09 September 2015

Introductions: Meet Basil.

Basil lives on our front step, he's out in all weathers, he doesn't mind if it's hot, if it's cold, wet, dry or snowy, but he's not too keen on icy conditions - he slithers about a bit or sometimes gets stuck to the stone step.
He doesn't cost anything to feed. Doesn't require any specialist bedding, no toys and he's been the easiest pet to train. Although he's not the cuddliest.


Yes, this is Basil.






As you can see he's our pet rock!  The best pet to have if you're out all day, don't have time to dedicate to training or simply can't afford an animal.

Today is Pet Rock Day. 


And no I haven't just plonked a chunk of stone on the doorstep to write a silly blog post about*.  Basil has a history, a very long history.  He's lived with us for over 15 years now.
In those days I ran an environmental education company called HareBrained, one of the activities offered was fossil hunting and that how Basil found us.  One soggy day in early September a coachload of primary aged children spent the morning dashing about the beach picking up seemingly random rocks and demanding to know if it was a fossil, two little 'orrors lugged Basil over and very nearly dropped him on my foot but I managed to yank it out of the way before he hit the sand. He does have very unusual markings but as soon as I explained those lines didn't mean fossil they lost all interest and left him leaning against a groyne.  We carried on searching through the morning and the kids went home with a sizeable haul of fossils and fair amount of sand.  The bus disappeared back to Whitby, I took the dog out of the car for some exercise whilst I munched my lunch before the next lot arrived; we both turned to retrieve this most unusual chunk of rock but the tide was on it's way in!  Basil was now submerged!! Juno didn't mind getting wet but I wasn't quite so happy about it, never mind I wanted another look.  Now the stone was wet it was obvious that it was igneous and the hexagonal crystalline structure says it's a chunk of basalt. North Yorkshire's native rocks are mostly sedimentary sand and siltstone and our igneous intrusions are more of a whinstone type. 
So how did a chunk of basalt end up here?
This is where it gets interesting. The Esk Valley was shaped by glaciation, at the end of the last ice age several glaciers met and melted creating a huge periglaciation lake and they all dropped their load of ground up stone often carried a long way.  Around the area there are lots of erratics scattered across the landscape, the Bridestones at High Dalby are one the best known. From the colour, size and shape of Basil he's from Fingal's Cave, the Hebridean end of the Giant's Causeway and was carried all the way from Mull in the last big ice age in the glacier which reached the Esk Valley and then melted leaving Basil to meander around the Whitby area for thousands of years until he found us and moved onto our step! He'll be here on after we're not.

*And just in case you think I've totally lost my marbles (metamorphic rock ones of course), please think about Gary Dahl who became a million by selling pet Rocks - yes really, read more about him on wikipedia and in his obituary and for a good giggle read his manual of instructions that came with every pet rock adopted