by Phill Parker


In 1842 while on a walk from his Uncle Wedgwood's home at Maer Hall, Charles Darwin discovered a volcanic magma intrusion into the surrounding sandstone rock layers along leafy Butterton Lane. This volcanic intrusion, called a geological dyke, is thought to be 53 million years old. Butterton village is about 3 miles from Maer Hall. It was around this time that Darwin was pencil sketching his ideas for "On The Origin of Species". The discovery of this dyke also proved to be of importance to leading geologist Roderick Impey Murchinson who had earlier predicted that volcanic dykes he had observed in the Welsh Shropshire borderlands would extend north west into Staffordshire and beyond. The discovery by Darwin of the Butterton Dyke provided the proof that he was seeking.

This same area was also to see another important geological event. Lord John Cadman (first BP Chairman) used the area in 1927 to have the British Geological Survey field test some of the very first geophysical instruments (gravimeter and magnetometer) by having them succesfully detect the Butterton-Swynnerton volcanic dykes. This paved the way for these instruments to then be used by Anglo Persian Oil (BP's predecessor) in the Persian desert to detect oil deposits, in turn, helping trigger the global expansion of the oil industry. The use of these instruments was the beginning of geophysics by the British Geological Survey. Incidentally,Lord Cadman was born in Silverdale - just 3 miles from Butterton

Now, in 1998, Phill Parker (award winning spaceflight writer and lecturer) from Newcastle-under-Lyme (just one mile from Darwin's site) is having a piece of the volcanic Dolerite rock from the Butterton Dyke site flown into space to the Russian MIR space station.The small piece of rock - with an accompanying commemorative plaque - will be carried in cosmonaut Aleksandr Kaleri space suit pocket when he is launched by Soyuz spacecraft on the 2nd August 1998 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstahn. He returns with the rock to Earth in March 1999.

Phill views the Millennium Rock - as he calls it - as a token of the hopes, inspirations, spirits, dreams and wishes from the people of the second millennium and to carry these forward to the people of the third millennium for them to carry on the human endeavour of exploration of the universe about them.

Since it is highly likely that during the next thousand years human beings may discover extraterrestrial life (whether it be fossilised, microbial, plant or even a recognisable intelligent, living life form) then just as Darwin had recognised our "Origin of Species" then we will have to consider the "origin of extra terrestial species".

On its return to Earth the Millennium Rock is to be exhibited at a number of venues around the world starting at The Potteries Musuem and the Brampton Museum. To mark the occasion, Phill has commissioned an acrylic painting from space artist Andy Paterson evoking the above ideas. This painting will accompany the Millennium Rock on its tours. The exhibition includes many photo panels featuring Darwin, Cadman, Maer Hall, Butterton and panels explaining the geology of the area along with text panels explaining the purpose of the Millennium Rock.In addition,there will be photo panels of the spacecraft launch, MIR space station,cosmonauts and spacecraft recovery.

Page created on 5/29/1998 11:43:33 AM

Last edited 8/27/2021 5:33:54 AM

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