Publisher: Cambridge University Press Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 0 521 60100 2
Pages: xii + 276 Format: Paperback

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1 - An Australian perspective; 2 - The Earth: a geology primer; 3 - Building the core of Precambrian rocks; 4 - Warm times: tropical corals and arid lands; 5 - Icehouse: Carboniferous and Permian glaciation; 6 - Mesozoic warming: the great inland plains and seas; 7 - Birth of modern Australia: flowering plants, mammals and deserts; 8 - Eastern highlands and volcanoes barely extinct; 9 - Building the continental shelf and coastlines; 10 - Great Barrier Reef; 11 -Planets, moons, meteorites and impact craters; 12 - Cycles in a continental journey.



It must be argued that this reviewer was tempted by the local nature of the text but was also curious to see how the work might be explained for a land mass the size of Australia (which rivals Europe in area). There's also the opportunity of gaining more insight into a popular case study area for much environmental work.

On the face of it this text is overdue with little national work since the beginning of the 20th century. A timescale helps put local material into global context which is important given the recent finds of early life in Australia (the Ediacaran faunas). The opening chapter places the geology of Australia in context both in terms of its exploration and setting with respect to plate tectonics . There's also work on the unique nature of the place as one of the driest, flattest places on Earth. Chapter two acts as an overview of the basic principles of geology from rocks and rock types to dating, folding and faulting. Chapter three starts the main story with the Precambrian. Given the age of Australia (the world's oldest rocks have been found in Western Australia) there's much to be written about this era especially when so much is exposed at the surface. There's also an overview of key ore bodies and some discussion of early plate tectonics. Chapter four looks at the breaking off from the main landmass - mainly Cambrian to Devonian - and the implications this had for the development of life and the main rock types of this era. Chapter five moves to Carboniferous and Permian periods where there were both huge ice ages and volcanic activity. Chapter six, covering the Jurassic, shows how flora and fauna developed here and links it to other areas. Here we have the same extinctions as seen globally but on an increasingly separated biodiversity. Chapter seven covers the last 120 million years and the key deposits e.g. coal as well as more recent changes in fauna. Chapter 8 takes a different tack by looking more extensively at the volcanic deposits seen on the Eastern seaboard. In a similar vein, chapter 9 focusses on the continental shelf and the geomorphological processes of coastline formation (as well as the economic potential of the area). The famous Great Barrier Reef is described in chapter 10. Underlying geology as well as coral formation is described. Given our long history as a land mass it's not surprising that we have impact craters and other extra-terrestrial debris both of which are outlined in chapter 11. Finally, there's a look at the global situation tying Australian geology into the global scene as well as providing an overview of key events.

This is an excellent overview. As a geology text it deals very well with a vast and complex place. The task the author had was huge: to provide an overview of an area where research is less advanced in many areas and yet which is seen increasingly as an area as complex as anywhere on Earth. For those interested in the area it should be seen as a must-buy; for others it's an extremely well presented book which can only add to the popular literature on Australia.


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