A day with the British Geological Survey

DateNov 4, 2019
AuthorDaniel Riva
Categories

This year I was lucky enough to book myself in with a visit to the British Geological Survey (BGS) for my Customer Day. Going in I hadn’t heard much about BGS beyond the data they supplied to Groundsure, but this was soon to change.

Our first stop was the main reception where we met Gerry, our guide for the day. She promptly introduced us to a fun, topography simulator, which had been assembled out of a sandpit, Xbox Kinect and a projector. This clever bit of kit could detect changes in the height of the sand pit and give a real-time projection of a topographical map, including simulated waterflow.

Next up we were shown the first geological map to ever be produced. Standing 2.6m tall and with a width of 1.8m, the William Smith map was first completed in 1815. This map helped fuel the industrial revolution by identifying the natural resources buried under England, Wales and part of Scotland, to a degree of accuracy that still holds up today.

Our morning’s talks started with Russel, a man who if you were to describe as having a passion for geology you would certainly be making an understatement. Russel began by leading us down a winding path of information. Our brief talk touched on topics of geology, history, politics, economics, biology and physics. This was followed by Luke who showed us a brand-new data set which used satellite data to give an up-to-date feed on ground shrink and swell. The level of accuracy involved in this was truly incredible and will enable BGS to improve their understanding and representation of subsidence data.

After lunch we were taken to the Core Store, a huge warehouse, stacked from ground to ceiling with boxes that felt reminiscent of the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Arc of the Covenant. This facility is the largest of its kind in the UK, containing over 10,000 tonnes of drill-core samples, and it’s still growing.

The afternoon’s talks kicked off with us learning about the Bootcamp process with Katy. This was sort of a democratic Dragons Den where problems were identified by members of staff before being matched up with a dataset and package that would best suit them. This stuck out to me, because it felt like an innovative solution to a workplace problem that didn’t require any additional resources. Lastly, we met Rachel, who informed us of the type of queries dealt with by the BGS. These ranged from enquiries about the potential impact of subsidence on people's houses, the significance of radon in the home, a locations suitability for water extraction, whether a rock might be from a meteorite and even to occasional questions about whether the world is actually round!

All in all, our trip to BGS was a great experience and worth the 5 a.m. wake up.

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