Jamaican Rock Stars, 1823–1971: The Geologists Who Explored Jamaica
Three points of view: Wendell P. Woodring (1891–1983), Charles A. Matley (1866–1947), Charles T. Trechmann (1884–1964), and Jamaican geology in the 1920s and 1930s
Published:April 01, 2010
Stephen K. Donovan, 2010. "Three points of view: Wendell P. Woodring (1891–1983), Charles A. Matley (1866–1947), Charles T. Trechmann (1884–1964), and Jamaican geology in the 1920s and 1930s", Jamaican Rock Stars, 1823–1971: The Geologists Who Explored Jamaica, Stephen K. Donovan, Lawrence J. Chubb, John B. Williams
Download citation file:
In contrast to the geological investigations of Jamaica during the nineteenth century, which were separated by periods of tens of years, three notable geologists, one American (Woodring) and two Englishmen, pursued different research programs on the island between the First and Second World Wars. Wendell Phillips Woodring wrote a comprehensive monograph of the benthic mollusks of the Bowden shell bed, describing ~610 species, in the process making it the most famous and well-researched stratigraphic unit on the island. Lyellian statistics indicated the Bowden shell bed was Miocene; modern biostratigraphy shows it to be Upper Pliocene; but Woodring did not visit Bowden until 1952.
Charles Alfred Matley was a career civil servant and skilled amateur geologist who recognized the significance of the Mona Complex (deformed basement) in northwest Wales. On retirement, he was appointed to lead the second geological survey of Jamaica (1921–1924). Matley published a new map and posthumous memoir on the geology of the Kingston region. He also identified what he thought was a Basal Complex under Jamaica, analogous to the Mona Complex, and suggested that the Antil-lean islands were deposited on an ancient continental basement. This was contested by the wealthy and eccentric amateur Charles Taylor Trechmann. A paleontologist with wide experience of island geology, Trechmann disagreed with Matley's evidence for a pre-Cretaceous basement to Jamaica and formulated his own Theory of Mountain Uplift, involving lunar attraction, gravity tectonics, and metamorphic changes at shallow crustal depths under the influence of sea water. Neither theory engendered more than very limited interest, and both are now considered erroneous and based on the preconceptions of their respective authors.