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A selection of images illustrating the world of rocks, fossils and landforms

All images © Gerald Lucy

For permission to reproduce any of the images on this website
(for commercial or non-commercial use) please contact us.

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Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. The summit, seen here encusted by ice in mid-winter, is the collapsed dome of a 400 million year old volcano. The mountain offers some formidable winter climbing routes. 

Ice is defined as a mineral because it is a naturally occurring chemical compound with a crystalline structure. It just happens not to be stable at room temperature. One property of ice is that it is less dense when solid than molten.  This property allows the Earth to be a habitable place.  It is also useful for polar bears such as this one on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean off Svalbard.

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica from the nearby town of La Fortuna.  Arenal is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Volcanoes are the source of many types of rock.

One of a series of large dinosaur footprints discovered on the foreshore at Hastings in Sussex in 1995.  The prints were made 135 million years ago during the Cretaceous period when what is now Sussex had a tropical climate. 

Urban geology.  This lane in Colchester is paved with colourful Victorian granite slabs, now polished by generations of traffic. The granite is 400 million years old and came from Mountsorrel in Leicestershire.

A surviving engine house of Wheal Coates, a tin mine on the coast of Cornwall near St. Agnes.  Cornish mines were the source of some of the finest mineral specimens ever found in Britain.

In the 18th and 19th centuries most towns and villages obtained their fresh water from wells sunk deep into water-bearing rocks or 'aquifers'. Sometimes a disused well reveals its presence in a spectacular way, such as this one in Essex in 2007.

The Sphinx with the Pyramid of Chephren (the second largest of the Egyptian Pyramids of Giza) in the distance. The Sphinx was carved from the limestone of the Giza Plateau. The harder, upper layer of limestone that forms the head has preserved the features of the face while below, the softer layer that forms the body has been badly affected by weathering.

Excavavating an ammonite from rocks of Cretaceous age in a quarry in Cambridgeshire. Extracting fossils from the rock in which they are enclosed requires skill to ensure that they are not damaged in the process.

An old ore truck in a disused mine in the North Pennines near Alston. The lead and zinc mines of the North Pennines have produced spectacular and beautiful specimens of fluorite, barite and calcite which can now be seen in museums throughout the world.

Norway is often referred to as the country of waterfalls.  This photograph was taken in stormy weather in Geirangerford, one of the country's most scenic fjords.  

Ice is capable of moving rock considerable distances. This one ton boulder of dolerite was found in a gravel pit in Romford, Essex, but originates in Northumberland. It was carried here by ice half a million years ago.  It can now be seen outside Bedfords Park Visitor Centre in Havering.


Excavating the lower jaw of a young mammoth on the Essex coast. Mammoths were widespread throughout the northern hemishere during the colder periods of the Ice Age. They disappeared from Britain about 12,000 years ago.

Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire. One of numerous balancing rocks of Millstone Grit, sculpted by wind and water into astonishing shapes.

Qoroq Fjord, near Narsarsuaq, Greenland.  The word fjord is Norwegian and refers to an arm of the sea with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion.  This image shows Qoroq Fjord packed with icebergs of various sizes, recently carved from the glacier just out of the picture to the left. 

A former chalk quarry near Grays, Essex. Chalk underlies large parts of South-east England and is up to 500 metres thick.  It was laid down on the floor of a deep sea during the late Cretaceous period when the climate was very warm, sea level was high, and there was no ice at the poles.

Siberia is a vast region of Russia, extending from the Arctic Ocean to the borders with Mongolia and China. Most of Siberia is boreal forest known as taiga, with tundra vegetation in the far north where the frozen carcasses of mammoths have been found. This mid-winter view is of taiga forest between Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.

Central Park in New York City contains some remarkable examples of glacial erosion dating from the Ice Age.  Here there are outcrops of hard, metamorphic rocks that were smoothed and polished at the base of the giant Laurentide Ice Sheet.  These landforms were revealed as the ice retreated about 17,000 years ago. 

A piece of the surface of Mars. This 1.5 gram slice of basalt lava is part of the Zagami meteorite which fell in Nigeria in 1962. It was subsequently discovered to be rock that was ejected from the surface of Mars by the impact of an asteroid or comet about 3 million years ago. Gases trapped in the rock are identical to the compostion of the Martian atmosphere.

Looking for fossils at a quarry in the Solnhofen Limestone near Eichstätt in Germany. The Solnhofen Limestone is one of the most famous geological formations in the world due to the fossils displaying exquisite preservation of soft tissues.  The area is famous for the discovery of the fossil bird Archaeopteryx in the 19th century.

A Jurassic ammonite recovered from the bed of a river draining the southern Himalayas. 150 million years ago this creature was living in the Tethys Ocean between India and Asia. Collision of these continental plates destroyed this great ocean and created the Himalayas. Evidence of the ocean's inhabitants are now preserved on these peaks - the highest mountains in the world. In fact, the summit of Everest - the highest point on Earth - consists of marine limestone containing the fossilised remains of sea creatures.

The Matterhorn is a classic example of a glacial landform and  one of the most remarkable mountains in the world. It was formed over hundreds of thousands of years by glaciers carving each of its four sides into a pyramid, each face separated by serrated ridges or arêtes. This photo is of the less frequently photographed west face.

Fossilised horn corals such as these from Ontario, Canada, have also been given the name ‘rugose corals’ because of their wrinkled appearance.  They lived in the Palaeozoic era before the age of the dinosaurs and, astonishingly, have been used to establish the length of the year at that time.  These corals added a tiny new layer of growth each day and by counting these bands and comparing them with modern corals it has been established that there were 400 days in the year in the middle of the Palaeozoic era, 380 million years ago.  This slowing of the spin of the Earth is due to the drag effect of the Moon and was as predicted by astronomers’ rough estimates.  It equates to a decrease of 2 seconds per every hundred thousand years.

A 25 ton polished sphere of red granite in the Türkentor, Munich, Germany. Appropriately entitled ‘Large red sphere’ it is by the American artist Walter de Maria. Granite takes a high polish and is one of the most beautiful of all decorative stones.

Rivers of meltwater flowing from the Vatnajökull ice cap in Iceland. Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Europe with a maximum thickness of over 1,000 metres.  It sits on top of several active volcanoes.

Stromboli is a volcano off the north coast of Sicily that has been in almost continuous eruption for the last 2,000 years. This night time photo of an eruption of incandescent volcanic bombs was taken from the rim of the summit crater.

Insect preserved in amber from the Baltic coast.  The creature was trapped in tree resin 40 million years ago and every detail has been preserved as the resin turned to amber.

About 30 million years ago the continental plates of Africa and Europe collided creating the Alps. Pressure from this collision also disturbed the Earth's crust much further north creating the Wealden Anticline, the London Basin and the spectacular folding of rock strata on England's south coast such as here at Lulwoth Cove in Dorset.

The winding gear at Betteshanger Colliery, Kent in 1975. The coal mined in the UK is the remains of tropical forests that grew here 300 million years ago when what is now Britain was situated on the equator. Betteshanger was the largest of the Kent collieries and the last to close. The two shafts were over 700 metres deep.

The Cirque de Gavarnie in the central Pyrenees is one of the most spectacular sights in Europe.  A vast limestone amphitheatre carved by glaciers it contains one of Europe’s highest waterfalls, the 450 metre high Grande Cascade.

View of Mount McKinley, Alaska, from Wonder Lake Campsite. Mount McKinley is the highest mountain in North America with an elevation of 20,237 feet.  The mountain is a mass of granite lifted by the forces of plate tectonics.  These same forces cause the large earthquakes that frequently affect the state.

Boiling mud pool at the Námaskarð geothermal area, Iceland.  Boiling mud forms in high temperature geothermal areas where there is a limited water supply.  The viscosity of the mud varies with changes in the water table.

Miles Canyon, Yukon Territory, Canada. In 1897/8 tens of thousands of would-be prospectors travelled in small boats and makeshift rafts down the treacherous Yukon River to the Klondike Goldfields in the biggest gold rush in history. One of the greatest challenges of the journey was Miles Canyon with its basalt cliffs where scores of these vessels broke up and sunk in the turbulent waters.

During the early Eocene period Britain was close to Greenland and the Atlantic Ocean was just starting to open. This event was accompanied by enormous explosive volcanism which deposited volcanic ash over much of northern Europe. Bands of ash from these eruptions can be clearly seen in the cliffs of Wrabness in north Essex. One particular ash layer, dated at 53 million years, has a distinctive chemical composition and has also been found in Germany, Denmark, Greenland and in cores from the Deep Sea Drilling Project on the Atlantic Ocean floor.