Practical but Limited Geologists

A Sherlockian Meeting of the “Practical but Limited Geologists” and the “Sound of the Baskervilles” at the Geological Society of America Seattle Convention, October 25, 2017


Concurrent with the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) convention in Seattle, BSI Peter Blau, former Chief Geologist of the State of Maryland and well respected in both groups, called a meeting of a subset of the GSA which he began, geologists who are “Friends of Sherlock Holmes”, the “Practical but Limited Geologists” (PLG). All interested Sherlockians, geologists or not, were invited and we met at Seattle’s Elephant and Castle’s billiards room the evening of October 25, 2017.


“Practical but Limited Geologists” attending included Peter Blau, James and Nicole LaMoreaux of Tuscaloosa, Bob Levich of Las Vegas, Laurance and Julie Donnelly of Manchester, Rebecca Taormina, a TX Tech student from Baylor and the SOB’s geologists Allen and Margaret Nelson. They were joined by other SOBs Margie and Hank Deck, Kashena Konecki, Michael Phillips, Sonia Featherston and Flying Petrel Bob Coghill. Peter knew James LaMoreaux and Bob Levich from previous GSA conventions and is an old friend of Bob Coghill. Rebecca was a new attendee but Laurance Donnelly, new to the PLG, is a forensic geologist who has worked with the British police for 25 years, often using geology to show that people and items were present at a crime location.

At the GSA convention, Laurance presented two papers, one on landslides and was also the featured luncheon speaker on Wednesday on forensic geology. He said he was unaware of the PLGs until Peter invited him to this meeting. Peter Blau told a very entertaining story of the naming of Holmes Peak near Tulsa, OK after Sherlock. It involves the Pope so I think it must be the genuine, still unwritten story of the Vatican cameos with one of the cameos being Holmes’ small part in the story! He also told us about a crater on the moon being named for Sherlock. Here is a quick summary about that name.

Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, a geologist who was chosen for the astronaut program went to the moon on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The astronauts honored people by naming lunar features for them. Schmitt said, “These men and women are representatives of many, many others of their generations who were or are true humanists – no matter what enterprise may call upon them for excellence. Most of the crater designations reflect the bias of my own specific interests in literature, history of western man, geographical exploration and geology. Several other names were suggested by other individuals deeply involved in our mission…” Regarding Sherlock Crater, Schmitt said, “Sherlock Holmes, whose adventures were preserved for us by Dr. Watson, was not only the world’s most famous and most brilliant detective, but was also one of the leading geological thinkers of his time. His knowledge of London soils and many other aspects of nature, combined with his use of deductive reasoning, serve as examples to all who aspire to understand the worlds around us.” You can read a list of named lunar craters here.

We all enjoyed meeting Sherlockians and thank Peter Blau for regularly calling meetings of the PLGs at GSA and other professional geological meetings!

By SOB Margaret Nelson