Monday, 26 March 2007

Killer Bee Attack

Please click here to comment
Channel five, Friday, 8pm

From The RadioTimes: Documentary looking at the Africanised killer bee, which has claimed the lives of over a thousand Americans since arriving in the US in the 1950s, largely due to the insect's remarkable persistence and stamina when threatened. This strain of bee escaped from a Brazilian research laboratory and has been causing havoc ever since in the warmer climes of the southern states.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Lemur Island

Please click here to comment
Weds, 21st March, 7:15pm - 8:00pm Five
0.4 million, 2% Audience Share

Radio Times: 3/10 Wildlife series following the lives of two warring troops of ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar. Six-month-old Graveyard Gang member Hogarth wanders away from the safety of the troop. Meanwhile three males, led by five-year-old Titus, have left their family groups in the hope of finding a mate. Titus has designs on Topaz from the Graveyard Gang, but must get past Blake, the troop's dominant male, first.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Elephant's Guide to Sex

Please click here to comment
Tues 20th March 2007
9:00pm - 9:50pm BBC2
1.4 million, 6.1% Audience Share

MASTURBATING an elephant in the cause of science isn’t an easy job – just ask wildlife expert Dr Thomas Hildebrandt. Dr Hildebrandt, a world expert on elephant and rhino reproduction demonstrates how it should be done in BBC2’s Horizon: The Elephant’s Guide To Sex screened on March 20. In the programme, he bids to help elephants Jackson and Christy – who lives in US zoos 1,200 miles apart – to produce a baby.

2/9 - From the RadioTimes: The Earth is facing the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Throughout evolution 99 percent of all species which ever existed have disappeared. However the rates of extinction are now 10,000 times the natural rate. Coming to the rescue are men like Dr Thomas Hildebrandt and his team. This programme follows the pioneers of hands-on animal reproduction as they use cutting-edge science to preserve our planet's fauna for future generations.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Animal Farm

Please click here to comment
Monday 19th March,
9:00pm - 10:00pm Channel 4
1.4 million, 5.7% Audience Share

RadioTimes: 1/3Getting a restaurant critic and an evolutionary biologist to debate the merits of so-called "Frankenstein foods" is a neat idea. Roaming around a pretend farm full of freak animals is a slightly daft way to go about it, but there's still plenty of food for thought here as Giles Coren and Dr Olivia Judson explore the rights and wrongs of fluorescent rabbits, giant super-salmon and featherless chickens. Throughout the programme, Coren does a remarkable impression of a soft-headed simpleton, grumbling that messing with genes just seems "unnatural", even though Judson points out that all our fruit is cloned (ie grafted) and our vegetables are nothing like their natural ancestors. (I never knew, for example, that carrots are only orange because the Dutch bred them that way in the 17th century.) And the bit about a banned GM "golden rice" strain developed to tackle vitamin A deficiency, a disease that kills 250 people every hour according to an interviewee here, may make your blood boil. RT reviewer - David Butcher

Monday, 19 March 2007

16 Ways The Media Can Use Blogs

Please click here to comment
So what are the different ways in which the mainstream media can use blogs? Here's several ideas for producers who are scratching their heads about how to launch blogs that serve a purpose other than as another distribution channel for content.

(1) Solicit ideas for coverage
Make readers/viewers/listeners feel a part of the editorial process; turn a show over to them. They can participate via a blog.
Examples: BBC's World, Have Your Say and PRI's Open Source
(2) Request feedback on how to shape an editorial product
Does your news organization want to develop a new product? Ask the people who will use for input.
Examples: NPR's Rough Cuts for new show development and The Economist Group's Project Red Stripe for a new innovative web product
(3) Host public blogs
Expand coverage by allowing normal folk to share news in their neighborhoods as well as their opinions, photos, analysis, and news.
Examples: Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Utah's Daily Herald, and Fox 13 in Salt Lake City
(4) Provide ongoing coverage
Allow reporters and producers to continue covering a story that may not make it to print or air all the time.
Example: The New Yorker's New Orleans Journal
(5) Foster interaction between journalists and citizens
Enable normal folk to hold journalists — especially commentators — accountable for their work.
Example: The Guardian's Comment is Free
(6) Cheaply report news about niche interests
People are interested in fishing, knitting, and wine. Why not regularly cover these interests with a blog?
Examples: USA Today's Today in the Sky for airline junkies, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Venture Blog about venture capital and startups, and The Sydney Morning Herald's The Backpacker for international backpacking travel
(7) Request help from the public on covering a story
Need help covering a story or digging up data? Ask the public for information and assistance.
Example: ABC's The Blotter — think about the Mark Foley Scandal
(8) Get experts to interact
Blogs are a great way for experts to interact together to discuss an issue. A blog is a platform where the public can see the debate and the nuances of their arguments and disagreements.
Example: The Washington Post's Post Global
(9) Get non-journalists to report on their areas of expertise
Not all experts or eyewitnesses are journalists, and even non-journalists have much to offer an editorial product.
Example: The Washington Post's and Newsweek's On Faith
(10) Provide sneak peaks of upcoming stories
Tease the public on what's to come.
Examples: CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Blog and NPR's Blog of the Nation
(11) Allow journos to share their interests and passions
Journalists are best when they are personable so that the public can relate to them.
Example: France 24's Inside the Newsroom
(12) Share internal memos and briefings with the public
Some people in the public love to see what notes are passed around in the newsroom.
Example: CNN's Political Ticker
(13) Defend editorial decisions
Not everyone is happy about how a story is covered — or not, for that matter. Defend these decisions or reveal the internal debate about how a story was handled via a blog.
Example: BBC's The Editors
(14) Provide case studies for issues of public interest
How can a news organization provide a case study about an issue that it covers? By using a blog.
Example: Men's Health's The Bret Baier Project tracks how a Fox News correspondent sheds some pounds
(15) Share what you're reading
What are newsroom staffers reading? Perhaps the public would like to read these items as well.
Example: The American's Marketplace of Ideas
(16) Publish content that didn't make it on air or in print
If your organization gathered and prepared content that wasn't released, why not post it to a blog if it is otherwise fine? The investment was already made.

The Dark Side of Hippos

Please click here to comment
FIVE, Friday, 8 - 9pm
0.9 million, 3.7% Audience Share

From the Radiotimes: Documentary about the creatures usually seen as fat, jolly vegetarians but which in truth are actually far from it. They are responsible for killing more people in Africa than any other animal. This documentary reveals the truth about these aggressive, bad-tempered beasts.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Animal Attraction: Ultimate Seducers

Please click here to comment
Five, Thurs 15th March, 7:15pm
0.3 million, 1.6 % Audience Share

RadioTimes: The final programme in Five's Animal Attraction series, this week looks at the art of seduction. Sound, smell, colours and visual displays are all used in the animal kingdom to advertise fitness and willingness to procreate ? and only the best contenders will be chosen.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Fallout from: 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'

Please click here to comment
I don't usually post articles like this to Naturwatch but I thought the fallout was of such huge scientific and political significance that a compilation of some of information and articles needed to be available somewhere. This information recently fell into my personal inbox. So if you are confused or angered by Channel 4's recent 'The Great Global Warming Swindle', here is the fallout circulating the environmental newsgroups, and discussion groups ...

The Scientists Are The Bad Guys
On March 8, Channel 4 screened The Great Global Warming Swindle, a documentary that branded as a lie the scientific consensus that man-made greenhouse gasses are primarily responsible for climate change.

The film was advertised extensively on Channel 4 and repeatedly previewed and reviewed in newspapers. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker declared:

"Only very rarely can a TV documentary be seen as a pivotal moment in a major political debate, but such was Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle last Thursday. Never before has there been such a devastatingly authoritative account of how the hysteria over global warming has parted company with reality." (Booker, 'A turning point in climate change,' Sunday Telegraph, March 11, 2007):

"If you were worried about those snaps of polar bears clinging to melting ice-floes, sentenced to a slow death by global warming, you may now relax. They'll be fine. Channel 4 has paid in full for its recent misdemeanours by screening, last Thursday, the brilliant, devastating film The Great Global Warming Swindle." (Hitchens, 'Drugs?', Daily Mail, March 11, 2007)

Doubtless like many who saw the film, the Financial Times' reviewer was left bewildered:
"Not so long ago, the venerable David Attenborough on the Beeb was telling us that human-driven global warming was real and was coming for us. So that was settled. Now Channel 4, like a dissident schoolboy, is scoffing at the old boy's hobbyhorse and I don't know what to believe."('Slaughterhouse three,' Financial Times, March 10, 2007)

The film opened with scenes of wild weather and environmental disaster accompanied by dramatic captions: "THE ICE IS MELTING. THE SEA IS RISING. HURRICANES ARE BLOWING. AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT. "SCARED? DON'T BE. IT'S NOT TRUE."
This was immediately followed by a series of equally forthright talking heads:
"We can't say that CO2 will drive climate; it certainly never did in the past." "We imagine that we live in an age of reason. And the global warming alarm is dressed up as science. But it's not science; it's propaganda."And: "We're just being told lies; that's what it comes down to."
The commentary added to the sense of outrage: "You are being told lies."
This was indeed superficially impressive - when several experts make bold statements on the same theme we naturally assume they must be onto something - but alarm bells should already have been ringing. This, after all, was ostensibly a film about science - about evidence, arguments, research and debate. Why, then, the language of polemic and smear?
The remarkable answer is provided by the film's writer and director, Martin Durkin:
"I think it [the film] will go down in history as the first chapter in a new era of the relationship between scientists and society."

Legitimate scientists - people with qualifications - are the bad guys. It is a big story that is going to cause controversy.

"It's very rare that a film changes history, but I think this is a turning point and in five years the idea that the greenhouse effect is the main reason behind global warming will be seen as total bollocks." ("Global Warming Is Lies" Claims Documentary,' Life Style Extra, March 4, 2007)

Compare and contrast this with the aim as described in a letter sent by the makers of the film, Wag TV, to Professor Carl Wunsch, a leading expert on ocean circulation and climate who subsequently appeared in the film:
"The aim of the film is to examine critically the notion that recent global warming is primarily caused by industrial emissions of CO2. It explores the scientific evidence which jars with this hypothesis and explores alternative theories such as solar induced climate change. Given the seemingly inconclusive nature of the evidence, it examines the background to the apparent consensus on this issue, and highlights the dangers involved, especially to developing nations, of policies aimed at limiting industrial growth."
Wunsch comments:
"I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were
distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."
(Geoffrey Lean, 'Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4,'
The Independent, March 11, 2007)

We will hear more from Wunsch in what follows.

Deeply Deceptive
The film presented viewers with an apparently devastating refutation of the "theory of global warming". And these were not picky, esoteric criticisms. Durkin insisted that the world's climate scientists are guilty of the most fundamental error imaginable: increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the cause of higher temperature, as the experts claim. Quite the reverse: increasing atmospheric CO2 is itself the + result + of rising temperature.
As evidence for this contention, Durkin argued that global surface temperature dropped dramatically between 1945-1975, at a time when CO2 emissions were rapidly rising as a result of the postwar economic boom.

According to Durkin, if CO2 emissions were responsible for increasing temperature, then temperature should not have fallen between 1945-1975.

Clearly, then, some factor other than CO2 emissions must have caused the subsequent global temperature rise.

But Real Climate, an internet site run by climate scientists, such as NASA's Dr Gavin Schmidt and Dr William Connelley of the British Antarctic Survey, describes Durkin's discussion of the
1945-75 period as "deeply deceptive". (Real Climate, March 9, 2007)

In this section of the film, Durkin focused heavily on a graph depicting temperature changes. The graph, Real Climate comments, "looks rather odd and may have been carefully selected". It appears to show a dramatic cooling between the 1940s and 1970s. But try flipping between the film's version of the global temperature record and the temperature plot that normally appears in the scientific literature.

The supposed cooling looks rather less evident in this second graph.

Without knowing more details of how Durkin may have manipulated the data plotted in his graph, it is difficult to comment on the presentation.

What we can say is that Durkin's "four decades of cooling", implying a relentless temperature drop over 40 years, is not an accurate description of the trend over this period. There was some cooling for +part+ of this time but also some plateauing, with fluctuations up and down.
But why did the temperature not simply rise in line with the post-war increase in greenhouse gas emissions?

In fact, as is well-known, the absence of a global rise in temperature between 1945-75 is explained by the release of large amounts of industrial pollutants, called sulphate aerosols, into the atmosphere. These particles have a braking effect on global warming, known as "global dimming". By shielding some of the incoming solar energy, sulphate aerosols mask the underlying warming effect generated by rising levels of CO2.

By the 1980s, however, stronger warming had exceeded this masking effect and global temperature has since continued to rise. As Real Climate notes, by failing to explain the science behind this phenomenon the programme makers were guilty of "lying to us by omission."

The Ice Cores
The film repeatedly gave the impression that mainstream science argues that CO2 is the +sole+ driver of rising temperatures in the Earth's climate system. But this is not the case. Climate scientists are well aware that solar activity plays a role, though a minor one at present, as do long-term periodic changes in the Earth's orbit, known as Milankovitch cycles. (See:

The point is that there is a vast body of evidence that very strongly supports the hypothesis that greenhouse gas emissions, of which CO2 is the most important, are primarily responsible for recent global warming.
The 4th and most recent scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes:
"Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [.i.e. probability greater than 90%] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."
('Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis,' Summary for Policymakers, IPCC, February 2007, page 10;

We then come to one of the film's most misleading arguments. Antarctic ice cores show that rises in levels of CO2 have lagged 800 years behind temperature rises at specific times in the geological past. This, argued Durkin, proves that CO2 cannot be responsible for global warming - instead global warming is responsible for increasing levels of CO2. But this was a huge howler.
What Durkin's film failed to explain was that the 800-year lag happened at the end of ice ages which occur about every 100,000 years. (See:

Scientists believe that the end of an ice age is likely triggered when the amount of heat reaching the Earth rises as a result of a periodic change in the Earth's orbit around the sun. Jeff Severinghaus, Professor of Geosciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explains why the rise in CO2 initially lags behind the temperature rise:
"The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend."
(Real Climate, 'What does the lag of CO2 behind
temperature in ice cores tell us about global warming?', December 3, 2005)

The best current explanation for the lag of 800 years is that this is how long it takes for CO2, absorbed by the ocean in an earlier warm period, to be "flushed out" at the end of an ice age.
Once that CO2 has been released into the atmosphere its heat-trapping properties as a greenhouse gas lead to even stronger warming: an example of positive feedback.
(See Caillon et al., 'Timing of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature Changes Across Termination III,' Science, 14 March 2003: Vol. 299. no. 5613, pp. 1728 - 1731)

Professor Severinghaus summarises:
"In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway."
Durkin's analysis, then, was way off the mark.
The film's claim that solar activity might account for recent warming is also without credibility. In September 2006, the Times reported the latest findings from researchers writing in the top journal, Nature:
"Scientists have examined various proxies of solar energy output over the past 1,000 years and have found no evidence that they are correlated with today's rising temperatures. Satellite observations over the past 30 years have also turned up nothing. 'The solar contribution to warming... is negligible,' the researchers wrote in the journal Nature."
(Anjana Ahuja, 'It's hot, but don't blame the Sun,' The Times, September 25, 2006)

The film's other scientific claims can be similarly dismissed. Carl Wunsch - who, as discussed, appeared in the film - comments:
"What we now have is an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance or explanation of why many of the extended inferences drawn in the film are not widely accepted by the scientific community. There are so many examples, it's hard to know where to begin, so I will cite only one: a speaker asserts, as is true, that carbon dioxide is only a small fraction of the atmospheric mass. The viewer is left to infer that means it couldn't really matter. But even a beginning meteorology student could tell you that the relative masses of gases are irrelevant to their effects on radiative balance. A director not intending to produce pure propaganda would have tried to eliminate that piece of disinformation."
Further info
For further help in understanding the weakness of the film's claims, see the following resources:

Royal Society: Facts and fictions about climate change:

"I Was Duped" - Déjà Vu?
Many readers will be aware that Durkin has previous 'form'. In 1997, Channel 4 broadcast his three-part series, Against Nature, which suggested present-day environmentalists were the true heirs of the Nazis. (See George Monbiot, 'The Revolution Has Been Televised,'
The Guardian, December 18, 1997;

Several interviewees who appeared in the film felt they had been misled about the programme-maker's agenda. Responding to complaints, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) found that the editing of interviews with four contributors had "distorted or misrepresented their known views". (Geoffrey Lean, 'Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4,'
The Independent, March 11, 2007;

In addition, the ITC found: "The interviewees had also been misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part." (Paul McCann, 'Channel 4 told to apologise to Greens,' The Independent, April 2, 1998)
Ten years on, it appears that history may have repeated itself. In his letter of complaint to the film-makers cited above, Carl Wunsch writes:
"I have some experience in dealing with TV and print reporters and do understand something of the ways in which one can be misquoted, quoted out of context, or otherwise misinterpreted. Some of that is inevitable in the press of time or space or in discussions of complicated issues.
Never before, however, have I had an experience like this one. My appearance in the 'Global Warming Swindle' is deeply embarrassing, and my professional reputation has been damaged. I was duped---an uncomfortable position in which to be.

"At a minimum, I ask that the film should never be seen again publicly with my participation included. Channel 4 surely owes an apology to its viewers, and perhaps WAGTV owes something to Channel 4. I will be taking advice as to whether I should proceed to make some more formal protest." (

Eight of the scientists in the film - John Christy, Paul Reiter, Richard Lindzen, Paul Driessen, Roy Spencer, Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer and Tim Ball - are linked to American neo-conservative and right-wing think-tanks, many of which have received tens of millions of dollars from Exxon.

Horizon: My Pet Dinosaur

Please click here to comment
9pm Tues 14th March, BBC 2, 1.3 million, 5.3% audience Share

From BBC Website:
It's a palaeontologist's dream: the chance to live in a world where dinosaurs are not something to be dug out of the ground but are living among us. It may sound far-fetched but dinosaurs were actually rather unlucky. The meteorite impact that doomed them to extinction was an event with a probability of millions to one. What if the meteorite had missed?

Had dinosaurs survived, the world today would be very different. If humans managed to survive alongside them, we wouldn't have the company of most, if not all, of the mammals with which we are familiar today. Giraffes, elephants and other mammals wouldn't have had space to evolve.

Would we be hunting Hadrosaurs instead of elk? Or farming Protoceratops instead of pigs? Would dinosaurs be kept as pets? And could the brighter dinosaurs have evolved into something humanoid?

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The Trees That Made Britain

Please click here to comment
BBC 2, Monday 12th March, 7pm,
2.1 million, 9.8% Audience Share

RadioTimes: 2/8 - OakDocumentary series in which tree surgeon Jon Hammerton and Kew's arboretum manager Tony Kirkham examine how trees have always been at the heart of Britain's political, artistic and economic life. They go in search of the oak's finest achievements - from the first transport, as they tackle the vagaries of a Bronze Age boat, to the triumphant Tudor flagship the Mary Rose.

Lemur Island

Please click here to comment
Wednesday 7th March, Channel 5, 7:15pm - 8:00 pm
307,000, 1.75% Audience Share

Radio Times
Lemurs are a rum bunch. While other species can be defined by a recognisable personality (the cheeky monkey, the apathetic sloth, the dyspeptic gnu etc), the lemur is a bag of behavioural ticks. As this charming new ten-part series makes clear, there's no such thing as the average lemur. There are shy ones, aggressive ones, gleeful ones and ones that think nothing of tucking into an abandoned straw hat. Others are so supercilious you wouldn't be surprised to find them in a gentlemen's club, lamenting the lost Empire with a retired colonel from Oxfordshire. In this delightfully sweet-natured opener, we follow rival groups of these small, hairy eccentrics as they go about their small, hairy, eccentric lives on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. RT reviewer - Sarah Dempster

Born Survivor: Bear Grylls

Please click here to comment
Saturday 3rd March, 7:00pm - 8:00pm Channel 4,
1.4 million viewers, 6.6%Audience Share
1/8 - Costa Rica

Bear Grylls is a man on a mission. "I AM GOING," thunders the curiously named explorer, sitting in a helicopter above some trees in Costa Rica, "TO SHOW YOU THE SKILLS YOU NEED TO SURVIVE HERE." It's a generous offer, even if the chances of ever finding ourselves stranded in some remote Central American rainforest - thus needing to know how to use a tropical vine to abseil down a waterfall - are roughly equal to those of finding a unicorn in the pocket of one's pyjamas. Still, Grylls's enthusiasm is infectious, and soon the former special forces soldier is hacking his way through foliage, wriggling up trees and throwing up outside his self-made "leaf tent" after catching a tummy bug. It's an exhilarating trek - the first of an eight-part series - that will have you cheering his every wheeze.

RT reviewer - Sarah Dempster

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Famous Robots & Androids Picture Quiz

Please click here to comment
Answers: 1. Iron Giant from the Iron Giant, 2. Data from Star Trek, 3. Rosie from the Jetsons, 4. T-800 from The Terminator, 5. Bender from Futurama, 6. Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, 7. Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchikers, 8. Twiki from Buck Rogers, 9. Cybermen from Dr Who, 10. ED-209 from Robocop

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The Trees That Made Britain

Please click here to comment
Monday 5th March, BBC 2, 7:00pm - 7:30pm
2 million, 9.3% Audience Share

RadioTimes: 1/8 Documentary series in which tree surgeon Jon Hammerton and Kew's arboretum manager Tony Kirkham examine how trees have always been at the heart of Britain's political, artistic and economic life - building the weapons of war, the altars of sacrifice and the instruments of peace, and fuelling the industrial revolution. Here, they explore the yew, discovering why it is associated with churchyards, and find out how the tree was responsible for one of the biggest power shifts in British history.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Triassic Desert to Jurassic Ocean - Aust & Hock Cliffs

Please click here to comment
I had planned to head out to collect some fossils one day this weekend, unfortunately I chose the worst day for weather - it was all nice and sunny yesterday - today it was nothing but drizzle. But that doesn't stop a hardy palaeontologist on a mission to find some petrified treasure, so with my trusty side-kick Amanda we headed out for a Liassic adventure...

Aust Cliffs

These famous Red and White cliffs are one of several geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the area. They sit just under the old Severn bridge, near the village of Aust in Avon (grid reference ST565894). You can park within 5 minutes of the site.

These cliffs were designated as a SSSI mainly due to a highly productive bone bearing bed at the very top which has been known to yield teeth, reptile, fish and dinosaur remains dating back to the Rhaetian about 206-210 Million Years ago. I can't say that I've found much more that gryphea, nether-the-less it makes for an interesting walk.

Carboniferous Shallow Marine

At low tide you can see that the Severn bridge is built upon carboniferous limestones. These date back to about 300 million years ago and formed in a shallow marine environment. The rocks of Aust cliffs are much younger and show that almost 100 million years of geology is absent - either because the sea levels dropped and this area became terrestrial, therefore little deposition. Or marine conditions continued for a period but a transition to a terrestrial landscape resulted in the intermittent rock being eroded.

Triassic Terrestrial Desert

The cliffs represent a period of time when the climate in Britain was a very dry and terrestrial desert. The red rocks, which comprise most of the cliff, are believed to have been formed in a shallow lake which frequently evaporated leaving behind a high concentration of minerals such as Gypsum (see the photo of Amanda by lumps of this mineral at the base of the cliff).

Image: Amanda Kear by the bands of Gypsum, formed due to periodic evaporation of a shallow desert lake.

Transition back to Marine

The oysters (Gryphea) come from the light gray marls (soft limestone) which form the beds at the top of the cliff. These represent a transition back to a marine environment about 210 million years ago. We are now starting to move into the Lower Jurassic and into the same beds of rock that can be traced all the way across southern Britain to my favourite exposure on the south coast. And indeed, the fossils we find here are identical to the ones you can find at Lyme Regis.

Image: A block crammed with gryphea from the marine beds at the top of Aust Cliffs.

The Hock

After a quick stop off at the Boars Head for a pub lunch, we headed further up the estuary and up through geological time to Hock Cliff at Frethern. This can be reached via the B4071, a turning off the A38 close to J13 of the M5. You can park near Frethern church and take the footpath to the estuary just past the church.

Lower Jurassic

Dating to the lower Jurassic these low river cliffs, are made of soft muds and beds of marly limestone. It gets very muddy so don't forget your wellies. The beach is a mixture of sticky clay and limestone blocks fallen from the cliff above and it is amongst these blocks that you can find a rich hoard of fossils. The fossils are much harder than the soft muds in which they sit, so as the muds are eroded and washed away these fossils become accumulated on the shore front.

Image: The shorefont at Hock Cliffs. Fossils abound amongst the mud and broken blocks of marl.

Like at Aust, the most common fossil is Gryphaea (devils toenail) but we also found lots of Pyritised ammonites (Iron Ammonites) and crinoid stems. Unfortunately most of the ammonites are fragmented, and some are over-pyritised becoming nothing more than blobs of iron. If you take your time you can find some lovely specimens comparable to the beauties we find at Charmouth. All the crinoids I found were "pentacrinites", the star shaped crinoids, the same species we find at Lyme Regis. These are often seen scattered in the rocks as little stars, but occassionally you can find whole columns of them still stacked together.

It may have been drizzly, wet and muddy, but I prefer to think of the day as a journey across 100 million years of geological history, through deserts and over shallow tropical marine seas.

I look forward to where the next adventure will take me....

- Paul Williams (The Iron Ammonite)

Friday, 2 March 2007

Adisa Ghana Expedition - Following the Slave Trail

Please click here to comment
I was very lucky to be asked by Bristol Museum to join this expedition as official photographer and cameraman, to document the adventures of 8 teenagers as they explored their African heritage and the slave trade. Travelling all around Ghana from the lush forests in the south to the dusty desert in the north we were Greeted by Chiefs, Kings, School Children and religious leaders - this was certainly the most eye opening adventure I have ever undertaken. The vibrant colours and rich smells that filled the market places, the incredible energy and diversity of culture, dance and music, and the majestic landscapes are something that I will always remember.

One thing that struck me was how happy people were, even in the remotest of villages where water was scarce. As we drove through villages heads would turn in astonishment, and when we stopped hundreds of children would run from all directions eager to have their photographs taken.

Image: Being greeted by the chief of Adanwomase, the town famous for its Kente Cloth.

Never before have I felt such a minority, and as the only white person on the expedition I surely stood out in the small mud-hut towns we visited. Nether-the-less the 8 young people on the expedition really embraced me as part of the group and allowed me to share the emotional highs and lows of this journey of discovery. Visiting the actual sites where millions of black people were enslaved, captured, tortured, left to die or sold.

In this 200th anniversary since the abolition of the slave trade I feel privileged and humbled to have been allowed to visit these sites; the prisons, slave markets, cemeteries, rivers and museums. More importantly I am pleased that I had the opportunity to learn, to remember those who died, to be thankful that most of the modern world today accepts and embraces diversity.
Image: Local children in Salaga, a town where many slaves where captured. This tree marks the site of the "Slave Cemetery" where thousands of slaves who were too weak or ill were left to die.

I took almost 3000 photographs and 19 hours of fim. This will be added to the Museum of Bristols ethnography collections and used in exhibitions to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade. All copyright is owned by the Museum.

This is one of the films I produced for the exhibition about the expedition.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Nature's Calendar

Please click here to comment
Tues 6pm-6:30pm
1.8 million, 9.7% Audience Share

Spring: Moorland and HeathsChris Packham and his team continue their guide to the best places to see wildlife in spring. From the wacky courtship rituals of stone curlew and black grouse to carpets of wild daffodils, this is the time of year to get out walking across our moors and heaths.

Nation on Film: Kearton's Wildlife

Please click here to comment
BBC 2, 7:30-8pm (26/2/07)
1.9 million, 8.2% Audience Share

RadioTimes: David Jason tells the story of how a farmer's son from Yorkshire became a pioneer of wildlife film-making and star of the silver screen. Cherry Kearton travelled the world from the 1920s in order to capture images cinema audiences had not seen before. Using his own remarkable footage, this documentary explores the work of Britain's first wildlife presenter and film-maker.