Geological Landscapes

The following quotations from a variety of authors all refer in some way to geology and landscapes. Similar pieces of writing are to be found in many places and readers may like to find their own exotic landscapes and poetic insights.

‘Le Pigeonnier’, in Provence

This description of a landscape of huge limestone boulders is of a hillside in Provence, Southern France, looking over the Mediterranean towards Corsica.

'It was a savage, strange landscape, a desolate limestone plateau one thousand metres up. It looked as if a tremendous wall had been pushed over by a giant and had fallen, quite flat, cracked but unbroken, across the mountain top. It stretched for acres ‑‑‑

---- we clambered across the corrugations of the honey‑combed limestone, the screen of shale and fallen rocks, the low clumps of thyme, box and juniper hiding in the crevices, and round the ruins of little sunken fields which had been, literally, scratched, centuries ago, from pockets in the harsh land, raked and tended, each with its cairn of stones and shards ploughed from the thin earth’.

from 'Le Pigeonnier', by Dirk Bogardc, 1994, Penguin 60s, p.13.

The account goes on to describe the flowers, stunted trees, the heat of summer and cold of winter, the fierce mistral wind and the danger of engulfing fire, all made even more interesting when one remembers that this landscape was once the bed of a tropical sea.

One Gigantic Quarry

Listen to Camius, writing about Oran, in North Africa, which was being reconstructed as it modern port as he watched.

In the canvases of certain Flemish masters you see the insistent recurrence of an admirably spacious theme: the construction of the Tower of Babel. You see immense landscapes, rocks reaching up to the sky, escarpments teeming with workmen, animals, ladders, strange machines, ropes and beams. Men, in fact, are only in the picture to bring out the inhuman vastness of the buildings. It is this that comes into your mind on the coast road running to the west of Oran.

There, clinging to the immense slopes, are rails, tip‑trucks, cranes and miniature railways. Under a devouring sun toy‑like locomotives circumnavigate vast blocks of stone to the accompaniment of whistles, dust and smoke. Night acid day a nation of ants swarms over the smoking carcass of the mountain. Scores of men, hanging down from the same rope, against the cliff face, their bellies pressed to the handles of pneumatic drills, quiver day after day in mid-air, unloosing whole sections of stone that crash down in a roar of dust. Further along, the trucks tip their loads from the top of the slopes and the rocks suddenly launched towards the sea roll and dive into the water, each heavy block followed by a shower of lighter stones. At regular intervals, at dead of night or in the middle of the day, explosions shake the whole mountain arid lift up the sea itself.

From 'Summer', by Albert Camus, 1954, Penguin 60s, p. 1,3.


The Stage On Which British History Is Set

The first twenty pages of 'Roman History', by Collingwood, are an extended comparison of the mainly low‑lying England, with mountainous Scotland and Wales. Roman armies were able to conquer and control England by building long, straight roads in every direction, but the North and West were a veritable Yugoslavia, full of deep valleys and towering mountains, easily defended by irregular troops. Road building, the great Roman art, was difficult there and rapid movement of troops impossible. All the Romans could do was to build defensive walls against the Scots and forts to control the Welsh. History was made by geology.

The whole passage is well worth seeking out as a long descriptive connection of geology, geography and history. It is also a very good piece of writing, written long before Ocean spreading and Plate Techtonics were suggested.


In the bones of the rock
The fossils are living,
Crinoid and ammonite;
In the red of the rock
(Sandstone and Haematite)
The fossils are moving
Coiling, crawling. aching for the sea.

In every wall,
In knuckles and sockets of rock,
In skulls of shale,
In gravel and scree,
Are eyes and eyes
Trilobite and belemnite
Staring and straining
As if light were water
As if skies were the sea.

The Pot Geranium, Norman Nicholson, 1954, Pub. Faber & Faber.

Pages 39

Page 42

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