South Coast Autumn Meeting

Saturday September 24th 2022

The microscopists’ meeting in Dorset has been held in spring and autumn for many years now. Sadly, during the hiatus of Covid lockdowns several of our stalwarts have passed away.  There were, however, enough people to provide displays in the recently renovated village hall.

Brian Darnton brought an extensive selection of his slides of foraminifera, including some spectacular arrangements. He wanted to emphasise collections from the Swanage area as well as displaying slides from the classic sources like HMS Porcupine voyages. To promote the former he provided photos of the best collection sites in Swanage, along with a warning about the danger of slipping on the Swanage slipway and getting trapped in mud at the stream mouth.

Grenham Ireland’s display of live specimens in samples of water from Poole Harbour contained a variety of species. One specimen might have been a mite and some time was spent trying to count the legs on a very mobile creature. Grenham brings both a good quality stereo microscope and his Zeiss compound microscope along with a quite large screen, the transport and setting up being much admired by other colleagues.

Peter Wakeman also brought an admirable amount of kit to show more live specimens but in a freshwater environment. The video screen incorporated with his microscope gave a good view of his specimens though he also brought a larger screen. This type of microscope does provide an easily transportable display. To ensure his specimens stayed alive he was aerating the sample storage bucket with a small pump. He agreed with a quotation from Tony Pattinson that some microscopists start with pond life then go on to other things – he was happy to remain with his starting interest.

Debbie Burfitt has joined our group recently as she has rejuvenated her interest in diatoms. She studied diatoms for her PhD and subsequently spent a season in Antarctica. She brought along some of her library containing classic books and some slides including a superb Klaus Kemp diatom arrangement. Her old microscope is being refurbished and she wants to go back to her original work.

Pam Hamer focussed on rocks, as usual, but this time had an odd large beach stone from the Isle of Wight rather than Purbeck stones. This stone was breaking up and there was discussion on why and how this was happening. As part of the process, areas of very distinctive metallic looking crystals were visible in the breaking particles. Pam believes they are an iron sulphide mineral, possible marcasite which can also alter to pyrite. The crystals were displayed on a Vickers stereomicroscope. Observing individual crystal shapes with an incident compound microscope required a very diffuse toplight provided by half of a table tennis ball around the objective.

Despite an invitation for local people to visit our displays added to the advert which had been displayed around the village for a couple of weeks we had no local people join us this time. Some members did come to gossip, including two who had driven from Cardiff. A couple of other local microscopists send their apologies for being unable to join in this time. The consensus among the people who did attend was that they would like to continue with a spring meeting in Langton.