25 March 2012

Geologist’s bookshelf: Older offerings

Posted by Jessica Ball

I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to books, especially geological ones. I’ve got quite a few that I’ve collected but never really had time to read. (When you read journal articles at work all day, sometimes you really don’t want to read about more geology when you go home. Because I also have a lot of fantasy and scifi books, those are what tend to end up on the bedside table instead.) More often then not, the books I collect are older, because buying a lot of new ones can get expensive when you’re on a grad student budget.

This weekend I reorganized some shelves, and decided to remind myself what I have and haven’t read. Quite a few of the older books fall into the second category (this might have something to do with the fact that I’m allergic to book mold), so I thought I’d make a list of what I need to work on.

Kilauea: Case History of a Volcano. Don Hebert and Fulvio Bardossi, 1968.

This is one of four books written by Don Herbert (Mr. Wizard) and Fulvio Bardossi, and is based on the Experiment science television series (for which they were the principle writers). Its first chapter gives us the gist of the book: what happened at Kilauea to spur the Nov-Dec 1959 eruption at Kilauea Iki. This was a spectacular event, forming a lava lake and cinder cone in the course of only a month… The first half of the book is dedicated to the science of volcanic eruptions – meant to give the reader a grounding in the tools that volcanologists use to draw conclusions about volcanic activity – and the second half is dedicated to the 1959 eruption and the activity that follow it. The book is well-illustrated, full of USGS photos and firsthand accounts from the scientists at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, and it looks like it will be a pretty engaging read when I can get to it.

It Began With A Stone: A History of Geology from the Stone Age to the Age of Plate Tectonics. Henry Faul and Carol Faul, 1983.

I have to admit, I have this book mainly because my petrology professor in college noticed it mentioned Sir Archibald Geikie (we were assigned minerals to report on for one of his classes, and mine was geikielite). But it covers a lot more than 19th century Scottish geologists, looking over the history of geologic science from Herodotus to da Vinci, Werner to Lyell, Powell to Wegener. It even looks at the early years of geology departments at American colleges, geology in the Civil War, and early geological work in Canada. I like that it includes a few chapters at the end summarizing the current state of geology, although oddly the current state seems to the authors to end at Wegener’s continental drift theorizing in the 1960s. (This could be because the author died before completing the manuscript, however.)

Legends Of The Earth: Their Geologic Origins. Dorothy B. Vitaliano, 1973.

This is one I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into. Volcanologists (and geologists) often draw on oral tradition to help draw connections between geologic events and historical records (or the lack thereof), and this book is a wonderful collection of stories with connections to geology. The author calls them “geomythology”, and she covers myth and folklore describing everything from landforms to earthquakes to volcanic eruptions to floods. Hawaiian legend is especially featured, as well as the eruption of Santorini and its connection to the Minoans and the “lost” city of Atlantis. There is also mention of Icelandic and Maori legend, as well as Mediterranean tales from Italy and Greece and Native American folklore from the American West.

Chains of Fire: The Story of Volcanoes. Kent H. Wilcoxson, 1966.

This book seems to be a tour of volcanoes around the world, and it has the best chapter titles I’ve come across yet. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about “Mexican Volcano Babies” or “Vesuvius: Monarch of the Mediterranean” or “Volcanoes Made In Japan”? I’m particularly partial to the fact that the chapter about Central America mentions Santa Maria prominently, although I’m less partial to the author’s choice to try and link the 1902 eruption there to the eruption of Mount Pelee in the Caribbean (and other activity in Central America and the Antilles arc). Still, the author seems to have drawn heavily from first-hand accounts of activity as well as scientific papers, so the basic information should be accurate even if there’s a bit of speculation involved.


So, there ¬†you have it – my reading list for the next few weeks, providing I don’t just get swamped with papers on fluid dynamics and mineral stability fields.