Geologist plays in traffic


I was sitting here on our couch (new couch! yay!), working on my laptop, when suddenly the whole apartment building shook and the ground rumbled.

Newly exposed rock: The KMH (Royal Music College) once had barn-like structures here and a 1960s building that housed practice rooms, all razed to make way for newer structures.

Newly exposed rock: The KMH (Royal Music College) once had barn-like structures here and a 1960s building that housed practice rooms, all razed to make way for newer structures.

It took a moment for my heart rate to slow — the explosion was from a construction site at the music college nearby: they are bombing the granite there to smithereens, in order to level the space for new apartment buildings and new premises for the school. I just didn’t hear the warning sirens before the latest explosion.

Sweden is not a very seismically active place; earthquakes here are rare and relatively small, which translates to non-damaging in the developed world.  I’m guessing our apartment building is fine.  The explosions have been fairly regular, if much smaller, for weeks as the construction crew have tried to remove the hard rock.

The geologist in me is partly horrified: It took the Earth billions of years to create that metamorphosed rock, pop it up to the surface, and clear the way with massive glaciers. Our tiny ant-farm-like infrastructure on top of it is like toothpicks compared to the rocks below.

So the other geologist part of me is pretty thrilled to see the fresh rock faces (about to be covered in buildings, it’s true), and I really just want to go scrambling through the construction site, examining the ground beneath my feet.

Can you see the X's that mark the spot to carve away?

Can you see the X’s that mark the spot to carve away? Click through for a bigger image.

The same feeling overcame me on my bike commute the other day: the city is constructing a new bus depot near Slussen, and it seems that they are carving a tunnel in the rocks there.  I stopped to watch, after nearly running someone over with my bike while I was gaping on the way by. This evening on my ride home, the construction guys shut the road to traffic for rock-busting explosions.

Older than the history of people living in Europe, more fire-resistant than the wooden houses perched above, and carved away in a matter of weeks with directed pressurized streams of water and rock slurry: ancient granite, removed for our buses and traveling convenience.  Tiny ant-like humans, big capabilities, in short amounts of time.

Which also reminds me: The IPCC meeting was here in Stockholm to talk about climate change last week.  Welcome to the Anthropocene, the age of humans! We are just a thin skin on the planet, and we are changing its surface.


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One Response to Geologist plays in traffic

  1. zurichsee says:

    I keep meaning to add that these traffic tunnels are a bit controversial; the one I wrote about is part of the remake of Slussen, where the islands of Södermalm and Gamla Stan meet. Slussen means sluice or lock, and it’s basically a huge bottleneck for traffic of all kinds (bus, pedestrian, etc.). They are over-budget, I think, and late in the renovations schedule if I am reading my Swedish newspaper correctly.

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