Geology: Going Down The Tubes

Going Down The Tubes

Geologists and doctors are very good at burying their mistakes.

Although geologists do have one huge advantage: most of their mistakes are already buried.

However, being the true professional they are, geologists still have plenty of corpses to dispose of.

Take Monadnocks for example.

Never heard of Monadnocks?

How about their alternate sobriquets: Inselbergs? Kopjes? Bornhardts?

I didn’t think so.

That’s because geologists like to hide their corpses in amongst an obscure collection of objects with lots of confusing names.

So what are Monadnocks?

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say.

A monadnock or inselberg is an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain.

In southern and southern-central Africa, a similar formation of granite is known as a kopje, a Dutch word (“little head”) from which the Afrikaans word koppie was derived.

If the monadnock is dome-shaped and formed from granite-gneiss, it can also be called a bornhardt.

However, you know something is wrong when Wikipedia proceeds to prattle on about Native Americans and German geologists in southern Africa.

Monadnock is an originally Native American term for an isolated hill or a lone mountain that has risen above the surrounding area, typically by surviving erosion.

Geologists took the name from Mount Monadnock in southwestern New Hampshire.

It is thought to derive from the Abenaki language, from either menonadenak (“smooth mountain”) or menadena (“isolated mountain”).

In this context, monadnock is used to describe a mountain that rises from an area of relatively flat and/or lower terrain.

For instance, Mount Monadnock rises 2,000 feet (610 m) above its surrounding terrain and stands, at 3,165 feet (965 m), nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) higher than any mountain peak within 30 miles (48 km).

The word inselberg is German for “island mountain”; the name was originally coined by geologist Wilhelm Bornhardt (1864–1946) in 1900 to describe the abundance of such features found in southern Africa.

At this point, the term applied only to arid landscape features.

However, the term inselberg has since been used to describe a broader geography and range of rock features, leading to confusion about the precise definition of the term.

In a 1973 study examining the use of the term, one researcher found that the term had been used for features in savannah climates 40% of the time; arid or semi-arid climates 32% of the time, humid-subtropical and arctic 12% of the time; and 6% each for humid-tropical and Mediterranean climates.

As recently as 1972, the term has been defined as “steep-sided isolated hills rising relatively abruptly above gently sloping ground.”

This definition includes such features as buttes; conical hills with rectilinear sides typically found in arid regions; regolith-covered concave-convex hills; rock crests over regolith slopes; rock domes with near vertical sides; tors (koppies) formed of large boulders but with solid rock cores.

Thus, the term monadnock and inselberg may not perfectly match.

Having exhausted yourself wading through the above nonsense Wikipedia is hoping you won’t notice the geological nonsense they are going to slip past you in the last two paragraphs.

First, the plausible set up paragraph.

A hard “volcanic” core is left standing after softer “limestone” has been eroded away.

Volcanic or other processes may give rise to a body of rock resistant to erosion, inside a body of softer rock such as limestone which is more susceptible to erosion.

When the less resistant rock is eroded away to form a plain, the more resistant rock is left behind as an isolated mountain.

The strength of the uneroded rock is often attributed to the tightness of its jointing.

If the monadnock is dome-shaped and formed from granite-gneiss, it can also be called a bornhardt.

Second, the burial of the “sedimentary rock” corpse.

The presence of a monadnock or inselberg typically indicates the existence of a nearby plateau or highland, or their remnants.

This is especially the case for inselbergs composed of sedimentary rock, which will display the same stratigraphic units as this nearby plateau.

However once exposed, the inselbergs are destroyed by marginal collapse of joint blocks and exfoliation sheets.

This process leaves behind tors perched at their summits and over time a talus-bordered residual, known as a castle kopje appears.

Pietra di bismantova castelnovo monti

Pietra di Bismantova in the Apennines, Italy

Didn’t catch the finesse?


Take another look at the Wikipedia photograph of the Pietra di Bismantova in the Apennines, Italy.

Now follow the trail.

The Pietra di Bismantova is made of “yellowish calcarenite” that formed in the “Miocene”

The Pietra di Bismantova is a geological formation in the Reggiano Apennines, in the comune of Castelnovo ne’ Monti, province of Reggio Emilia, central Italy, c. 45 km from Reggio Emilia. It has the shape of a narrow, quasi-cylindrical plateau (measuring 1 km x 240 m) whose steep walls emerge c. 300 m as an isolated spur from the nearby hills. The top has an altitude of 1,047 m above sea level. It is included in the National Park of the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano.

The spur is composed of yellowish calcarenite over a marl basement, all formed in the Miocene as a sea bottom. It includes fossils belonging to a tropical environment.

Miocene means somewhere between “23.03 and 5.332 million years ago”.

The Miocene (symbol MI[1]) is the first geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about 23.03 to 5.332 million years ago

Calcarenite means “a type of limestone”.

Calcarenite is a type of limestone that is composed predominantly, more than 50 percent, of detrital (transported) sand-size (0.0625 to 2 mm in diameter), carbonate grains. The grains consist of sand-size grains of either corals, shells, ooids, intraclasts, pellets, fragments of older limestones and dolomites, other carbonate grains, or some combination of these.

Having run through this decoding exercise we are faced with a strange contradiction.

In their first “volcanic” example the softer “limestone” has been eroded away.

In their second “sedimentary rock” example the softer “limestone” is left standing.


So let’s have a look at another limestone Monadnock.

Maczuga Herkulesa is a tall (30 meters) limestone monadnock situated in Ojców National Park near Pieskowa Skała, north of Kraków in southern Poland.

Its name, in Polish, means the “cudgel (or bludgeon) of Hercules”, due to its distinctive shape.

Karst topography of soluble bedrock characterizes the entire park.

The area is noted for its rock formations, although Maczuga Herkulesa may be the most famous.

Ojców Maczuga Herkulesa

Notice the man standing at the bottom left of the “Cudgel of Hercules” and the strange looking “channel” that seems to run through the centre of the limestone monadnock.

The central “channel” is very evident in the next monadnock picture.

Mirow ostaniec

The Monadnock in Mirów, Poland

A wider perspective photograph of the “Cudgel of Hercules” leaves little doubt that the geologist’s suggestion [that the surrounding sedimentary rock has eroded away to leave a “plateau or highland”] is pure moonshine.

Evidently, geologists don’t like the idea that limestone monadnocks are really “hydrothermal chimneys”.

Maczuga Herkulesa from Castle

Maczuga Herkulesa not far from Castle Pieskowa Skała, Ojcowski National Park, Poland

Some hydrothermal vents form roughly cylindrical chimney structures. These form from minerals that are dissolved in the vent fluid. When the superheated water contacts the near-freezing sea water, the minerals precipitate out to form particles which add to the height of the stacks. Some of these chimney structures can reach heights of 60 m.

Geologists have also been ignoring ancient paramoudra “hydrothermal chimneys” since 1865.

Paramoudra columns - Lyell1865

Reproduction of Mrs. Gunn’s drawing of paramoudra columns in Upper Campanian chalk in the quarries on the River Bure near Horstead, Norfolk (LYELL, 1865, fig.286).

The uppermost stratum is Pleisstocene gravel resting on an erosion surface which truncates the columns. Lyell interpreted these structures as giant siliceous sponges which rejuvenated periodically as they becomae buried and thereby kept pace with sedimentation.

Photo credit Bromley, Schulz & Peake 1975

Not heard of a Paramoudra?

Now there’s a surprise.

Paramoudras, Paramoudra flints, Pot stones or Potstones are flint nodules found mainly in parts of north-west Europe: Norfolk (United Kingdom), Ireland, Denmark, Basque Country and Germany.

In Norfolk they are known as Pot Stones and can be found on the beach below Beeston Bump just outside of Beeston Regis.

In Ireland they are known as Paramoudras.

Pot Stones are flint nodules with a hollow center and have the appearance of a doughnut (torus).

They can be found in columns resembling a backbone.

skematisk Paramoudra

Geologists don’t really talk about Paramoudras because they “think” they are trace fossils.

Obligingly, the palaeontologists have called this “unknown” organism “Bathicnus paramoudrae”.

These flints are trace fossils of the burrows of an organism otherwise unknown except for these relics sometimes referred to as Bathicnus paramoudrae.

Fossils may also consist of the marks left behind by the organism while it was alive, such as the footprint or feces (coprolites) of a reptile.

These types of fossil are called trace fossils (or ichnofossils), as opposed to body fossils.


Maastrichtian chalk picked out by flint bands

Regular bedding in Maastrichtian chalk picked out by flint bands, overlain by irregularly bedded flint bands in the top section of the cliff (coral-bryozoan calcarenite bioherms; Danian, i.e. post-Cretaceous, in age), Stevens Klint, Denmark.

The Upper Cretaceous rocks of the British Isles – Mortimore, Wood & Gallois – 2001

Geologists don’t really like to “think” about Paramoudras located at the base of chalk formations.

North Landing, Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

Geological Conservation Review – Flamborough Head

Paramoudra Chalk

The Paramoudra Chalk is only exposed at low water and the amount showing in these images is exceptional.

However, when confronted with an ancient “hydrothermal chimney” geologists are very inventive.

In Bermuda they have been designated the “fossilized stumps of the Bermuda palmetto tree”.

In Poland that have been designated “solution pipes” [drain pipes] caused by “fast-acting deglaciation” or “irregular permafrost decay”.

In the UK they have been designated “dissolution pipes” [drain pipes] created by dissolution of the soluble host rock.

Solution pipe - Staszów, Poland

A dissolution pipe palaeokarst of mid-Pleistocene age preserved in Miocene limestones near Staszów, Poland

Seaford Head - East Sussex

These pipe structures, known as dissolution pipes, appear in cross-section as the cliff retreats. Each vertical pipe was formed (and continues to do so) as rain water percolates through the overlying Quaternary sediments, becoming increasingly acidic in the process, and dissolving the underlying chalk as gravity channels the water along natural weaknesses.

Seaford Head (East Sussex)

However, the search for mineral deposits has forced geologists to recognise Breccia Pipes.

Although the origin of Breccia Pipes is “disputed” is appears evident that “hydrothermal solutions forced their way to the surface”. Now there’s a surprise.

A breccia pipe, also referred to as a chimney, is a mass of breccia, often in an irregular and cylindrical shape.

When exposed at the surface, a breccia pipe may appear as an iron-stained knob, from several feet to several hundred feet in diameter.

Breccia pipes may or may not be silicified.

They usually consist of fragments of the host rock (the rock layer they are contained in) cemented together by silica.

These formations are often hosts for ore deposition especially in copper and uranium mining districts.

They are sensitive to oxidation, and due to their porous nature, may be oxidized to depths far below the ground surface.

Breccia pipes that have never reached the Earth’s surface are referred to as “blind”.

Although the origin of breccia pipes is disputed, the most commonly accepted theory is that they formed at intersections of fractures.

In these areas, hydrothermal solutions forced their way to the surface.

However, there are some breccia pipes that are a result of limestone collapse by acidic water or other soluble rock types.

Areas that contains many examples of breccia pipes include Copper Creek, Arizona, which contains approximately 500 mineralized breccia pipes, and the gold mining area of Cripple Creek, Colorado which contains breccia pipe ore deposits associated with a volcanic diatreme.

Apparent mineralizing fluid flow direction was upward.

breccia pipe

Economic Impact of Uranium Mining on Coconino & Mohave Counties, Arizona
Tetra Tech

The search for mineral deposits has also forced geologists to recognise the mysterious Kimberlite Pipes and Lamproite Pipes which form at depths between 150 and 450 kilometres.

Kimberlite pipes are the most important source of mined diamonds today.

The consensus on kimberlites is that they are formed deep within the mantle.

Formation occurs at depths between 150 and 450 kilometres (93 and 280 mi), potentially from anomalously enriched exotic mantle compositions, and are erupted rapidly and violently, often with considerable carbon dioxide and other volatile components.

It is this depth of melting and generation which makes kimberlites prone to hosting diamond xenocrysts.

Lamproites are geographically widespread yet are volumetrically insignificant.

Unlike kimberlites which are found exclusively in Archaean cratons, lamproites are found in terrains of varying age, ranging from Archaean in Western Australia, to Palaeozoic and Mesozoic in southern Spain.

They also vary widely in age, from Proterozoic to Pleistocene, the youngest known example being 56,000 ± 5,000 years old.

One of the intriguing observations regarding Kimberlite Pipes [sadly lacking from Wikipedia] is that the “majority of these pipes were formed during two episodes in the Cretaceous Period”.

Kimberlite pipes are only found in Archean-aged Cratons – areas of rock that are at least 2.5 billion years old.

The first kimberlite pipe was discovered on the Kaapvaal Archean-aged Craton near the town of Kimberly, South Africa, hence the name.

Numerous kimberlite pipes have since been found on the Kaapvaal Craton, which extends through parts of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The majority of these pipes were formed during two episodes in the Cretaceous Period.

The first occurred between 125 and 115 million years ago, the second between 90 and 80 million years ago.

The majority of the commercially economic diamond deposits are from the younger period known as the Late Creataceous.

Kimberlite Pipe

Offshore Diamond Mining
Marcon International, Inc.

Evidently, a huge number of “pipes” were created during the Cretaceous period.

Only a geologist could ignore this “piped” evidence of planetary outgassing in the Cretaceous.

Only a geologist could believe the fragile Castle Rock in Kansas has been withstanding the elements for at least 66 million years [Cretaceous period: 145 to 66 million years ago]

Castle Rock

Castle Rock is about 12 miles south of I-70 between Quinter and Collyer, Kansas.

The Castle Rock limestone, chalk and shale formation is fragile and may not last many more years. The tallest spire fell following a thunderstorm in 2001.

Kansas Travel & Tourism

Only a geologist could “think” his belief system hadn’t gone Down The Tubes.

Down the tubes

Meaning: Wasted and unrecoverable.

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Gallery | This entry was posted in Catastrophism, Earth, Geology, Inflating Earth, Science, Water. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Geology: Going Down The Tubes

  1. CraigM says:

    Tim thank you for this series of posts. Very thought provoking and logical.

    Saw this on BBC site:

    Is there an alt. Outgassing explanation?



    • malagabay says:

      Interesting article… thanks for the link.

      Alpine glaciers ‘protect mountain peaks from erosion’

      Instead of wearing mountains down, evidence from Europe’s high Alps shows that glaciers shield summits from erosion, acting as a protective lid.

      French scientists studied erosion on Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest peak, below and around its glaciers.

      Ice at the highest points froze to the mountain rock and played little part in erosion, the team said.

      In contrast, water and rain eroded glacier-free areas 10 times faster than areas protected by the glacier.

      These results may explain the high altitude of the Alps. Driven by the tectonic collision of Europe with Africa, the high alpine bedrock is rising about one millimetre each year.

      Glacier-free areas of the Alps erode at a similar rate but where the mountains are protected by ice, the peaks wear away at one tenth that rate.

      I am far from convinced about “the tectonic collision of Europe with Africa” because the Mediterranean can be interpreted as a “dome collapse” in the context of an inflating Earth… but that is a story for another day.


  2. craigm350 says:


    Spotted at WUWT. Might be of interest to you.

    Press release is overblown but paper (which I’m still reading) not so.

    Seems those who regularly spend time on mountains have seen this happen, or rather evidence of. Another form of erosion confounding the geological concensus?

    Would outgassing create lots of lightening – in a way similar to volcanic events?


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