No Geologist worth anything is permanently bound to a desk or laboratory, but the charming notion that true science can only be based on unbiased observation of nature in the raw is mythology. Creative work, in geology and anywhere else, is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, chains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks in a laboratory, numbers from a calculator riveted to a desk, fancy equipment usually malfunctioning on expensive ships, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut.
The Himalayas are the crowning achievement of the Indo-Australian plate. India in the Oligocene crashed head on into Tibet, hit so hard that it not only folded and buckled the plate boundaries but also plowed into the newly created Tibetan plateau and drove the Himalayas five and a half miles into the sky. The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their in their own self-generated radioactive heat. When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in a warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as 20,000 feet below the sea floor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth. If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.
So Dan Miller decided to roast a pig. The idea took hold of him after another eruption on August 7. He would roast a pig in the steaming volcano fields at the base of St. Helens. Being a scientist meant that he would do it in a methodical fashion: notes would be kept and he would document everything. The operation needed a cover name because reporters and others were monitoring all radio communication around the volcano, so he called it the 'FPP temperature experiment'. FPP stood for Front Page Palmer, a name the scientists had given a local geology professor who had irritated the Survey geologists by grandstanding for the press. Miller would roast a pig and Palmer at the same time.
Perhaps I shall not write my account of the Paleolithic at all, but make a film of it. A silent film at that, in which I shall show you first the great slumbering rocks of the Cambrian period, and move from those to the mountains of Wales...from Ordovician to Devonian, on the lush glowing Cotswolds, on to the white cliffs of Dover... An impressionistic, dreaming film, in which the folded rocks arise and flower and grow and become Salisbury Cathedral and York Minster...