Isle of Wight

Ventnor chalk cliffs

You can’t help but see chalk cliffs wherever you go on the Isle of Wight, so I couldn’t resist getting closer to the stuff on a walk along the Ventnor coastline. Plus I have a thing about textures.

Ventnor chalk cliffs

The island gets its name not from the colour white, but from ‘wight’. There are several explanations but the most likely are:

1. Around 1900 BC the Beaker people arrived – so-called from their distinctive pottery. They called the Island “Wiht” (Weight) meaning raised or what rises over the sea. Then the Romans arrived in 43AD and translated “Wiht” into the name Vectis from the Latin veho meaning “lifting”.

2. 400BC – Iron Age Celts from the Continent gave Wight its name, meaning ‘place of the division, because it is between the two arms of the Solent. It is one of the Island’s few surviving Celtic names.

Ventnor chalk cliffs

So how is chalk formed? Well, from dead things of long ago.

Chalk rock (calcium carbonate), a pure form of limestone formed in warm, tropical seas about 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period, a time when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Microscopic marine algae, called coccoliths, lived in the ancient sea. Their shells were made of calcite. As the algae died, their bodies sunk to the sea floor and chalk sediment was deposited. Over millions of years layers of chalk sediment were deposits caused compaction of loose sediment into solid chalk rock.

Ventnor chalk cliffs

There there lies your geology lesson for the day 🙂

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer

Isle of Wight, England, August 2018 © Pete Hillman.