The first mapping of the Moine Thrust Belt, NW Scotland: the progress of Peach, Horne and colleagues (1883–1936)

Robert W. H. Butler* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Moine Thrust Belt in NW Scotland is fundamental for developing understanding of complex fault systems and continental tectonics. The high-quality geological mapping, exceptional structural interpretation and insight of the late 19th C that underpins this is chronicled here. The Geological Survey of Great Britain mapped the thrust belt over a 14-year period, at 1:10,560 but it took five decades for the individual 1:63,360 map sheets to be published. The mapping itself was hampered by access problems, illness and prevailing weather. The deployment of expert staff to this region of few apparent economic resources threatened the status of the Geological Survey. Map publication was hindered by the transition from hand-coloured to full colour printing together with the restrictions of publishing to a strict grid that incorporated complex geology outside the thrust belt itself. This history of field work, publication and outreach by the Geological Survey is placed in an environmental and logistical context to identify the challenges not only for the mapping itself but also in sharing the results in publication. The execution of these activities provides lessons for developing coherent interpretation in complex geology and the challenges in charting their uncertainties and alternative explanations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)SP541-2022-299
JournalGeological Society, London, Special Publications
Issue number1
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 May 2023
EventWilliam Smith Meeting 2021: Geological Mapping - of our world and others - Virtual Event, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Oct 202121 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

I am indebted to the late John Mendum for rekindling my interest in the history of geological investigations in the NW Highlands and, together with his colleagues at BGS, for furnishing images of field slips and notebooks from some of the key players. I am grateful to Graham Leslie and Rick Law for providing constructive reviews together with Lucy Williams for shepherding the manuscript through the editorial process. BGS are thanked for permission to reproduce images from their photographic archive (Figs 4 and 6).
I thank Jennifer Hillyard, Librarian, North of England Institute of Mining and
Mechanical Engineers in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for donating an extensive collection of geological maps to the University of Aberdeen. Readers can consult online versions of the published maps directly vias the BGS maps portal or the National Library of Scotland. The conversion of the original map pricing to 2021 equivalents was completed using the online Bank of England inflation calculator.
Much of the content of this paper was presented through two videos (“The Assynt Special Sheet – 1923” and “Mapping the ‘Zone’ – a 40-year odyssey to the Assynt sheet”), as part of the William Smith meeting on Geological Mapping - of our World and others to which this Special Publication relates. Both make extensive use of map imagery and can be found on YouTube.


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