Overseas Field Meetings

The Geologists’ Association organizes a number of overseas field meetings.

To download the latest GA Circular with details of forthcoming field trips and diary events of our local and affiliated geological societies, please click here.

If you would like further information on any of the events below, please contact Sarah Stafford at the GA Office on 020 7434 9298 or by e-mail at: fieldmeetings@geologistsassociation.org.uk.


Leader: Dr Paul Olver
29 March - 12 April 2017

Led by Dr Paul Olver, we will visit some major volcanic sites of Italy. Highlights include the two active volcanoes located in the Bay of Naples: Mount Vesuvius and the lesser known crater of Solfatara. In Sicily and the surrounding area, we visit Mount Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano Island to complete a tour of the five volcanoes. Additional highlights include the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the volcanic Phlegrean Fields and the Greek theatre at Taormina.

Cost: £2175.

Click here to download further details and a full itinerary


Leaders: Ian Sutton and Susan Miles
This will be tour of approximately three weeks in late June – early July 2017.

The tour will start in San Francisco. The route will take us across California from the Coast Ranges to the Central Valley, passing close to the northern boundary of the Sierra Mountains before reaching and crossing some of the expanse of the Basin and Range Province where, near Salt Lake City one of the largest saline lakes of this structural province will be seen.

From Salt Lake City we will travel north to Jackson Hole and visit the fabulous Teton Mountains before spending three days in Yellowstone Park, one of the world’s most spectacular areas of geothermal activity. Heading further to the north we will have an opportunity to view the special scenic and geological delights of Glacier/Waterton National park before heading west across the huge Columbia basalt plateau where we will be able to inspect some of the evidence for the enormous ice age “Missoula Floods”.

Having crossed the Columbia Plateau the ranges of the High Cascades will be reached. A huge variety of superb volcanic features will be encountered as well as the iconic central volcanoes which will include Mt. Rainier. Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, Mt. Shasta and many others.

On our return to San Francisco aspects of the San Andreas Fault and rocks of the Coast Ranges will be the last of our geological delights before returning to the UK.

As well as the huge variety of geological features the quite splendid flora which should be at their best in the alpine meadows we cross and the varied fauna, should add a great deal to the pleasure of our tour.

Transport in the USA will be by tour bus. Accommodation in good quality hotels. Cost approximately £3,200 which will include flights, travel in the USA and entrances to National Parks. Most hotels provide complimentary breakfasts, otherwise food costs are not included.

Please register your interest with the GA office.

Late Cenozoic evolution of the Yellow River and its environs - China
September 2017

Expressions of interest are requested to d.r.bridgland@durham.ac.uk

A detailed overview can be downloaded here.

Meeting Organisers/Leaders/advisors:
Hu Zhenbo, Wang Xianyan, Pan Boatian, David Bridgland, Jef Vandenberghe

Meeting Theme: Late Cenozoic evolution of the Yellow River and its environs.

Meeting Format: Combined (1 day conference plus a seven-day field excursion)

Proposed Meeting Dates:
second week of September 2017 (start ~10/9/17)

Meeting Location:
Lanzhou University and a ‘travelling field-excursion upstream and downstream in the Yellow River

Estimated numbers: 20–30, including Chinese

Likely cost per head: Flights to/from China (Lanzhou) + £800.00, including all meals, transport and accommodation. Breakdown: conference meals - £100; conference accommodation - £200; field trip travel - £150; field trip meals - £100; field trip accommodation - £250

Accommodation arrangements:
University hotel in Lanzhou; suitable hotels in various places on field trip

Timings and deadlines:
Preliminary registration December 1st 2016; Final registration: May 1st 2017
Payment and abstract submission: June 1st 2017

The meeting will comprise one day of lectures at Lanzhou University, plus a week’s excursion (by minibus) on the theme of the Late Cenozoic evolution of the Upper–Middle reaches of the Yellow River, including the fluvial sequence, the loess of the region through which the river flows, Miocene–Quaternary lacustrine environments at Lake Qinghai (the largest inland lake in China) on the Tibetan Plateau and the relation of this (and related lakes) to the evolution of the fluvial system, as well as glacial evidence in the upper reaches of the system on the Tibetan Plateau. There is ample scope for visits to cultural sites, including preserved water wheels along the Yellow River and a fine geological and cultural heritage museum in Lanzhou and the Taer Monastery and temples, ~25 km from Xining.

Lanzhou, the capital and largest city of Gansu Province (NW China), is situated in the upper reaches of the Yellow River (as well as on the old 'Silk Road' connecting China to Central Asia, Mongolia and the Middle East). The city is located at the western margin of the Chinese Loess Plateau. The Mongolian Plateau is to the north and Gobi-sand desert field to the northwest, while the Tibetan Plateau lies to the west and south. The area around the city has the thickest aeolian loess accumulation (>300 m thick) and the oldest aeolian dust (older than 21 Ma) in the world. There are sections in river terraces in the vicinity of Lanzhou, overlain by huge thicknesses of loess, with multiple palaeosols. A further highlight on the excursion will be Jingtai Yellow River Stone Forest National Geopark, located 160 km downstream from Lanzhou city. The geoheritage interests here are largely geomorphological, although the bedrock in which the landforms are sculpted plays a prominent role: late Cenozoic fluvial sandstone and conglomerate, many tens of metres thick, emplaced in a subsiding fault-bounded basin before incision of the landscape by the Yellow River began. There is thus a clear link with the evolution of the Yellow River system, with this ‘basin inversion’ probably occurring in the late Early Pleistocene (a theme resonant with that concerning the Tibetan Plateau basins). The Yellow River has formed a curving cliff in the edge of the basin fill sediments, its course following the northern bounding fault. An impressive meandering gorge, ‘Yinma Great Gorge’, has been formed where a left-bank tributary has kept pace with the incision by the Yellow River, but it is the myriad of tributaries of this gorge, highly sinuous and steeply incised, that define the pinnacles (hoodoos) of the ‘stone forest’.

Summer is the monsoonal rainfall season, although the annual precipitation is only ~400 mm. The summer temperature is around 25 °C. Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport (LHW) is located about 70 km (45 miles) from the city centre. About 30 airlines connect Lanzhou to more than 20 major cities in China (see map). It takes roughly an hour from the airport to Lanzhou University by the airport shuttle bus ($5 @ 30 RMB per person). The cost for a taxi is about £3.50 (@160 RMB).

Proposed field trip itinerary
Day 1 – early fast train to Xining; Visit to high terrace site with views across the valley. Pre-incision high-level gravels unrelated to modern drainage and possibly older than Tibetan Plateau uplift. Discussion of pre-Quaternary evolution of the landscape. Visit to Pingan sections in ?alluvial fan deposits beyond mouth of Xiakou Gorge. Discussion of origin of sediments, alluvial fan generation and relation to valley evolution. Possible visit to low terrace site (dependant on building progress).

PM visit to Taer Monastery and temples. Overnight at Xining

Day 2 – Early departure for Qinghai Lake via the Huang Shui valley and possible former lake outlet; viewing of lake-side dunes, fluvial inflow sediments and across the corner of the lake. Discussion of age and former size of lake (Gonghe–Gui De–Qinghai palaeo-lake; palaeoclimate evidence at various timescales (Miocene to post-LGM) and relation to fluvial evolution.

Travel through the Qinghai Nan Shan mountains into the Duolong valley (tributary of the Yellow River) with glacial sediments and landforms. Discussion of age and affinities in connection with ideas of a Tibetan Plateau ice sheet; also glacial outwash feeding into the Yellow River system.

Views of the Gonghe basin fill, with later terraces, and the Longyang Gorge, formed since 150 ka (according to cosmogenic isotope dating) through granitic (Mesozoic granodiorite) bedrock separating the Gonghe and Guide basins. Discussion of dating and basin/fluvial evolution, including knickpoints.
Drive to accommodation at Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture through classic Badlands scenery eroded into the soft Gonghe basin-fill sediments.

Day 3 – Terraces of the Yellow River above Longyangxia Reservoir, based on mapping and dating by Perrineau et al. (2011) and ongoing work by the Lanzhou team. A staircase of at least eleven (four more than were numbered by Perrineau et al.) terrace gravels are well exposed in road cuts and quarries, cut into Gonghe Basin infill sediments and with minimal (if any) aeolian overburden. The gravels are well bedded, with sand incursions and a characteristic quartzose–crystalline (dominantly granitic) lithological suite, also with sandstones, fossiliferous limestones and porphyries. The Perrineau et al. dating suggests that the entire sequence has formed since 250 ka. Discussion of terrace formation mechanisms and ages; also basin inversion.

Travel to Gui De Basin via section in Daotang River deposits (direction reversal from east to west; opposite to present). Stop opposite Gui De power station to look at terrace staircase. Travel to right-bank high-point to view valley upstream, terrace staircases and severe gulley erosion. Discussion of terrace staircase age and formation; also rapidity of erosion and relation to uplift. Overnight at Gui De.

Day 4 – Travel downstream via Gui De geopark and Songba Gorge. Discussion of geoheritage, geological evolution of basin systems and fluvial incision of inter-basin gorges. Drive over mountains to the lower end of Lijia Reservoir, downstream of the Songba Gorge. Terrace staircase of Yellow River with high-level thick gravel and evidence for incision in parallel with gorge formation. Discussion of terrace formation and ages; also distinction between terrace and basin-fill sediments.

Visit viewpoints above the reservoir, showing relation between basement, basin deposits and the fluvial sequence and landforms. Discussion of these relationships. Drive to Pingan town for accommodation.

Day 5 – Sites in the Huang Shui valley downstream toward the confluence with the Yellow River. Sites near Ledu (thick gravel in an active quarry) and two at Minhe (thick gravel in a road cut and a fault and terrace gravels by the river near a railway bridge - can be viewed from the road bridge). Discussion of sediment origins and environments of deposition.

Terrace gravel with ?palaeosol and overbank deposits at Xinzhuang villey and a visit to the Yellow River - Huang Shui confluence, with terraces of both rivers visible and sediments accessible, above basin-fill red clays. Finally, if time permits, a visit to a fault within folded basement sandstones at Hekou, overlain by Yellow River terrace sediments. Further discussion of sediment origins and environments of deposition; also of basin formation and relation to tectonic history.

Day 6 – Yellow River terraces and loess cover around Lanzhou. Gravels beneath very thick loess, often picked out by quarrying in ‘adit’ caves for stones to cover fields; also highest-level sites with good landscape views. Discussion of terrace and loess deposition and ages; also landscape evolution and formation of the Yellow River valley.

Day 7 – Excursion to ‘Stone Forest’ geopark (Yellow River valley downstream of Lanzhou, at Jintai). Geoheritage site with various interests (see article in Earth Heritage No. 45, 28–9: www.earthheritage.org.uk). Classic Badlands landforms developed in basin-fill sediments that pre-date incision of this valley reach by the Yellow River. Incised meandering gorge of a Yellow River tributary, the ‘Yinma Great Gorge’, which as kept pace with the down-cutting by the main river. Discussion of relevance to the evolution of the Yellow River, especially in comparison with the upstream areas visited; also discussion of geoheritage management and public consumption and recreation use.

Optional additional excursion
(to leave from Lanzhou after main meeting ends):

3-day trip to the upland Danxia landscape and present-day glaciers at Zhangye. This stand-alone extra trip would use the fast train from Lanzhou. This potential cost is about £300 (travel, food and accommodation included).