Undergroundology at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History

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Undergroundology – a half-term celebration of rocks and volcanoes at the OUMNH.

The rain held off, the sun came out and we had a great afternoon of volcano fun outside Oxford’s Museum of Natural History. Our volunteers were kept busy all afternoon, as hordes of people came to find out what ‘undergroundology‘ was all about.

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The model London Volcano – look out for the signs of rumbling as we approach Friday at 6 pm…

Outside, in the shadow of the silent London Volcano, there were multiple activity stations to explore how volcanoes erupt. We had ‘exploding magma chambers’, spraying colourful plastic balls high into the air; and churning gassy liquids, to explore the inner workings of active volcanoes.

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Indoors, there was fishing for lava, while wearing the aluminium volcano suit; and a space to think about what it might be like to live near an active volcano. Great fun – and it continues for the next two days!

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So what about the undergroundology?

It is a made-up word – but one that was made up nearly 200 years ago, by a famous and eccentric Oxford geologist, William Buckland. In 1820, Buckland was travelling in France, and he wrote in a letter

‘I left Paris, having allowed myself to attend to nothing there but my undergroundology, and dashed directly into Auvergne. At Clermont, I took the tour of the volcanic chain and summit of Puy-de-Dome. It is the finest thing by far in Europe.. with more than fifty craters nearly in a line from north to south, many of which are larger and finer than that of Vesuvius..’

So, there we have it – undergroundology and volcanoes, in 1820!

Do drop by over the next two days to see for yourself what is going on.


Elizabeth Gordon, 1894, ‘The life and correspondence of William Buckland, D.D.,F.R.S., sometime Dean of Westminster, twice president of the Geological Society, and first president of the British Association‘, John Murray, London. [Reference to undergroundology on page 40]

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