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Title: Sedimentary Rocks in the Field
Author: Stow, Dorrik A. V.

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Sedimentary Rocks
in the Field
A Colour Guide
Dorrik A.V. Stow

Ph.D

School of Ocean and Earth Science
Southampton Oceanography Centre
University of Southampton

MANSON
PUBLISHING

For Jay, Lani, and Kiah

Fifth impression 2010
Fourth impression 2009
Third impression 2007
Second impression 2006
Copyright © 2005 Manson Publishing Ltd
ISBN: 978-1-874545-69-9
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written
permission of the copyright holder or in accordance with the provisions of the
Copyright Act 1956 (as amended), or under the terms of any licence permitting
limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 33–34 Alfred Place,
London WC1E 7DP, UK.
Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be
liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
For full details of all Manson Publishing Ltd titles please write to:
Manson Publishing Ltd,
73 Corringham Road,
London NW11 7DL, UK.
Tel: +44(0)20 8905 5150
Fax: +44(0)20 8201 9233
Website: www.mansonpublishing.com
Disributed in Australia by
CSIRO Publishing
150 Oxford Street,
Collingwood, Victoria 3066
Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9662 7666
Fax: +61 3 9662 7555
Website: www.publish.csiro.au
Customers in North America should refer to
Academic Press/Elsevier at www.books.elsevier.com
Commissioning editor: Jill Northcott
Project manager: Ayala Kingsley
Copy-editors: Kathryn Rhodes, Ayala Kingsley
Designer: Ayala Kingsley
Colour reproduction by Tenon & Polert Colour Scanning Ltd, Hong Kong
Printed by New Era Printing Company Ltd, Hong Kong

FOREWORD

SEDIMENTARY ROCKS IN THE FIELD: A COLOUR GUIDE
is a much needed addition to the literature of sedimentology.
It offers much more than its title reveals. Eleven of the fifteen
chapters define the main types of sedimentary rock and
illustrate them in all their beauty and variety with numerous
color photographs. The remaining chapters – also lavishly
illustrated – provide introductions to field techniques, principal characteristics of sedimentary rocks, and interpretations
of depositional environments, all of which enrich the book
tremendously. The provision of stratigraphic time scales,
mapping symbols, grain-size comparator chart and sediment
description checklist, together with Wulff stereonet and
Lambert equal-area projection templates, further adds to its
usefulness in and out of the field.
The combination of all these elements in a handy format
will enable the geologist to more readily identify and understand the type of rock he or she is dealing with, making life in
the field a lot easier! This publication will be of great help
both to the student and to the professional who has not been
in the field for some time, while amateurs, whose background on sedimentary rocks may be incomplete, will
welcome it too. In addition to its value for geology students,
professionals, and amateur enthusiasts, the book will also be
of interest to anyone – from weekend walkers to soldiers on
maneuver – who takes a moment to study the terrain.
Professor Stow has traveled extensively, both on and offshore and that experience lends maturity to this publication.
There are examples of rock outcrops from all over the world
and the author provides different scales, such as micron, millimeter, and phi values for grain-size, in order to make this
work internationally useful. Finally, the publisher and his
team did a great job on the lay-out and production.
I strongly recommend this publication to any student,
professional, amateur, or outdoor person interested in learning more about sedimentary rocks in the field.
Arnold H. Bouma Ph.D
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Louisiana State University

CONTENTS

PREFACE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

1 OVERVIEW
About this book
Classification of sedimentary rocks
Economic studies

2 FIELD TECHNIQUES
Safety in the field
Field equipment
General approach and field notebook
Basic measurements and data records
Field sketches and logs
Paleocurrent and paleoslope analysis
Stratigraphic procedure and
way-up criteria
Other techniques

3 PRINCIPAL CHARACTERISTICS OF
SEDIMENTARY ROCKS
Introduction and facies concept
Bedding and lamination
Field photographs

Erosional structures
Field photographs

Depositional structures
Field photographs: parallel lamination
and stratification
Field photographs: wavy and lenticular
lamination, cross-lamination and
stratification
Field photographs: graded beds and
structural sequences

Post-depositional deformation and
dewatering structures
Field photographs: slides, slumps, and
chaotica
Field photographs: deformed bedding
and shale clasts
Field photographs: water escape and
desiccation structures

Biogenic sedimentary structures
Field photographs: bioturbation and
biogenic structures

6
7

8
8
9
10

Chemogenic sedimentary structures
Field photographs

Sediment texture and fabric
Sediment composition
Hand-lens photographs

Fossils
Sediment colour

12
12
13
14
14
18
23

4 CONGLOMERATES

25
27

Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Classification of sandstones
Occurrence

28
28
29
31
34
36
41
43

Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Classification of conglomerates
Occurrence
Field photographs

5 SANDSTONES

Field photographs

6 MUDROCKS
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Classification of mudrocks
Occurrence
Field photographs

7 CARBONATE ROCKS
47
61
68
70
79
82
86
92

Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Classification of carbonate rocks
Principal characteristics of dolomites
Occurrence
Field photographs

100
104
109
115
118
120
121

126
126
127
130
130
130
138
138
139
141
142
143
150
150
151
153
155
155
164
164
165
169
170
170
171

8 CHERTS AND SILICEOUS
SEDIMENTS
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Occurrence
Field photographs

9 PHOSPHORITES
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Occurrence
Field photographs

10 COAL AND OIL
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Occurrence
Field photographs

11 EVAPORITES
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Occurrence
Field photographs

12 IRONSTONES
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Occurrence
Field photographs

13 SOILS, PALEOSOLS, AND
DURICRUSTS
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Field photographs

14 VOLCANICLASTIC SEDIMENTS
Definition and range of types
Principal sedimentary characteristics
Occurrence
Field photographs

184
184
185
186
187
192
192
193
194
194
198
198
199
202
203
208
208
209
211
211
218
218
219
221
221
230
230
231
233
238
238
239
242
243

15 INTERPRETATIONS AND
DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENTS
Building blocks
Facies characteristics and models
Facies sequences and cycles
Lateral trends and geometry
Architectural elements and facies
associations
Sequence stratigraphy and bounding
surfaces
Field photographs: cycles, geometry,
and unconformities

Sediment interpretation in cores
Core photographs
Controls, rates, and preservation
Depositional environments
Field photographs: alluvial–fluvial
environments
Field photographs: desert–eolian
environments
Field photographs: glacial environments
Field photographs: deltaic environments
Field photographs: volcaniclastic
environments
Field photographs: shallow marine
clastic environments
Field photographs: marine evaporites
and carbonates
Field photographs: deep marine
environments
Tables: diagnostic features

REFERENCES AND KEY TEXTS
METRIC–IMPERIAL CONVERSIONS
INDEX
APPENDICES
Stratigraphic timescale 314
Mapping symbols 317
Grain-size comparator chart 318
Sediment description checklist 318
Wulff stereonet 319
Lambert equal-area projection 320

254
254
255
257
258
259
259
263
272
270
272
273
274
275
276
277
279
279
281
283
287
298
300
301

PREFACE

THE WORLD OF sediments and sedimentary rocks is exciting
and dynamic. It is fundamental to our understanding of the
whole Earth System and of the wide range of environments
that characterize its surface. It also provides the key to a
plethora of natural resources – industrial, chemical, metallic,
water, and energy resources – that shape the way we live.
Ideas and concepts in sedimentology are fast changing,
but fundamental fieldwork and data collection remain at its
heart. In the first instance, it is an observational science,
closely followed by laboratory, experimental, and theoretical
work. The primary skill lies in knowing how and what to
observe and record in the field, and then how best to interpret
these data. For me, this has always been a distinctly visual
process. The unique aspect of this guide, therefore, is in the
wide range of graphic material that draws together the very
latest ideas and interpretations (over 50 line drawings),
coupled with over 425 photographs (from 30 different countries) of the principal types of sedimentary rocks and their
characteristic features. It is intended for ease of field use by
students, professionals, and amateurs alike.
All the field photographs illustrated have been carefully
selected from my own collection, except where otherwise
acknowledged. All figures have been redrawn and many specially compiled from the latest research knowledge, always
with a view to providing the best aid to recognition, classification, and interpretation in the field. The key emphasis is to
help with field observation and recognition of the main features of sedimentary rocks. Some pointers are given towards
their preliminary interpretation, but further endeavour in
this area must remain the province of the broader sedimentological literature, and will depend on the nature of the work
in progress. Many different disciplines and sub-disciplines of
geology and oceanography, as well as sedimentology, require
a field understanding of sediments and sedimentary rocks.
They include: geophysics and geochemistry, paleontology
and Quaternary geology, physical geography and soil science,
archeology and environmental science. Above all, and for all,
this is a book to take into the field and use!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

THERE ARE very many people to acknowledge in compiling a
book of this sort. Most importantly, my thanks to Claire for
the original idea, one wet and rainy day in the Lake District,
and for her continued support throughout, and to Michael
Manson for his enthusiasm and enduring patience through
a long gestation period. Thanks also to other members of
the Manson Publishing team and to Ayala Kingsley for
expert design and layout. At my own institute, Southampton
Oceanography Centre (now the National Oceanography
Centre), I am much indebted to Frances Bradbury for typing
the first manuscript, Kate Davies for such expert drafting
of the many complex figures, and Barry Marsh for hand
specimen photography. Particular thanks are also due to the
principal reviewer of an earlier version of the manuscript,
Tony Adams, for his hard work and helpful comments, and
to Ian West and Vicky Catterall for subsequent review and
proof reading.
Great appreciation goes to numerous colleagues the
world over, who have introduced me to such interesting
rocks and have shared time, ideas, and friendship in the field,
as well as to countless students who have so aptly demonstrated the need for such a book. Paul Potter, my long-time
American colleague who roams the western hemisphere,
deserves special mention – his numerous, well illustrated
books on sedimentology have inspired, and a number of his
excellent field photos used here have helped plug gaps in my
own collection. Hakan Kahraman has been particularly
helpful with the chapter on coals, Ian West on evaporites, and
Bob Foster with the chapter on ironstones. Special thanks are
also due to Arnold Bouma for inspiration and insight in the
field, for reading and commenting at proof stage, and for
kindly providing a generous Foreword. Institutional and
financial support has come from varied sources, in particular
the Southampton Oceanography Centre at Southampton
University, the Royal Society, BP, the British Council, and the
Natural Environment Research Council (UK).

8

Chapter 1

OVERVIEW

Caption
Planning the work. Mixed volcanic and volcaniclastic succession, Lake District, UK.

About this book
THIS BOOK is intended as a guide to the recognition and description of sedimentary rocks in
the field. The emphasis is firmly on illustrating the principal types of sedimentary rock
and their specific characteristics through a
series of colour photographs and summary
figures. Lists and tables of key points and features keep the text succinct. It is designed for
ease of use in the field, with a careful cross-referencing and index system, and with some of
the key tools of the trade printed on the cover,
or as figures at the end of the book (see pages
314–320). The first steps towards interpretation are included, together with a guide to
more detailed texts for further work.

This introductory chapter briefly defines the
main types of sedimentary rock and their
recognition, followed by a section highlighting the economic study of sediments. Chapter
2 describes the main field techniques including safety, equipment, field notebook records,
making basic measurements, field sketches
and logs, paleocurrent analysis, and stratigraphic procedure. Chapter 3 provides a comprehensive summary of the principal characteristics of sedimentary rocks including
bedding, sedimentary structures, sediment
texture and fabric, composition and colour, as
well as how to recognize these features, and
what to observe and measure. This chapter is
fully illustrated with field photographs.
Chapters 4–14 document each of the main


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