In Whitby there is a museum with a huge collection of fossils.
You can see the many specimens from the collection at http://www.whitbymuseum.org.uk/type/ftlist.htm
The museum is situated in Pannett Park and in one section of the park is the Jurassic Garden which links to the specimens inside the museum.
There is a path through plants which are similar to those that were growing in the times of the dinosaurs
Here is a monkey puzzle tree. Trees like this one were growing 200 million years ago and would have been seen by dinosaurs.
Looking back along the path you can get an impression of what the plant life would have looked like back in dinosaur times. You could almost expect to see one come crashing out of the trees!
In my journeys I try to link places if I can and for some time Captain Cook lived in Whitby before he made his journey on the Endeavour around the world.
On this trip he took Joseph Banks as one of the naturalists and I visited the tribute garden to Joseph Banks earlier in the year at Horncastle.
I visited Whitby Museum which houses nine fascinating collections but on my visit I focused on collections featuring Captain Cook.
The Museum is set in Pannett Park and in a corner of it is the South Seas Garden set featuring plants and artifacts from Cook’s journeys in the South Seas.
Down in Whitby Old Town is a cottage in Grape Lane where the young James Cook lived as he learned his seamanship.
It is also a museum and outside are more plants connected with his voyagers.
Inside the museum are several detailed collections about Cook and his life. I was particularly fascinated with the model of the Resolution, the ship Cook used in his second and third voyagers. It shows all the people and goods that was carried in the ship.
Building up to the launch of the Curiosity Box series next February I have been looking for curiosities to put on the website in the form of a curiosity quiz. However on a recent journey along the North Yorkshire coast I came across a building which was itself a curiosity.
It is the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough.
As the name suggests it is a circular building which opened as a museum in 1829 and is one of the world’s first purpose built museums. It was designed by William Smith which is considered by many to be the Father of Geology and the museum is packed with geological specimens which are displayed in a unique circular gallery.
In a side gallery is a display which takes you back to the time of the dinosaurs (Jurassic period) in Scarborough. It is one of the best displays of its kind I have ever seen.
Continuing the adventures of Ettie the canal barge as she travels the canals of France.
We have just come through the Billy-le-Grand tunnel on the Canal de l’Aisne a la Marne.
Here are some other photographs from our trips in France.
Bar headed geese
Family of swans at St-Vallier on the River Rhone
Heron at écluse de Vaugris on the River Rhone
The pale yellow leaves on this tree belong to the mistletoe plant that is growing on it. The mistletoe plant is a hemiparasite (half parasite) because although it takes water and nutrients form the sap flowing up the tree it also makes food by photosynthesis in its leaves.
Trilobites in the Musée des Confluences, Lyon – a science centre.
Toadstools. Feeding fungus threads below ground have taken in enough materials to grow these “fruiting bodies” which are opening and releasing spores.
Bracket fungus. Feeding fungus threads inside the tree have taken in enough materials to produce this “fruiting body” which drops its spores into the woodland air.
If you look at a map of the Yorkshire coast you will see half way down it a peninsular called Flamborough Head. This geological feature is made of chalk and on its North side are Bempton Cliffs which is a nature reserve run by the Royal Society of Protection of Birds (RSPB).
There is a visitors centre where you can find out straight away what birds are present in the reserve by looking at a list on an information board which is periodically updated as new birds fly in. It reminded me of an arrival and departure lounge at an airport.
In addition to this information there are lots of keen volunteers on hand to give advice and updates as they are in radio contact with other volunteers at large on the reserve. I expressed an interest in spotted flycatchers, my favourite summer bird from my bird watching youth and was immediately directed to a clump of bushes where a volunteer was waiting to show me the latest arrivals – a flock of tree sparrows but no flycatcher .
I then moved onto the top of the cliffs for which the reserve is really famous. This is the breeding site of many species of sea bird and there is an information board provided to help you spot them.
The cliff edge is fenced off for safety and there are “observation posts” set out along its length where more volunteers can help you identify the birds and give you the latest information about the lives of the birds on the cliffs.
On Bempton Cliffs is the only mainland breeding site of gannets in England and it didn’t take me long before I saw one.
Also on the cliffs are breeding colonies of fulmars, guillimots, kittiwakes, puffins, and razorbills.
Find out more about The Bempton Cliff reserve. When I visited the site I clicked on the blog about Continental drift hits Bempton and scrolled down to find my spotted flycatcher!
Today the house is a museum and in one room the study has been reconstructed to appear as if he had just left it! The study is full of scientific instruments and specimens all carefully laid out with cabinets full of data which he used to construct his theory of evolution due to natural selection. He presented his ideas in his book On the Origin of Species which was published by John Murray in 1859. Nearly 140 years later I saw a first edition of this book at John Murray publishers who published my series of science books – Biology Now!, Chemistry Now! and Physics Now!
Charles Darwin did many experiments in the grounds of his house. He had a greenhouse in which he made discoveries on how plants grew and reproduced.
He had flower beds in which he did further research on plants.
Charles Darwin also used other parts of his grounds for experiments. He set up a lawn plot. This was a rectangular piece of ground which was left unmown so he could find out the types of plants that would grow there naturally. He observed the plot for three years and found that the number of different kinds of plants surviving there went down as the plants competed for survival.
You could set one up easily in the school grounds or perhaps at home and check Charles Darwin’s experiment.
In another experiment on the lawn a slab of stone was placed on the ground and secured into it by two metal rods. This was set up to test the activity of earthworms in the soil and became the Wormstone experiment. Over the years the stone gradually sunk into the ground due to the action of the earthworms burrowing though the soil and turning it over. By careful measuring it was found that the stone sank 2 millimetres a year.
You could set one up easily (without the metal rods) in the school grounds or perhaps at home and see how much the earthworms sink the stone in a year.
At the far end of the lawn a footpath was set up by a meadow and around a wood. It is called the Sandwalk. Charles Darwin used to walk around it to get exercise while he thought about his experiments and ideas.
As he walked around the Sandwalk Charles Darwin used five pebbles to help him count how many times he traveled round it. After one complete circuit he kicked a pebble out of the way and walked on until he had moved all five. By then he had walked about a mile and a quarter.
Selborne is a small village in Hampshire, England. It was the home of Gilbert White (1720 – 1793) for thirty five years. Gilbert was the curate there but he also made observations on plants and animals in the countryside around the village and these were published in a book called The Natural History of Selborne in 1789. This book has been so popular with naturalist that it has never gone out of print since it was published. It has stimulated a great many people to become interested in natural history including Charles Darwin and Gilbert is also considered to be one of the first ecologists.
The countryside around Selborne is still very much as it was in Gilbert’s time and his house called The Wakes is now a museum.
Standing in the garden with a new friend. Behind me is the part of the Wakes that existed in Gilbert’s time and was his home.
Gilbert was a keen gardener and grew wide variety of plants.
In this part of the garden is the six quarters garden. In Gilbert’s time a quarter was a word used to describe a flowerbed so here we have six flower beds and each one is planted to produce blooms through the seasons from spring to early autumn. These quarter beds made me think of setting up some at home or at school – perhaps starting next spring.
Gilbert White lived in the time known as The Age of Enlightenment. This took place between the early seventeenth century and the late eighteenth century. It followed on from the Scientific Revolution begun more than a century before and this meant that Gilbert like many of his contemporaries had an interest in all things scientific. He combined his garden designing and his interest in science by having set up two obelisks called heliotropes which marked the position of the setting of the Sun at the winter solstice and the summer solstice. New versions of these heliotropes are found in the garden today.
The heliotrope to mark the Sun’s position at the winter solstice.
The heliotrope to mark the Sun’s position at the summer solstice.
Gilbert’s inventiveness reached beyond his garden to the grassland next to it known as The Park. In it he had a shelter made from a huge barrel known as a wine pipe.
The path to the wine pipe shelter. Behind the shelter is a wood on a raised chalk slope known as The Hanger.
The barrel has a strong roof to give some protection from bad weather.
There is just room for one person to sit inside the shelter. Gilbert designed it so it could be turned to face away from the wind and the rain. This allowed him to keep on observing the plants and animals around him in all weathers.
As part of my research for a new series of books to be published in 2016 I visited Oxford.
A very brief look at Oxford
At the top of my visit list was the Ashmolean Library. It is the first university museum in the world. The original building was erected in the seventeenth century to provide a home for the collection of objects from around the world made by Elias Ashmole. Since then the collection has steadily grown and is now housed in the building in the photograph.
Walking around the very busy Oxford streets I passed the Radcliffe Camera. The word camera comes from the Latin word for room and the building was completed in 1749 to provide room for the Radcliffe Science Library. Today this library has moved to another building in the city.
Across the road from the Radcliffe Camera is All Souls College which was founded in 1438. It is one of the thirty eight colleges which form the University of Oxford.
I also visited the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe. In the early seventeenth century lecture rooms were build around a courtyard for the various teaching schools at the university. Above the doorway to each room was the name of the school. Here is the one for the school of natural philosophy.
From Natural Philosopher to Scientist
Natural history is a subject we are familiar with today and involves the observation and description of the plants and animals. Natural philosophy takes these observations of the natural world plus others such as observations in astronomy, chemistry and physics and uses them to develop explanations for them through reasoning. This approach to acquiring knowledge began with the Ancient Greeks, developed further by people such as Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln and Isaac Newton and evolved into many different areas of scientific study. By the nineteenth century it was felt that the term natural philosopher needed replacing with a word to reflect all the different areas of scientific study being undertaken and the term scientist was made up by William Whewell in 1833 and has been used ever since.
Oxford’s earliest teaching room
In another part of the Bodleian Library buildings is the School of Divinity. It houses the earliest teaching room and examination hall in the University.
At one side of the room is a pulpit in which a student stands to deliver his thesis.
On the opposite side of the room is a pulpit in which the professor stands to hear the students work.
Others may gather below them also to hear the student.
Just a thought
I thought this process of delivering a report on research could be adapted for science in the classroom and used in the plenary session. For example when the children have been set a project of making an enquiry using secondary sources such as “finding out about bees” the report could be given by the student coming out to the front of the class standing to one side while the teacher standing at the other side listens to the report (It could be made more comfortable by both student and teacher sitting). It creates a more formal setting for delivering information than just reading out from tables around the classroom and perhaps helps develop greater confidence in public speaking.
In the fifteenth century the Great Age of Exploration began with ships sailing around the world with their crews returning with stories and specimens of the plants and animals they had found. This tradition continues to this day but instead of specimens photographs and films are brought back of the habitats visited.
To recreate a little of this tradition my old friends Richard and Julia have agreed to send me photographs and descriptions of the wildlife they encounter as they travel on their boat Ettie through the waterways of France.
Ettie is a dutch style ‘motor barge’ built in 2011.
She is 18 metres long and 4 metres wide and has a 105 hp Beta engine and is designed to travel anywhere on the European Inland waterways.
Here is the route Ettie will take over a six month period in 2015. She will be starting in the west and sailing east then turning north and sailing towards Belgium
As Richard and Julia’s reports come in I will enter them in a log and post them on here.
The first Log will follow shortly which contains photographs of previous journeys and the start of this one.
I was put in mind of my idea that science is nearer than you think when I visited Horncastle in Lincolnshire. This is a town famed for its antique shops but walking along Bridge Street I came across the shop of the Sir Joseph Banks Society.
Sir Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820) had an estate in Lincolnshire and spent many hours as a boy exploring the countryside. Later he sailed as a botanist with James Cook on the Endeavor and brought back plant specimens from their voyage around the world. Banks went on to encourage others to take up botany, travel the world and send back specimens to Britain where he developed the Royal Gardens at Kew into the most famous botanical gardens in the world.
Behind the shop is a tribute garden to the explorer and botanist. It is stocked with seventy species of plants. They have a direct link with him as either having been recorded by him on his voyage on the Endeavor or having been collected by botanists who he inspired to explore.
There are plants for sale at the garden and I bought four to set up in my own garden as a tribute to a truly inspirational scientist.
The plant with blue flowers is Ajuga reptans commonly known as the bugle which grows naturally in Europe.
The plant behind it is Euphorbia dulcis a member of the spurge family. Species of Euphorbia can be found growing in habitats almost all around the world.
The plant with the round green leaves is Gunnera magellanica from the west side of South America from Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego.
The plant with the long red leaves is Unicinia rubra commonly called the red hook sedge. It grows naturally in New Zealand.