Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Urban soil analysis - 3

Not trying to be scientific - I'm in a hurry
I have lost a USB stick with pictures from an urban expedition. It must be somewhere in the house. I have done everything possible - even said a prayer to St. Anthony - but nothing helps. So I'm just cleaning house and I hope it will emerge from the chaos.

One part of the chaos was my collection of soil samples from other urban expeditions. So I had to clean that up in a hurry. I had no time for detailed analysis. So this was just an experiment with aesthetics of presentation.
First results are promising - will do a better job when I have more time
  • Urban soil is really interesting. It may not be authentic, it may have been transported long distances. It may have been disturbed and mixed many times. But that history makes it interesting. Can we read some of that history?
  • Urban soil samples are very different. It is interesting to compare them. Colours, textures and composition are all different. What can we learn from that?
Ideas for improvement
  • Next time I should note more exact locations. Better labels.
  • Adding a coin for scale may be scientifically correct but it spoils the picture. I should find a more aesthetic scale marker.
  • Adding a place tag is easier than writing it on the underground. But it does not look aesthetic.
  • Next time I should use natural light. It gives much better colors. And maybe use gray paper for background. White gives extreme contrast and kills color. Especially with the dark soils. But right now I cannot take these pictures outside because of wind and rain.
  • Little heaps are aesthetically more pleasing than flat spreads. Sideways is better than from the top.
  • I will have to look in real scientific publications how they photograph little heaps of soil. If they do that at all.

Real natural sand from the beach at Hoek van Holland. Notice the seashell fragments, the fine grains and the many dark minerals. Notice the cleanness and the absence of clay. But even this sand is not entirely natural. Sand is added to this beach periodically, otherwise it will disappear.
Street sand from Gouda. Fresh sand. Notice the much coarser texture. Probably sand from river deposits.
Street sand from Rotterdam, Hillegersberg. Fresh sand. Notice again a different texture, and a slightly different color.
Street sand from Rotterdam. Blaak, from the other side of the street where the metro station is. Sand that was dug up when the foundations for the Blaakhaven building were laid. Probably old sand that had lain under the pavement a long time. Maybe as old as the construction of the metro.
Street sand from Rotterdam. 4e Westewagehof. Old sand exposed during the renovation of the quay wall. Contains particles of cement and brick. Might be from the 1950's or older.

Strangely red and fine clay from under a demolished house in a German ghost town. Around Pesch and Spenrath. The dark gritty material is from the same place. It looks artificial, maybe slag.
Dirty mixed clay from a dry pond next to the library in IJsselstein. Near the Basiliekpad. Probably just some random old soil used to fill a hole.
Clay from a farmers field near Lopik (the sign in the picture is wrong). And some rich soil I collected from a molehill by the side of the road. Near the bus stop "Radiozender" (Transmitter) of bus line 505.

Mixed soil
Mixed soil from a wood near Zundert. Collected along a footpath. Sand mixed with clay, humus and a lot of biologic material.


  1. I will try on your behalf.
    St. Anthony, St Anthony please come around Petr's USB stick is lost and cannot be found.

    My purse went missing last month. I tried St. Anthony and it was found in the hallway of a public building. It took four days but someone telephoned and I retrieved my purse. Nothing broke, lost, or stolen =)

  2. Hi Petr,
    I have asked St. Anthony to point me in the direction of Petr Kazil who was at our Montesori school in Rotterdam. We are having a reunion this month. Can you drop me an email (biojoules at gmail.com) Regards, Tim