OK, now that it has been officially been announced that Gail's employer has been bought by, well let's just call them 'LR', I can exclusively reveal my real role on the recent geological field trip to Skye.
Yes indeed, I have been carrying out a secret commission on behalf of the new owners to assess the true value to the company of these excursions. The context is that, regrettably, there is in some senior levels of management a degree of cynicism about the business justification for such trips and a suspicion that geologists just like to be paid for swanning off to scenic locations and pontificating about rocks.
I must emphasise that I have taken my task here extremely seriously, given the high likelihood that my findings will strongly influence future company policy.
My report takes the form of responses to a series of questions that were posed by the high heid yins at LR.
Q: Can you state categorically that the subsurface team were not just out for a three day jolly on company time?
A: Believe me, if it had been a 'jolly' they would have chosen somewhere with better weather.
Q: Will this trip help our subsurface staff to advise on finding and exploiting reserves of oil and gas?
A. Absolutely yes no question about it. Oh I could say so much about this. Gosh, where do I start? I mean, between you and me, I had hoped that we were going to be spending our time tracking down dinosaur footprints and ammonite fossils, and hearing exciting stories about exploding volcanoes etc. etc, but the truth is that it was all about looking at features within the sandstone beds and inferring their lateral continuity which has important implications for modelling oil fields, and about how you could judge a rock's permeability by observing the rainwater soaking into the sandstone but forming puddles on the basalt and how examining the vertical changes in a rock succession in a cliff can help you predict what's happening in the same age rocks many miles away and that when interpreting cores from oil wells you need to have a picture in your mind what the rocks look like at a larger scale and oh you know, whatever...
Q: Does this sort of expedition offer staff opportunities to develop their creativity and problem solving capabilities? Perhaps you could give us an illustration?
A: Oh I most certainly could. Let's say, for example (a purely hypothetical scenario you understand) that you have a dog on the field trip who is a teeny weeny bit impatient and tends to bark if kept waiting by the car while everyone is faffing around putting on their weatherproof clothing.
Q: Can you explain how field trips foster teamworking and communication skills?
A: When you are standing in a 25 mph wind and horizontal rain, important lessons about communication can be learned. For example, that if you want anyone to hear what you are saying you need to stand up wind of your audience and shout loudly.
And of course, crossing a stream in spate can, as referred to in my previous post, involve inter-species teamwork, especially when one participant is frightened of fast flowing water...
Q: Is it safe for our staff to take part in field courses?
A: I can't believe that this question was even asked. Did no one read my earlier posts regarding appropriate protective helmets for ALL mammalian participants? The fact that in some (OK all) of the photos taken in the field I am bare headed is testament to the toughness of the typical terrier skull, and in absolutely no way to be construed as a negligent approach to HSE.
Q: We are keen as a company to promote technical excellence at all levels. Was this goal met on the field trip?
A: Oh I could have stood there for hours listening to our esteemed and inspirational field trip leaders Jim and Iain giving us the benefit of their in depth knowledge of the geology of Skye.
In fact, oh yes, I did...
Q: Finally Bertie, would you recommend that this field trip be repeated next year?
A: Well now let me see. It is best that geologists are exposed to a range of different environments, to broaden their experience. I feel that perhaps what is needed is for this team to follow up with a study of modern day carbonate formation. Such as happens, you know, in places like the Caribbean...
I would be quite prepared, despite the inevitable hardships, once again to review the quality and value of the educational experience.