Friday, 20 July 2012

Geology Of Africa's Second Highest Mountain

Ludwig Krapf, was the 1st European to see Mt Kenya. It was on the 3rd day of December in the year of the lord 1849 A.D. together with  Another European Rebmann, was also the first to see Mt Kilimanjaro , they went back to Europe to a critical reception from their peers. They claimed that what they say were not snow capped mountains but calcareous earth. Krapf’s claim was confirmed in 1887 by fellow explorer Joseph Thomson when he saw the mountain from the Laikipia plateau, and described it as an eroded remnant of the old volcano, the peak being ‘’……the column of lava which closed the volcanic life of the mountain….”. the 1st ascent to the upper part of the mountain was made in 1887 by Count Teleki, who reached an altitude of approximately 13800 feet in the Teleki valley. The summit of Mt. Kenya was climbed for the first time by H. J. Mackinder and two Alpine guides on September 13th 1899.

The mountain itself a volcanic pile consisting of Precambrian age Trachytes, Basalts, Phonolites,Kenytes, Rhomb porphyries. From your high school geography you probably know it’s a composite volcano and for those who avoided geography then now you know. Its plug is composed of nepheline syenite and phonolite in ring structure. Here are some of the peaks and their respective heights in meters
Batian 5199m, Nelion 5188m, Point Lenana 4985m, Point Pigott 4957m, Point Thomson and Thomson Flake 4955m, Point Dutton 4885m, Point Melhuish 4880m, Point John 4863m, Point Peter 4757m, Midget peak 4700m.
Photos courtesy of  John Jammin

Rough route overlay of the Normal Route on Nelion, with key features marked.
Mount Kenya as seen from the Hall Tarns on the Chogoria route. Point Lenana is on the left hand side and the twin summits of Nelion and Batian are on the right.
South side of Mount Kenya as seen from the head of the Teleki valley. Batian and Nelion are the twin summits and Point John  in the right forground.

glaciers atop Mt Kenya 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


There is a fire that has been burning for 50 years straight! According to Thinking Blog in May 1962, Centralia Town, Pennsylvania, United States, the town council sends some volunteer firemen to an abandoned mine pit to clear the towns landfill.

The firemen did what they always did in the past, set fire to the dump and let it burn for some time then they eventually put it off. They did put it off but the fire wasn’t completely extinguished. The fire started burning below the surface, spread through a hole in the rock pit into the abandoned coal mines that lay below the town. They tried to put it out but nothing worked.

 But it was in 1981 when it became national news. A young boy 12 years old fell into a 45 meter sink hole that caved beneath his feet. He was saved by his cousin before he could plunge even further to his death. 3 years later the American government allocated 42 million to relocate the 1000 residents of Centalia and today only 9 people currently reside in the town.

 Brian Merchant in his blog in Treehugger says that the fire is has now burned over an area of over 500 acres and over the next 100 years could spread to an area of 3700 acres.

These fires are not easy to control with countless other products being  burned together with the coal and the greenhouse gasses including methane being released. I know your minds probably swayed to the Mui coal mine in Kitui but am sure the relevant safety have been addressed there by the Kenyan government and all concerned or so we think they have!
photos courtesy of thethinkingblog

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


One of my former lecturers once told me that the Constitution was arranged in order of importance and I tended to agree with him.

“Chapter one: sovereignty of the people and supremacy of this constitution’’ being the most important chapter in the constitution, as this Republic is built on our Sovereignty as Kenyans first then as every tribal, political and economic groupings that we impose upon ourselves “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution” being the most important statement in the chapter. The second in importance is “Chapter two: The Republic” whose territory we are expected to protect as citizenry or government. “Chapter three: Citizenship” defines what makes us Kenyans first before we go on to become Dujis Mijikenda and Borana. “Chapter four: The Bill Of Rights” outlines what former governments ignored as the atrocities we witnessed before independence were being repeated seemingly forgetting what we went through to become the independent republic we are now. And again Part 2 is also arranged in order of importance with the most basic and most fundamental right, the right to life being top of the pile.
From there henceforth the rest of the constitution tries to deal with the various issues that have been considered contentious for a long time. This is not to say that they are any less important, but what defines this beautiful country and its people are found in these 4 chapters. The executive which comes way down in Chapter 9 shows you how much, the minds behind the constitution look at one of the unholy trinity that is the government. So before we go out to ‘fight’ for our ‘man’ or ‘woman’ ask yourself how important that is.
As scientists we have however not been left behind in this new dispensation and our importance is outlined in a small article in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 article 11 states:
(1) This Constitution recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation.
(2)The State shall—
a. Promote all forms of national and cultural expression through literature, the arts, traditional celebrations, science, communication, information, mass media, publication, libraries and other cultural heritage;
b. Recognise the role of science and indigenous technologies in the development of the nation; and
c. Promote the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya.
(3)Parliament shall enact legislation to-
a. Ensure that communities receive compensation or royalties for the use of their cultures and cultural heritage; and
b. Recognise and protect the ownership of indigenous seeds and plant varieties, their genetic and diverse characteristics and their use by the communities of Kenya.
From that plane made of a car engine to the banana tissue culture we have to protect what we invent.

Universities and research institutions spend a lot of money in research and the findings they obtain are sometimes taken by foreigners changed and published as original works by them without recognising any of our scientists’ effort. Most of our geological maps and reports were done by foreigners from as far as the 1890’s when Gregory, J. W. who wrote about “Contributions to the Physical Geography of British East Africa” in 1894 and a follow up on “the Geology of Mt Kenya” back in 1900. Of importance is that these old reports all mentioned something about some of these important minerals that we are rushing to claim ‘we’ve discovered’. All it needed was someone to look at the fine print and that’s why we have so many foreigners looking for these minerals instead of our local scientists. The blame is obviously on us as geologists I must admit. Our focus must thus shift from just writing research papers for publishing in important foreign journals for international recognition and to the dirt that these important minerals and resources are hidden. Going by recent major findings were getting to where we need to be. Of particular praise should be those in the geothermal fields. The government has tried so hard to ensure that this resource is fully Kenyan with finance being the only foreign input into the various geothermal projects. The new constitution provides us with an opportunity for recognition as well as innovation.
As Kenyans we have fabulous ideas. From M-pesa to Ushahidi on the global scale to the very local solar lamps and energy saving stoves we are very much an innovative population.
 When the kiondo was patented by the Japanese it became clear that something had to be done to prevent such a scenario occurring again. Our local universities should be at the forefront of doing this with all the creative ideas being churned out by its students but they should also ensure that they recognise the effort of the creators and adequate compensation is necessary to them. Technology cannot be separated from science as stated in the constitution and both should go hand in hand as this is the only way the science family proves its viability to the rest of the world.

Monday, 9 July 2012


People have always said “Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world” I beg to differ. Geology was in essence the oldest profession because God was our very 1st geologist. He even transferred some of this knowledge to our forefathers and most used rocks to describe Him. "Yahweh is my rock, and my fortress" (2 Sam 22:2; Ps 18:2; 71:3) "God, the rock of my salvation" (2 Sam 22:47). The most used and mentioned precious stone in the bible is obviously gold. From smelting for their idols to donning it on garments and to making of chalices and chariots gold was used by the ruling elite to showcase their majestic nature.    The two Testaments have numerous examples of various Rock uses both precious and ordinary.
Our forefathers had garments to marvel at! Starting with the High priests they wore “Holy Garments” were full of precious stones 12 to be exact. Now these were robes but pieces of beauty all the same. Their breastplates were embodied with gold. It had 12 precious stones sadius (ruby), topaz, carbuncle (garnet), emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, and jasper (Exodus 28:10-30). They were to signify the 12 tribes of Israel.
Later on in the testament Prophet Ezekiel gave the people a glimpse of our 1st humans clothes to you who think they walked naked “you were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius (ruby), topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx (agate), and the jasper, turquoise, and emerald and the carbuncle, and gold:” notice that these were the same precious stones described in Exodus so the high priests were probably just carrying on tradition.
Jacob was more inventive in his uses of rocks, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone which he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel" (Genesis 28:17-19). Not only did he use is as a pillow but it was used to name a place. This is the same place where Jesus was anointed by a woman with very expensive perfume (Mark 14:3)
From the commandments to religious inscriptions the scribes of old used rocks for a more permanent preservation of writings. Recent research has been trying to prove that the 10 commandments were actually written on a blue rock: sapphire. Rocks were did not necessarily have glamorous uses but served the purpose all the same.
 "Say to the people of Israel, Any man of the people of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.(Leviticus 20:1-2)
"When the House was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry; so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the Temple, while it was being built." (1 Kings 6:7)
But in my opinion Job takes Geologist of the Old Testament for this chapter
  "Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. "Man puts an end to darkness, and searches every recess for ore in the darkness and shadow of death.  He breaks open a shaft away from people; in places forgotten by feet they hang far away from men; they swing to and fro. As for the earth, from it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire; Its stones are the source of sapphires, and it contains gold dust. That path no bird knows, nor has the falcon's eye seen it. The proud lions have not trodden it, nor has the fierce lion passed over it. He puts his hand on the flint; he overturns the mountains at the roots. He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. He dams up streams from trickling; what is hidden he brings forth to light. But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?  Man does not know its value nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says 'It is not in me' and the sea says, 'It is not in me.' It cannot be purchased for gold nor can silver be weighed for its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in the precious onyx or sapphire. Neither gold nor crystal can equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewellery of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold..." 

The B.C Christians used their rocks and stones to preserve their history in form of scriptures but the A.D Christians had even more ‘ingenious’ ways for them. Here there wasn’t much talk about the precious rocks. Here the stones generation started to appear.
Most recognisable was as tomb and of course the most famous tomb of all the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the tomb in which Jesus was buried in.
"When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed.
Before all that Judas betrayed Jesus with 30 pieces of silver “when Judas who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the Chief priests and the elders  “I have sinned ” he said “for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Mathew 27: 3-4).
Stoning was still being used in the new testament as in the old as a method of putting sinners to death with Jesus saving the woman who was caught in adultery from stoning John 8:7 as they stood there asking him questions he straightened himself up and said to them “whichever one of you who has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her” and in some of his parables too he used silver coins as an example Luke 15: 8-10 The Parable of the Lost Coin. 
Finally but not the least we all want to know how heaven will be well the last book in the bible gives us a very good mental picture
The construction of its wall was of jasper: and the city was pure gold like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius (ruby), the seventh chrysolyte (peridote), the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprasus (quartz), the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst . (Revelation 21:18 – 20)  So in short we will possibly still be geologists in heaven too.  

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lets start here....ROCKS NOT STONES!!!!

Geology is one of the most misunderstood professions in the world not in Kenya alone. When I tell people am a Geologists their mind immediately thinks….. “Geography” and a friend of mine even thinks I study “Meteorology” how that came to be am not even sure. Explaining it is even harder so let’s start with the basics. WE STUDY ROCKS NOT STONES! Stones are for masons and construction workers. Rocks have minerals and that is what holds all that gold, coal and titanium you hear about. So please don’t ask me if the coal in Kitui looks like the charcoal we burn from acacia trees. Geology is not Geography these two are as far in meaning as your ignorance of the same! We believed “dirt is good” before OMO could mint money from the phrase. If your mum was a geologist coming home clean would be an insult to her professionalism. She is trying to groom you and you come home looking like you have been in an office all day? That would be an injustice.
“PUNK ROCK” “CLASSIC ROCKS” “HARD ROCK’’ or “METAL” and “ROCK n ROLL” are not the only types of music we listen too.

 If they actually sung about different types of metals in these songs and mentioned a type of rock in it then maybe we would have been more attentive. ‘’THE ROCK’’ is not my favourite all time wrestler. I will probably not ‘’make your bedrock’’ but I will tell you why it did. We are the only people who will not run away from rocks not thrown our way, in fact we chase the rocks and try to catch them before they land and my fellow colleagues makes claim to it. We would make the best riot police, collect all the rocks you throw at us until you have none to throw and the demonstration would die peacefully as we count our blessings while the rioters feel sorry for themselves. You see pot-holes we see depressions.
 Ladies, a geologist will not see those wrinkles he will see lineations, anything less than 10 million years is considered young or recent so no matter how old you get you will never be really old. Probably why we don’t like bank loans too. The only thing we notice about attractive members of the opposite sex is the stone in their jewellery. When you sit there looking at the sunset behind Mt Kenya I don’t get past the mountain itself.
Even in the Bible all we look for is what type of rubies, sapphire, or gold were traded? What rock were the commandments written on? What rock made Jesus’ tomb? How did they smelt that gold they made those idol gods from? What was used to make the Walls Of Jerico? How did they make their swords was there an iron smelting factory we didn’t know of? Was the water running from the rocks from an aquifer? What method did they use to look for water? We don’t see the point at ‘wishing on a falling star’ to us that’s just another rock that can help us know how the earth formed so we are secretly hoping it stops burning and just drops as it is! Geology is in everything you use that laptop you’re reading this from the mouse you used to click the link to this article, to the salt you used some hours ago, that car you drive to that toilet seat you’re going to use today. So we all live the science a bit every day. This rant might go on forever but I think you get my point so to cap it all off ‘’WE ROCK’’.