At the Geological Survey of NSW WB Clarke Geoscience Centre, August 2018

Author: Dr Ian Percival, Geological Survey of NSW

Extract from National Rock Garden Newsletter No. 16, October 2018

During National Science Week in August 2018, the Geological Survey of NSW (GSNSW) held its second annual Stories in Stone event at the WB Clarke Geoscience Centre at Londonderry in western Sydney. Anyone with an interest in Earth’s treasures was invited to attend and we welcomed approximately 70 members of the public, including 23 Year 11/12 Earth and Environmental Science students and their teachers from the nearby Bede Polding College in South Windsor, and Councillor John Thain, Mayor of Penrith. Other visitors travelled to Londonderry from as far afield as Wollongong, Port Stephens and Hazelbrook.

Dr Ian Percival, palaeontologist, explains the significance of the amazing fossil record of past inhabitants of NSW—stretching back over 500 million years. Image courtesy Gavin Ayre.

The WB Clarke Geoscience Centre is the repository for all drillcore generated during exploration activities conducted by industry and the government throughout NSW, and therefore constitutes a valuable asset for the state. In operation since 1968, this specially designed building holds over a million metres of drilled rock that records what lies beneath the surface of NSW. While this library of drillcore is available for all to ‘read’ and interpret, it is predominantly used by geologists from industry, universities and government organisations to assist their research and exploration activities. Stories in Stone offers the opportunity for the general public to see behind the scenes as to what geologists study and how they do so, and is an important component of the Geological Survey’s outreach program. The dozen geoscientists who work at Londonderry were supplemented by five staff who came down from the Geological Survey’s head office at Maitland, in order to provide expertise in core logging, geophysics, and deep ocean drilling (the latter presented by Dr Chris Yeats, Executive Director of the GSNSW, based on his previous career with CSIRO).

The WB Clarke Geoscience Centre also houses the state’s geological reference collections, comprising the Palaeontological Collection, Petrological Collection, and the Economic Rock and Mineral Collection that includes spectacular and unique mineral and rock specimens from NSW, Australia and around the globe. These specimens, many of which were formerly housed and displayed at The Earth Exchange and its predecessor, the Geological and Mining Museum in The Rocks area of central Sydney, are usually kept securely out of view. Events such as Stories in Stone allow the public to view these treasures at close quarters and learn of their origins and significance in short talks given by Geological Survey staff members. Visitors were also shown how high-tech equipment at the centre (the HyLogger™) can help to identify minerals in rock, and were able to marvel at their beauty under the microscope and in hand specimen.

Dr Chris Yeats, Executive Director of the GSNSW, holds a model of deep sea drillcore preserving the record of the asteroid impact that is thought to have caused the extinction of the Dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Image courtesy Gavin Ayre.

For further information about geoscience information from the GSNSW, please visit: