Thursday, 27 August 2009

Whither Quarry 4......?

For some time now, Quarry 4 was nearing the end of its life, approaching exhaustion as it were. Finally, this week, I have received confirmation that, indeed the end is nigh and the quarry will be closed toward the end of the year.

I still have several field diary entries about the quarry to post in the not too distant future so, as far as Saurian is concerned, there is still a little bit of life in the old girl yet. And, realistically, Quarry 5 will open immediately for clay removal. Already the glacial till and sands have been removed and the Oxford clay is fully exposed.

On our most recent field trip to Quarry 4, it was very apparent that the water level was now rising and it made prospecting quite dificult. Since then, in the last week, a new drainage channel has been dug at the back of the quarry and this will alleviate the flood problem in the short term. But this is only a temporary measure and it is definitely safe to assume that this will be the last one for the quarry.

All machinery, cabins and power will be transferred to Quarry 5 during October/November. Some machinery is already in place. At this point, our quarry passes will also be transferred to 5 for all future field trips. Soon after this the quarry walls will be breached at the south west end and Quarry 4 will be allowed to flood, lost to both geologists and palaeontologists alike, forever.
Before this, teams from both Oxford and Cambridge universties have applied for access to the quarry before the flood event and these will almost certainly be the last field trips there although I'm sure Mark and I will be on the end of the last clay extractions if at all possible.

It's strange to think that all those ammonites, belemnites, various shells and almost certainly more marine reptiles are to be buried below water yet again but in many ways this is a fitting end for the quarry. And yet, it really isn't the end of Quarry 4 - not by a long way.

Quarry 5 is, realistically, an offshoot of 4. It's on the same site, indeed only several hundred yards away from the older quarry and the fossils will be the same. But a fresh quarry, new exposures and we are able to prospect in it. It doesn't get much better than that and 5 is also much more secure and will be much harder for illegal collectors to poach and that can only be good for science and our national heritage.

It's sad to see Quarry 4 disappear below the waters, but Quarry 5 will be just as prolific and Quarry 6 has already been approved for extraction and when that opens in a few years time, it is going to be a massive quarry. Happy days.................


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