The Outside View of the World from Inside a Barrel!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 10:53am
As Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences Prof. Henry Halls has just returned from China as the Guest of Honour at the Seventh International Dyke Conference (IDC7), the first of which he organized back in 1985.

As Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences Prof. Henry Halls has just returned from China as the Guest of Honour at the Seventh International Dyke Conference (IDC7), the first of which he organized back in 1985. The meeting was held in the enormous Friendship Hotel in Beijing where a 10 minute walk was required to go from hotel room to restaurant, all while remaining inside the hotel! This time all his expenses were paid, and after giving the inaugural talk in the scientific sessions, the next day he was treated to a celebratory banquet in his honour, before about 150 delegates.

The meeting (August 18-20, 2016) and accompanying field trips were superbly arranged and enjoyed by all, a tribute to Peng Peng, the Conference Organizer and his team.

logo + medal

The logo of the meeting (above figure, on right) was particularly clever and appropriate… the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol surrounded by eight groups of radiating lines (all different) with mythological and spiritual significance (representing the Eight Diagrams, also known as “Bagua” in Chinese). The circular symbol resembles the top of a mantle plume (a mushroom-like ascension of basaltic magma through the Earth’s mantle) with dyke swarms (sets of magma filled cracks cutting the overlying crust and expelling magma to the surface) radiating from it!

The next IDC meeting is planned for Morocco in 2020, to be organized by Professor Nassrrddine Youbi of the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh.

At the banquet, Prof. Halls was presented with a polished slab of diabase (the basaltic rock that forms most dykes) on which a dedication was inscribed (above figure on left). Tributes then followed (very beneficial to the ego!) from Peng, Richard Ernst, a former graduate student with him at UTM and the organizer of the International Conference Committee, and Mike Hamilton, a departmental colleague on the St. George Campus. These were then followed by Prof. Halls’ own speech outlining the history and scientific progress of IDC meetings, ending with a video of him, taken on a field trip in Russia during IDC5, giving a vodka-inspired rendition of a British west country farming song!

Afterwards everyone was entreated to an on-stage cavalcade of superb, brightly-coloured, professional artists who performed Peking Opera, Chinese instrumental music, acrobatics and magic, plus a troupe of performers doing a barrel-balancing act. This consisted of four assistants balancing a large heavy metal barrel so that a lady lying on her back with her legs in the air, could twirl the barrel around supported only by the soles of her feet!  After her performance was over Prof. Halls was invited, accompanied by loud applause, to enter the barrel before the act was repeated. He volunteered, forgetting that  (i) he might be unable to squeeze inside owing to lack of flexibility that 75 year olds usually  experience, (ii) that he was perhaps too large to fit in the barrel and (iii) his weight  (200+ pounds) may have been too much for the lady to hold up!

inside the barrel

As the picture shows, everything turned out perfectly and he had nothing to fear!

The Proceedings of the IDC7 appear in the English Edition of the Acta Geologica Sinica (Journal of the Geological Society of China), Volume 9, Supplement 1, 2016.