursor programs, such as the Deep Sea Drilling Project.

James Austin talking about the history of scientific ocean drilling.

James Austin talking about the history of scientific ocean drilling.

That’s all for today… I’ll write some more tomorrow!