The quest for limestone in colonial New South Wales, 1788–1825
W. Mayer, 2007. "The quest for limestone in colonial New South Wales, 1788–1825", Four Centuries of Geological Travel: The Search for Knowledge on Foot, Bicycle, Sledge and Camel, P. N. Wyse Jackson
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In the absence of people with scientific qualifications in the newly established colony of New South Wales, Australia, the search for essential commodities, such as limestone, became the task of a few educated laymen, which included military officers and surgeons. The first discovery of calcareous rocks was made in the colony's outpost at Norfolk Island, which was a boon to that settlement but of limited benefit to the larger establishment at Sydney. For many years the major supply of lime for building came from shells collected from beaches and Aboriginal middens. Attempts to cross the Blue Mountains, long unsuccessful, succeeded in 1813 and led to the discovery of significant deposits of limestone. They provided lime for the needs of inland towns but did not supply Sydney until after the introduction of improved quarrying methods, lime manufacture, and building of roads. The first geological observations in New South Wales were made by people with no formal knowledge of geology, who were motivated by the necessity to find basic materials essential to the success of their settlement. Their efforts provided a crude inventory of rock types, which was improved by contributions from occasional visitors with a scientific background.
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In the last four centuries geologists have traversed the globe, searching for economically important materials or simply to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Geologists have often been at the vanguard of scientific exploration.
The microscopist Robert Hooke explored the Isle of Wight, and Charles Darwin the Cape Verde islands and parts of South America. The volcanic wonders of Italy and central France attracted native and foreign visitors including Lyell and Murchison. The Tyrrell brothers faced great hardship in northern Canada, as did the actor and mineralogist Charles Lewis Giesecke in Greenland. The development of Sydney, Australia depended on finding limestone for building. French geologists relied on camels in the Sahara, and Grenville Cole trusted his tricycle to carry him across Europe.
Four Centuries of Geological Travel: The Search for Knowledge on Foot, Bicycle, Sledge and Camel focuses on the complexities of geological exploration and will be of particular interest to Earth scientists, historians of science and to the general reader interested in science.