Flat Stanley Explores Cornish Geology


Two very significant areas for both the amateur and keen geologist must surely be the tilted rock strata of the north Cornish cliffs between Millook Haven and Woolacombe in Devon.  The other has to be the metamorphic thrust zone of the Lizard Peninsula.  An area of varied geology and landscape has essentially been formed by the collision of two tectonic plates.


The coastal section through north Cornwall into Devon that runs to Bude and Hartland Point contains a spectacularly folded series of inter-bedded sandstones and shales originally deposited deeply under water.

Millook Haven

The cliffs at Millook Haven are a great site for getting to grips with these deformed rocks.

The folds are recumbent and have a characteristic “chevron” kinky shape that tends to form when strongly layered rocks are buckled.

Millook 12Sept2015 (22) copyMillook 12Sept2015 (23)


Coverack 14May2011

The Moho is the boundary between the earths crust and the mantle; it usually lies at a depth of between 5 – 8Km beneath the oceans and 25 – 60Km beneath the continents. The Coverack area provides a rare opportunity to examine a geological section showing a transition from the mantle to the crust which, 380 million years ago was 5Km (3 miles) below the surface.

Coverack 14May2011 (6)Coverack 14May2011 (5)_edited-1 flat stanley
















At Coverack (pronounced Cover-ack) you will be able to see this boundary layer, which, was once about 5Km beneath the ocean floor, and is now exposed at the surface and laid flat.  Progressing from South to North along the Moho you will be effectively travelling up through the earth’s interior.

Coverack 14May2011 (1) Coverack 14May2011 (2) Coverack 14May2011 (3)
Coverack 14May2011 (4)



















Coverack 14May2011 (8)

Starting at the South end of the beach, near the harbour, you will find serpentine rock from the upper mantle; continuing along the Moho, you will enter into the transition zone, characterised by the intermingling of serpentine and gabbro and the intrusion of basalt. In addition, there is a rare, highly coloured red and white rock known as troctolite present here. Proceeding further north you finally enter the area of gabbro marking the start of the oceanic crust.

It is not necessary to be on the beach to view the Moho you can stay on the footpath above the sea wall.




Flat Stanley Visits Delabole Slate

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Delabole Slate has been used as a building material for some 800 years, and has been quarried continuously since the early 17th century, when Carew in his survey of Cornwall wrote “in substance thin, in colour fair, in lasting long and generally carrieth good regard”.

The quarry is 425 feet deep and more than a mile and a half in circumference, and provides a quality of slate that is exceptional.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, the five quarries that existed within the vicinity of the present pit assumed considerable importance, delivering slate “throughout the realm, and even exporting it by sea to Brittany and the Netherlands”.

In 1859, in Murrays Handbook of Devon and Cornwall, the author wrote “the quarries present one of the most astonishing and animated scenes imaginable”. About 1,000 men were employed at this time, raising an average of 120 tonnes of slate per day. Long before the coming of the railway, the slate was cut and hauled six miles to Port Gaverne where it would be loaded onto vessels moored in the harbour area. It would take thirty wagons, pulled by over a hundred horses to load a sixty ton ship and as late as 1890, women still assisted with the stowing of slates.

In 1841, the five quarries formed themselves into a single controlled unit, and the Old Delabole Slate Company was formed, becoming the present Limited liability company in 1898.

Today, by applying modern mining techniques and utilising only five skilled quarrymen, an average of 120 tonnes of slate block is still quarried each day. Using the latest diamond wire saws, 600 tonne blocks are sawn from the quarry face, eliminating the age-old method of blasting. Wire sawing improves recovery, thus preserving for future years valuable reserves of slate, and finally laying to rest the historic building of waste mountains.

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Flat Stanley will go on a tour of the quarry in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for his update and more pictures.

Flat Stanley Moves to Cornwall (England)

Cornwall has its own language! Cornish!

Cornish (Kernowek or Kernewek) is a Brythonic Celtic language and a recognised minority language of the United Kingdom. Along with Welsh and Breton, it is directly descended from the ancient British language spoken throughout much of Britain before the English language came to dominate. The language continued to function as a common community language in parts of Cornwall until the late 18th century. Some children used the language to converse in, and families used it as a language of the home through the 19th century and possibly into the 20th. Some elderly speakers were known to be still living into the 20th century including one still alive in 1914. A process to revive the language was started in the early 20th century, continuing to this day.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornish_language

Flat is going to enrol in some classes to learn the language (just like he learned a bit of Arabic while he was in Saudi Arabia).
This is what Flat has learned about Redruth, so far: Redruth as we see it today is almost wholly a product of the last 250 years. It owed its growth to its good fortune in lying at the centre of what was in the 1700s one of the richest parts of land in the world. It was the deep mining of copper after the 1730s, which catapulted Redruth out of its status of quiet market town – in reality a village. Formerly overshadowed by its neighbours of Truro, Helston and Falmouth, it became one of the major urban centres in Cornwall.
The history of the town has, therefore, three parts. First, there was a long period during which it was a small market town of less than a thousand souls; then from around 1700 to the 1850s the town grew rapidly to house a population of over 8,000 as mining prospered; and finally, from the 1860s, the chronic problems of local industry heralded a period in which the town searched for a new role. Within this framework perhaps the best way to get a feel for the past of Redruth and its people is to walk around its streets. http://www.redruth-tc.gov.uk/Core/Redruth-Town-Council/Pages/History_4.aspx
Redruth is twinned with Plumergat et Meriadec, Brittany, France and Mineral Point, Wisconsin, USA. A lot of Cornish miners emigrated to Wisconsin as the tin mining ran out in Cornwall.http://www.redruth-tc.gov.uk/Core/Redruth-Town-Council/Pages/Twinning_4.aspx 
Finally, the UK history of last name: Stanley
This interesting surname is one of the oldest and noblest of all English surnames, with the Stanley family who hold the earldom of Derby tracing their descent from a companion of Wilham the Conqueror, Adam de Aldithley. A branch of the family taking the name Stanley when Adam’s grandson married the heiress to the manor of Stanley in Staffordshire. The name itself is of Anglo-Saxon locational origin from any of the various places so called in Derbyshire, Durham and Gloucester, and is composed of the Olde English pre 7th Century “stan”, a stone, plus “leah”, a wood or clearing. The founder of the family’s fortune was Sir John Stanley (1350 – 1414), who married an heiress of West Derby, Lancashire, and became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was granted sovereignty over the Isle of Man by Henry 1V. One Thomas Baron Stanley placed the Crown of England on the head of Henry Tudor (Henry V11) at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and was created Earl of Derby. Other famous namebearers include Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby (1508 – 1572), who signed a petition to Pope Clement V11 for Henry V111’s divorce, 1530; and Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815 – 1881) who was Dean of Westminster from 1864 – 1881. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Stanleya, which was dated 1130, in the “Pipe Rolls of Staffordshire”, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as “The Administrator”, 1100 – 1135. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop ” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling. Read more: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Stanley#ixzz22AwYRqFH

1st Annual Cornish Pasty Festival

The UKs first Cornish Pasty Festival.  Three-day event celebrating the history and heritage of the geographically-protected food and its links to Cornish Mining and the World Heritage Site was held in Redruth from 21-23 September 2012.  Flat met the Town Crier and a local pasty who was walking up and down Fore Street.  http://www.visitredruth.co.uk/World-Heritage-Tourist-Information/UserFiles/Files/Cornish%20Pasty%20Festival%20Programme.pdf

He only had one pasty, a regular steak pasty, but there were many more on offer and many flavours, including:

Traditional Cornish Pasties

  • Cornish Mixed Pasty

Speciality Pasties

  • Full English Breakfast Pasty
  • Beef Madras Pasty
  • Beef & Stilton Pasty
  • Cheese & Bacon Pasty
  • Chicken Pasty
  • Spicy Chicken Pasty
  • Chicken & Bacon Pasty
  • Ham, Leek & Cheese Pasty
  • Lamb & Mint Pasty
  • Pork & Apple Pasty
  • Steak & Ale Pasty
  • Steak & Onion Pasty

Flat didn’t have a chance to try making his own pasty, the pasty making room was very busy with lots of little fingers though.  But he found this website and will make one at home:  http://www.cornishpastyassociation.co.uk/pasties.html


This is what Flat learned at the Cornish Pasty Festival:  “A wealth of historical evidence confirms the importance of the Cornish pasty as part of the county’s culinary heritage, with some of the first references appearing during the 13th Century, during the reign of Henry III. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that pasty was identified in around 1300. The pasty became commonplace in the 16th and 17th centuries and really attained its true Cornish identity during the last 200 years. By the 18th century it was firmly established as a Cornish food eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients such as potatoes, swede and onion. Meat was added later.


Evidence of the Cornish pasty as a traditional Cornish food is found in Worgan’s agricultural survey of Cornwall of 1808. In the 1860s records show that children employed in mines also took pasties with them as part of their crib or croust (local dialect for snack or lunch).


By the end of the 18th century it was the staple diet of working men across Cornwall. Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry, its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous working days.

By the early 20th century the Cornish Pasty was produced on a large scale throughout the county as a basic food for farm workers and miners.”  http://www.cornishpastyassociation.co.uk/history.html


He also learned that the Cornish Pasty is a protected food winning official recognition protection under the EU protected food names scheme!  A genuine Cornish pasty will need to contain chunks of beef, potato, onion and swede (or turnip, as it’s called in Cornwall), all encased in the famous D-shaped crust.  The award of Protected Geographic Indication status means the pasties can only be made in Cornwall, and only pasties meeting the registered specification will be able to carry the name ‘Cornish Pasty’ on their label. http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/02/22/cornish-pasties-can%E2%80%99t-be-pirated-3/


Flat had only one thing to say after he finished eating his first Cornish pasty:  “Proper job!”
singing the pasty song all the way home:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVEf1JfkKiY

St Piran’s Day March 2013

On 1 March 2013, St Piran arrived (again) in Perranporth.  Flat went to welcome him, along with the children form the local schools.  He had a great time dancing the Piran Furry Dance.  He was a bit disappointed that the photos weren’t very good, but hopes you get an idea of the dancing any way.

Flat learned that Piran is the most famous of all the saints said to have come to Cornwall from Ireland.  The heathen Irish tied him to a mill-stone, rolled it over the edge of a cliff into a stormy sea, which immediately became calm, and the saint floated safely over the water to land upon the sandy beach of Perranzabuloe in Cornwall.  He was joined at Perranzabuloe by many of his Christian converts and together they founded the Abbey of Lanpiran, with Piran as abbot.  Saint Piran ‘rediscovered’ tin-smelting (tin had been smelted in Cornwall since before the Romans’ arrival, but the methods had since been lost) when his black hearthstone, which was evidently a slab of tin-bearing ore, had the tin smelt out of it and rise to the top in the form of a white cross (thus the image on the flag).

St Piran’s Day is popular in Cornwall and the term ‘Perrantide’ has been coined to describe the week prior to this day. Many Cornish-themed events occur in the Duchy and also in areas in which there is a large community descended from Cornish emigrants. The village of Perranporth (‘Porthpyran’ in Cornish) hosts the annual inter-Celtic festival of ‘Lowender Peran’, which is also named in honour of him.  Flat was unable to attend the largest St Piran’s Day event – the march across the dunes to St Piran’s cross which thousands of people attending, generally dressed in black, white and gold, and carrying the Cornish Flag – maybe next year so he can take part in the play about the Life of St Piran, in Cornish. Daffodils are also carried and placed at the cross. Daffodils also feature in celebrations in Truro, most likely due to their ‘gold’ colour. Black, white and gold are colours associated with Cornwall due to St Piran’s Flag (black and white), and the Duchy Shield (gold coins on black).

How did Flat end his St Piran’s Day celebrations?  With a Cornish Pasty of course!


Flat Al-Stanley Hikes the Great Flat Lode

Where in the UK is Cornwall?
Cornish Flag
The Great Flat Lode


Great Flat Lode Trail

(for more photos from this trip:  http://theadventuresofmenu.shutterfly.com/ )

On a recent holiday to Cornwall in England we decided to geocache around the Great Flat Lode.  I had grown up in the area, but had never explored the mines as a child – this was my chance.

There is a geocache trail around the Great Flat Lode and was a great chance to not only walk along the trail and find geocaches but to learn more about mining in Cornwall.  I had learned about mining in school but Flat Stanley gave me another chance to learn what I had forgotten!

And yes, we did find all of the geocaches – thanks to some very appreciated help from the cache owner.  The cache trail was a multi/puzzle cache with part of the information for the next cache in the previouse one – so we had to make sure we found them in the right order.  This was a problem at one cache site because the box, and therefore the clue, was missing!  We emailed the owner and he quickly re-placed it so that we could complete the trail in our 2 weeks’ holiday.

Please come with us on our trail of discovery…

The Great Flat Lode is an enormous ore bearing body tilted at an angle of about 10 degrees to the horizontal situated to the south of Carn Brea. Normally lodes are found perpendicular to the ground surface or at best at angles of about 60 degrees. The Great Flat lode got its name as in relative terms it lay a lot flatter in the ground. This, meant that mines could be placed at the optimum locations to extract the tin or copper ore from the ground without digging to excessive depths. The Great Flat Lode Trail encompasses all the major mines of the Camborne-Redruth area running in a 7.5 mile multi-use circular trail around the granite hill of Carn Brea.

The mines of the Great Flat Lode helped to provide employment to Men (miners), women and children (Ore dressers) at a time when the rest of the Cornish Mining industry was in decline. As the copper ores became exhausted in about 1870, the mine owners explored deeper finding fine high quality tin concentrations underlying the copper. This gave the mines of the Great Flat Lode a new lease of life. After some of the companies amalgamated in the late 1890’s the mines continued producing until about 1918.

South Tincroft Mine – Carn Brea and Tincroft Mines now form part of the enlarged sett of South Crofty. They were separate concerns at one stage lying just to the north and northwest of the granite hill of Carn Brea overlooking the Camborne-Redruth area. Carn Brea sett was one of the largest setts in this part of Cornwall. The mine was situated on the lower slopes of the hill and was bounded to the east by Carn Brea Village and the sett of Wheal Union and Wheal Uny, Redruth. To the north lay the main Great Western Railway line from Penzance to Paddington and the setts of East Pool, Wheal Agar and Tehidy. To the west lay the hamlets of Tregajorran and Penhellick and the Tincroft, Illogan Mines and Crofty setts. Over the hill to the south the area was leased to the North Frances and South Carn Brea setts.

Tincroft was first mentioned in historical texts in the 1680s as ‘Penhellick Vean & Tyn Croft’. In1832 Wheal Druid was amalgamated with Wheal Fanny, Tregajorran Mine and Barncoose Mine to become Carn Brea Mines. During the 1840-50’s production from the highly mineralised area running southeast from Camborne to Bissoe was at its peak. Cornwall produced almost 80% of the UK’s copper and about a quarter of world production! 1859‘man engine’ was installed on Dunkin’s shaft, connected to a 26-inch rotative beam engine at South Tincroft Mine – Grid reference SW669406. 1850-1870 As copper production fell tin production increased with advances in mining technology allowing the tin to be worked at greater depths. 1891 The compressor house was constructed at South Tincroft housing a horizontal steam-driven compressor made by Harvey’s of Hayle which powered the rock drills underground. 1896 Tincroft and Carn Brea Mines amalgamated – records show that in this year the mine employed 466 workers undergound and 607 on the surface – quite a shock when you see the area today. 1921 South Tincroft mine closed. In their lifetime Carn Brea and Tincroft mines produced 470,000 tons of copper and 53,000 tons of tin.  http://www.cornwallinfocus.co.uk/history/tncrofty.php

Great Flat Lode
South Tincroft Mine
South Tincroft Mine
South Tincroft Mine
Great Flat Lode








South Tincroft Mine

South Tincroft Mine


South Wheal Frances – Grid reference SW678393 – lies roughly in the middle of the Great Flat Lode with its area bounded to the northeast by the sett of Wheal Basset and to the southwest by Grenville United sett. Lady Frances Bassett, the mineral Lord, offered a lease on the land in 1834 and although there had been workings in this area since the early 1720’s, this new lease offered a chance to make a viable business.  South Wheal Frances today is a group of buildings centered on Marriott’s shaft. Remaining buildings include the Boiler House, Compressor House, the Miner’s Dry, Smithy and winder house as well as the bases of the ore bins.  http://www.cornwallinfocus.co.uk/history/swfrances.php

South Wheal Frances
South Wheal Frances
South Wheal Frances
South Wheal Frances
Stalactites at South Wheal Frances
South Wheal Frances









Grenville United Mines  – Grid Ref. SW663386 – The mines of Wheal Grenville lie to the southeast of Camborne on the western extremity of the Great Flat Lode. On 29th December 1845 a lease was granted by the ‘mineral lord’ Baroness Grenville to work the area southwest of the existing Condurrow Sett. The new ‘Wheal Grenville Company’, run initially by Captain Lyle and Captain Thomas, took over the workings of previous ventures such as Polgine (1790-1835) and Newton Moor mines and worked for about six years before being purchased by ‘John Taylor and Sons’ – a company run by the local tramway entrepreneur. Further east, the mines of the South Wheal Frances sett were producing a great deal of copper ore and this helped to promote the general area to potential investors. Wheal Grenville did not however live up to its initial expectations and the new company was sold once more in 1855. The mine was bought for £2040 and the new company set about dewatering the mine and deepening the shafts. The eastern section of the land was hived off in 1859 to become East Wheal Grenville sett. The first real production taking place in 1860 with just under 250 tons of copper ore raised with about 80 tons of tinstone. A new shaft was sunk at North Shaft in 1864but production was sluggish. Employment at Wheal Grenville at this time was about 240 people, with about a third of these being females and boys working on the surface. Other shafts were deepened especially at New Shaft and at Boundary Shaft where the sett bordered East Grenville.  http://www.cornwallinfocus.co.uk/history/grenville.php

Wheal Grenville
Wheal Grenville
Wheal Grenville
King Edward Mine








King Edward Mine is at the eastern part of the South Condurrow Mine which was abandoned about 1890. It was re-opened in 1897, and developed as a fully operational/training mine.  King Edward (as it was re-named in 1901) was completely re-equipped, both on surface and underground, with modern machinery reflecting what was then considered the best Cornish practice.  It was intended that the tin produced would cover most of the teaching costs.

The mine regularly produced tin up until World War 1 when operations were suspended.  By 1920 it was back in production.  This was short-lived for in 1921 the adjacent deeper Grenville Mine stopped working.  As the two mines were interconnected, the consequent flooding of Grenville also flooded the King Edward workings.  Underground operations, on a much reduced scale, were transferred to a dry shallow section the Great Condurrow Mine to the north.  The surface area of the mine was retained and used for teaching mining, ore dressing and surveying.  The remainder of the lecturing continued to be carried out at the main campus in Camborne.

In 1974 the pilot plant and most of the lecturing in mining, ore dressing, management, and surveying moved to the main School of Mines Building. The mill complex was no longer needed and it became a store.

In 1987 a volunteer group was formed with the objective to conserve the site as an educational resource for the future and to operate it in a manner that benefits the local community. Using rescued machinery the mill has been restored to working condition much as it would have been in the early years of the last century.  http://www.kingedwardmine.co.uk/history/

Wheal Uny
Wheal Uny
Wheal Uny
Wheal Uny









‘World Heritage’ status for this area was granted on 14th July 2006. This should help to provide the necessary funding to improve and interlink all the mineral tramway projects. The majority of the trail is off-road and suitable for walkers, horse riders and cyclists. There are even some parts accessible to wheelchair users.

How does an engine house work? http://www.cornish-mining.org.uk/story/enginehouse.htm

The principal function of an engine house was to provide the integral framework of the engine it contained and its basic design was essentially established by Newcomen for his Atmospheric Engine. The distinctive architecture of Cornish beam engine houses links their landscape context – both in the United Kingdom and overseas – with Cornwall and West Devon mining engineering. More beam engines were installed in Cornwall and West Devon than any other mining region of the world: a total of around 3,000 engine houses were built to house them.

The Engine House




























For more information:









Flat Al-Stanley Learns About Geology, Saudi Arabia

Where in the World in Saudi Arabia?
The Arabian Shield Geology
Ancient Landmass - Saudi Arabia









(for more photos of fossils and sandstone geology:  http://theadventuresofmenu.shutterfly.com/ )

The geology in Saudi Arabia is quite unique.  Many millions of years ago, the eastern half of the country was under water – what is now the Arabian Gulf (see picture above right).   Today, you can go anywhere in the desert from Riyadh to the east coast and find fossils everywhere.  The fossils range in size from tiny shark’s teeth to larger brain corals or entire coral reefs – all frozen in stone.  So we thought that we’d take Flat Stanley with us to see if he was as lucky at finding fossils as we had been…. he was … and he learned a lot about sandstone, fossils and geology that day!

Fossil beds as rich and abundant in Saudi Arabia.  There is no need to dig or even search very hard; artifacts of ancient animals litter the ground.  Entire hillsides and cliffs there are composed of fossils.  The Riyadh Escarpment is especially rich in pre-historic remains of sea life – this was the eastern edge of the ancient sea.  There are thousands of acres of the desert floor covered with fossils; these ancient coral beds must have been an astounding site!

Due to the abundance of sandstone (fossilized ancient beaches) and limestone (ancient coral reefs) there are many examples of dahls (dals) to explore.  In English these would be the equivalent of sink-holes or caves created by streams of water.

Along the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, you can find sedimentary limestone rocks deposited in layers by the rising and falling of ancient seas.  On the western coast there is an ancient land mass, called the Arabian Shield, made up of igneous & metamorphic rocks. Occasionally you can find sedimentary rocks due to uplifting & erosion processes.

Sedimentary rock forms in water, where the weight of the water presses down on the layers of sand and clay to squash them together into a new rock. Sometimes animals and plants get stuck in between the layers, and then fossils in their shape get molded into the new stone.  Because some kinds of grains, like sand, are bigger and heavier than other kinds, like clay, they sink faster when they fall into the lake or the ocean. That’s how you get different kinds of sedimentary rocks. Some kinds are mostly made near shore, and they have mostly sand in them, like sandstone. Other kinds are mostly made farther from shore, and they have mostly clay in them, like shale. The particles that get furthest from shore are the ones that make limestone. All of these rocks still form today, just the same way they formed billions of years ago. http://www.historyforkids.org/scienceforkids/geology/rocks/sedimentary/

This flow of water, slightly acidic from acid rain or from passing through something acidic, is what digs out the caves (sinkholes or dahls in Arabic). It essentially widens cracks in the rock. And the ceiling may also collapse, making a mound of limestone on the floor, and a concave dome above.

Old Widow Hag
Shark's Tooth Fossil
Flat Stanley Finds a Fossil
Heading down a wadi looking for fossils
Flat Stanley and Fossilized Trees
Miles of fossils, Jebel Baloum
Flat Stanley Discovering Geology
Stalactite, Sawh, Saudi Arabia
Sandstone and Limestone Cliffs, Sawh, Saudi Arabia
Sea of Sand























Stalactites and stalagmites occur in limestone caves. The stalactite is above, and hangs downward like an icicle; the stalagmite is below and sticks up.  They grow in pairs, the slightly acidic water dissolves some of the limestone, carrying it downward.  When the water evaporates, the limestone appears to have flowed downward.   Some of the water does not evaporate until it has fallen through the air, and landed on the floor, the remaining limestone building the stalagmite.  Sometimes the stalactite is missing, as they sometimes break off and fall; you will often see their pieces on the floor.  Or human visitors may break them off, and take them away.  Often, the stalactite and stalagmite will connect, and become a column.

Approaching Al Khatla Dahl
Al Khatla Dahl
Fossilized Sea Shell, Tuwaiq Escarpment
More Coral Fossils
Coral Fossil
Flat Stanley Finds More Sand Balls
Flat Stanley and Sand Balls

Crystals in the Sand

Flat Stanley Finds a Fossil
















Moqui Marbles (sand balls) are sedimentary concretions. They form as sediments are laid down at the bottom of bodies of water. The moqui marbles have harder minerals than the normal sediment. The sediment layers then turn to sandstone. When the sandstone erodes away, the marbles are uncovered.  Seeing these in the middle of the desert is evidence of ancient rivers and lakes.

Entering Sadus Dahl
Inside a Dahl (Sinkhole)
Flat Stanley's First Dahl (Sinkhole)
Fossilized Brain Coral
Al Khufaisat Dahl
Al Khufaisat Dahl
Pools Carved in Sandstone
Fantastic Sandstone Cliffs
Flat Stanley and Coral Fossils in Limestone
















Lava tubes are created when lava flows as a river; the lava at the edges often solidifies into a hollow tube, or it may be open at the top. When the lava quits flowing, sometimes an empty tube is left, perhaps going on for miles.

Liquid rocks shoot up to the surface when volcanoes suddenly erupt. Then tons of liquid rock rockets out of the top of the volcano and lands on the surface. When the liquid rock cools down, it becomes igneous rock.  There are a lot of different kinds of igneous rock, depending on what kind of molecules are involved, and how fast the liquid rock cooled down. Some of the better-known kinds of igneous rock that comes from volcanoes are pumice, lava, and obsidian. When lava cools, it often turns into basalt.  Other igneous rocks formed slowly, deep in the earth. Some examples are quartz and granite. About a quarter of the rocks on earth are igneous rocks. http://www.historyforkids.org/scienceforkids/geology/rocks/igneous/index.htm

Flat Stanley’s Visit to the Lava Tubes and White Volcanoes:  http://gallery.flatstanley.com/?p=4414

For more reading on Saudi geology:







Fossilized Coral (Tuwaiq Escarpment)
Fan Coral Fossil
Coral Fossil, Tuwaiq Escarpment
Tuwaiq Escarpment: A huge ancient coral reef and modern sandstone cliff










Flat Al-Stanley Visits the White Volcanoes, Saudi Arabia










Day 1

We headed north along Route 15 and at about 11AM we arrived at the Khaybar Dam.

Khaybar Dam
Khaybar Dam

“It is unclear when the Khaybar Dam was originally built. There is evidence that it is pre-Islamic. There are actually several dams at this site. On the left is the dam known as Sadd Qasr al-Bint. Locals say it may have been built by the Queen of Sheeba, reminiscent of the Marib Damin Yemen. This particular dam is around 135 meters long and 20 meters high. The water from the dams at Khaybar was used to irrigate large plots of date palms. These dates became famous throughout the Arabian Peninsula. In time a large village was established. It was mostly inhabited by Jewish people. During the Muslim expansion under the Prophet Mohammed, Khaybar became an important center, and the Battle for Khaybar is often mentioned in the Hadith records. (http://nabataea.net/khaybarhadith.html)” http://nabataea.net/khabardam.html

Continue reading Flat Al-Stanley Visits the White Volcanoes, Saudi Arabia

Flat Al-Stanley Visits Najran and the Empty Quarter

(for more photos from this trip:  http://theadventuresofmenu.shutterfly.com/ )

During the recent Eid Al Adha holiday (11-19Nov10), we took a week off work with other geocachers and headed south to Najran and the Empty Quarter for a week of camping, sightseeing and geocaching and we took Flat Stanley with us.

Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the 12th and the last Islamic month of Dhu Al Hijjah (ذو الحجة) of the lunar Islamic Calendar.  Eid al-Adha celebrations start after the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims worldwide.

The mosque in Madinah at Haj


Najran (formerly Aba as Sa’ud) ( نجران‎) is a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen.  It is the capital of Najran Province.  Najran joined the newly announced Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1934 as a result of the efforts and struggles of sheikh Jabir Abu sag, the Leader of one large clan of the Yam tribe. Starting in 1924, the forces of the former Yemeni King launched several unsuccessful raids to annex Najran to the Yemeni Kingdom. The king of Yemen performed some new maneuvers to strengthen his tie with some of the Najran tribal leaders to counter the strong relations of the people of Najran with Bin Saud. Then in 1932 the forces of Imam Yahiya of Yemen attacked Najran with more than 50,000 troops, with all kinds of new weapons. The Yamis, as the dominant tribe in Najran, along with some other loyalist Najranis started strong resistance against the occupation forces. However, a strong segment of the tribal leaders in Najran sided with the occupying power and some became passive, waiting to take a side at the end of the crisis.   Sheikh Jabir Abu sag, the strong man at the time, managed to get quick support from King Abdul Aziz Bin Saud and was able to lead the Yam tribes and all of the Najrani resistance fighting the Yemeni forces in all parts of Najran and Bilad Yam.   Later, in the spring of 1934, the Army of Bin Saud under the command of Prince Saud son of Abdul Aziz carried out a massive campaign, surrounding Najran from the north and north west, and defeated the Yemeni Army. Najran became part of Saudi Arabia.

Places we will take Flat Stanley
Flat Stanley at the Al Ukhdood Hotel, Najran













Al-Ukhdood ( الأخدود) The name Al-Ukhdud means ‘the ditch’ (sometimes ‘the trench’, sometimes ‘the groove’) and is mentioned in the Holy Quran as the site of a massacre of Christians in 107BH (525)  The Frankincense Trade Route from Yemen passed through Al-Ukhdud (the town now known as Najran) on its way to Makkah, Madinah and then on to Palestine, Syria, the Arabian Gulf and Mesopotamia.  Cities along the main caravan routes were able to levy taxes on the merchants, and in this way they became rich. At its peak, Al-Ukhdud was one of the most important trading cities in Southern Arabia and its wealth was demonstrated by the high quality construction of the main buildings. There still remain substantial areas of dressed stone, and ornate bronze drain spouts.

Al-Ukhdud declined in importance when traders discovered how to sail to India on the monsoon winds. Around the same time there was a decline in demand for frankincense when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in 235 BH (395).  The resurgence of Najran and the settlements around Al-Ukhdud was mainly due to the rise of Christianity in the area and the influence of Byzantium in the centuries before Islam.

Al-Ukhdud is mentioned in the Holy Quran as being the site of a massacre of Christians in 101BH (525). This event is sometimes referred to as the massacre of the Najran martyrs.  “Cursed were the People of the Ditch. Of fire fed with fuel. When they sat by it. And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers. And they had no fault except that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, Worthy of all praise! To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness over everything.” (85:4-9)

Dhu Nuwas laid siege to Al-Ukhdud. When the town capitulated, the inhabitants were given an impossible choice – convert or die. They chose the latter and thousands were thrown into a burning ditch.  The ditch (which may be a defensive moat) is still visible, and archaeologists have found evidence of burning which supports the written accounts of the tragedy.  In revenge for this attack the Ethiopians (Abyssinians) invaded and deposed Dhu Nuwas. For the next few decades, the area was under Abyssinian rule. The city of Al-Ukhdud readily accepted Islam in 10H (631) and has remained staunchly Islamic since.

Main Entrance at Al Ukhdood
Flat Stanley & Abdulwahed at Al Ukhdood's Millstone
Flat Stanley at Al Ukhdood
Flat Stanley at Al Ukhdood's 300 year old tree





















In Bir Hima there are some 300 different locations containing stone engravings and drawings, including prehistoric depictions of animals. You’ll find engravings of human figures and giraffes which date from around 5500 BC.  The area is a little difficult to reach, but the journey is worth it. Once there you’ll see evidence of Neolithic settlements in the Bir Hima area at Wadi Tathlith, and Jebel Sawdh.

Flat Stanley at Bir Hima
Flat Stanley at Bir Hima













Najran architecture : Traditional adobe and brick architectural styles in Najran are called midmakh buildings. They are very distinctive and reflect the influence of Yemeni design in the Province

The buildings are made up of several stories. The lowest level is given over to livestock and can be without windows. The next level is for human habitation, and have small windows to keep out intruders. As you go up the building, the windows get larger to let in more light and air. Often these houses are clustered together around a central courtyard, so that members of the same family can live together.

These traditional buildings are still seen in many towns and villages, with some buildings well maintained (or restored) while others are deteriorating.  Some of these buildings are estimated to be several hundred years old.

Najran Architecture
Al Emarah Palace













The historic Emarah Palace, built in 1362H (1942) and recently restored, provides an ideal opportunity to learn about the history of the province in the last 100 years or so of the Saudi State. It is a beautiful adobe building with distinctive Najrani features including white washed windows and crown-like battlements around the top.

Al A'an Palace



The Al-Aan Palace is one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in the Wadi Najran.  The main tower is 5 storeys high and dominates the oasis from the summit of a rocky outcrop.  You can’t go into the building because people live there, but there’s an excellent view from the car park over the oasis.  Najran’s fort has only been around since 1942 and was decommissioned in 1967 when relations with Yemen improved.  Built as a self-sustaining complex, it has around 60 rooms, including livestock pens and its own mosque.



The 73-meters high Najran dam is one of the region’s tourist attractions and is considered one of the most beautiful touristy places with its natural charming view, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy scenic views on both sides of the dam.   It is the largest water dam in the Kingdom, the Najran Valley Dam, with a storage capacity of 85 million cubic meters (3,000 million cubic feet), it cost total 772 million Saudi Riyals.  Little known fact:  when you stand at the dam and look south, the Yemen border can be seen meters away across the wadi bed.

Flat Stanley at the Najran Dam
Flat Stanley at the Najran Dam













Najran Popular Market The market is near the Old Royal Palace and consists of many single storey buildings. This market is considered to be one of the most popular traditional markets in the Kingdom. Even today, there are many craftsmen who still have stalls in this market.  The market has acquired a reputation for being one of the best places for tourists and sightseers to visit when in this area.

Flat Stanley finds "A Cache Too Far"
Flat Stanley at "Hash Cache 1"











The Raoum Castle, located on the peak of Mount Raoum in Najran Region, is distinctive for its historic and scenic location. It overlooks Al-Hudhun agricultural village and the green oasis on the banks of Najran Valley.  Mount Raoum, is 1,800 meters high, the historic castle appeared at the peak, surrounded by a thick wall made of blocks carved from rocks. The castle has several small windows at the top which were used for defense.  Inside, there are five rooms built of mud, rocks and plaster, a spiral staircase and the roof is made of wood from palm, ithil and sidr trees. The castle reflects the region’s history, civilization and ancient architectural style and art.

Flat Stanley at Qaryat Al Faw
Flat Stanley at Qaryat Al Faw













Qaryat al-fau, or Qaryat al-Fāw, also appears in the southern text as Qaryat Dhu Kahl, Qaryat al-Hamraa and Dhat al-Jnan.  Today people in the region called it Qaryat al-fau, the name deriving from its geographical location at a passageway through the Tuwaiq Mountains where it intersects with Wadi Al Dawasir, overlooking the northwestern edge of the Empty Quarter desert. It is located about 700 km southwest of Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. Qaryat al-fau is classified as one of the most important ancient pre-Islamic cities in Saudi Arabia, and it was the capital of the Kinda Kingdom from the 1st century BC to the 4th century AD, which was one of the ancient Arab kingdoms in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula. The Kinda originally came from Yemen after the demolition of the Marib Dam which led to the fall of the Kingdom of Sheba. In fact, after the demolition of the Marib dam the kingdom of Sheba was divided into three tribal areas, one of the tribes being the Kinda, which was a part of the Sabaean Kingdom of Ma’rib. The other two tribes were Muntherids, who built their kingdom in southern Iraq, and the Ghassan, whose kingdom was in what is now called Syria. The Kingdom of Kindah is thought by many historians to have been a Bedouin tribal kingdom, unlike other organised kingdoms founded in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Rub’ al Khali (الربع الخالي‎) or Empty Quarter is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.  The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometres (250,000 sq mi) (the area between long. 44°30′ −56°30′E., and lat. 16°30′ −23°00′N), more than the combined land areas of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.  The desert is neither inhabited nor traversed by the Bedouin.  It is, however, periodically entered by geocachers and Flat Stanley.

Empty Quarter
Stuck in the Empty Quarter

Flat Al-Stanley Moves to Saudi Arabia

While on vacation in the USA in early September 2010, a friend of the family asked if we could help Flat Stanley on his travels.  We were happy to oblige and take Flat Stanley back to Saudi Arabia with us.  On 15 September 2010, Flat Stanley left Pennsylvania, USA and embarked on his adventures in Riyadh.

Flat Stanley Leaving BWI Airport:  15 September 2010

Flat Stanley in Philadelphia:  15 September 2010

Flat Stanley Arriving in Frankfurt, Germany:  16 September 2010

Flat Stanley Checking in with the Lufthansa Staff in Frankfurt:  16 September 2010

Stay tuned for more Adventures of Flat Stanley in Saudi Arabia.