Wooster Geologists in Sweden

July 11th, 2011

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN–I had not realized how much water is in the city of Stockholm. Almost a third of the city’s area is water because the center is built on 14 islands connected by bridges and ferries. “The Venice of the North” some call it.

Rachel, Nick and I are here for a very short visit. We’ll spend tomorrow in the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet (Royal Museum of Natural History), so for now we just explored the neighborhood around our hotel. It is called Östermalm and is one of the older parts of Stockholm.

The Nordiska museet (Nordic Museum) has a glorious array of building stones, all from Sweden. The simple blocks are sandstones and fine-grained metamorphic rocks, and the carved pieces are limestones.

The local bedrock is 1750-1900 million years old, formed during the Svecofennian (Svecokarelian) orogeny. The outcrops I saw, like this example of “living stone” at the base of a building, are metavolcanics (metamorphosed volcanic rocks, usually basalt). Apparently the bedrock of Stockholm is an engineering geologist’s dream because of its stability, moisture repelling capabilities, and uniform strength — great for bridge abutments and subway tunnels.

I spent my Stockholm afternoon in the museums found in an easy walk around our hotel. I was impressed with the Viking runestones on display in the Historiska muséet (History Museum), and I was touched by this one. The runes are translated as: “Una/Unna had this stone raised in memory of her son Eysteinn who died in christening robes. May God help his soul.” They are carved in a glacial granite boulder, the kind of rock we saw scattered across the Estonian western islands. Note the dark xenoliths.

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