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Passive Margins; Tectonics, Sedimentation and Magmatism

Passive Margins coverThis volume grew out of a conference held in 2016 to commemorate the life and work of Prof David Roberts, whose influence straddled both academia and industry for the best part of 40 years with an overriding focus on passive margin evolution. The book does exactly what it says on the tin, and with sixteen papers covering passive margins with case studies from both sides of the South Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and Australia along with the Mediterranean Sea, there is something for everyone. The individual papers cover crustal structure, volcanism, fault growth and subsequent erosion, halokenesis, tectono-stratigraphic evolution of passive margins and the collapse of the Niger Delta.

The book appears to have had a difficult birth, with many of the papers being available online for two years in some cases. This means that some papers are referenced as being from 2018, yet are contained in a 2020 publication, which is slightly confusing.  I felt that the volume doesn’t really do justice to some of the areas that David worked on such as the UK Continental shelf, where he was responsible for naming many of the features on the Rockall Plateau after Lord of the Rings characters (Eriador Seamount, anyone?) Also the lack of papers from the oil exploration industry, who collectively know a thing or two about passive margins - or at least like to think that they do - is a sad omission and perhaps reflects a lack of time and motivation for geologists in oil companies to publish these days. 

So is this publication worth purchasing? Well after much deliberation I can say unfortunately it is a no from me at this time. The book is beautifully crafted with a wide range of papers; however this is the problem, the topic of passive margins is so wide and diverse that this book has been spread too thin and far to focus on a single aspect. The papers contained within are interesting and important in their own fields but there is only ever going to be one or two that are of interest to readers. So does this warrant purchasing the written volume? I would say no, but I would recommend using the Lyell Collection to pick and purchase the papers you want as there are some cracking papers in there that are well worth reading.

By Gavin Elliott

Passive Margins: Tectonics, Sedimentation and Magmatism. Geological Society, London, Special Publication Volume 476 (2020). Edited by: K. R. McClay and J. A. Hammerstein