THE URBAN FOSSILING BLOG
New Yorker reporter Anna Russell comes out with us for a Nitronite collecting excursion on bicycles around East London. Read her article: https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-uk/the-laughing-gas-wars-of-londonRead more
Another speculative ride, this time south west from London to Richmond Park. Because this was a longer ride we decided to be a bit more selective in our “excavations”, only stopping to collect the most interesting or most attractive nitronites.Read more
Another weekend, another nitronite expedition. We decided just to head out of London via the A12 to visit the London Cycling Centre at Gants Hill and to see what sort of nitronite deposits we came across. We were not disappointed.Read more
Excited by our discovery of separate categories of Nitronite caused by recreational use of nitrous oxide cannisters in public spaces, we decided to design a speculative expedition to explore some of London’s green spaces.Read more
Emboldened by the success of our first expedition we decided to try “excavating” another busy junction of the North Circular Road – the A10, which heads northwards until it joins the M11 near CambridgeRead more
A205 TO RICHMOND PARK – SEPTEMBER 2019
Another speculative ride, this time south west from London to Richmond Park (and round, and back, and very nice too). Because this was a longer ride we decided to be a bit more selective in our “excavations”, only stopping to collect the most interesting or most attractive nitronites (to the collectors’ eye at least!).
We started collecting once we reached the A3 in Wandsworth and, although we only added a few specimens to our growing collection, we also made an interesting observation. As we left the inner London districts of Wandsworth and Putney and reached the more affluent residential areas nearer to Richmond, the nitronite seam slowed, from the usual A-road torrent, to a residential trickle, before running out altogether about a mile and a half from Richmond Park.
We made a note to mark this point on the “Nitronite
Line”, the line around suburban London where the town starts to meet the
more affluent commuter-belt and which marks a behavioural boundary, where users on their
way into London begin to discard cannisters at the roadside, and/or where
recreational use becomes more common. Very much an "us and them" kind of drug, nitrous.
We will continue to collect data on this interesting aspect of the Nitronite record - and at some point we will produce a really nice-looking and funny map of the Nitronite Line. If you would be interested in buying our "Nitronite Map of London", let us know at email@example.com and we’ll see if we get enough interest to produce one at a reasonable price!
We headed into Richmond Park and found the nitronite seam to be completely depleted. We didn’t find any in the park at all (although there MUST be some recreational caches around, maybe if we returned with a metal detector? Plus, to be fair, we pretty much cycled round the inner ringroad at about 20 mph, because that’s what you do on a bike in Richmond Park apparently). But we did attract some interested observers.
We returned home with our nitronites and armed with our new knowledge, our plans for a Nitronite Map of London and 52 kilometres on the clock. Expedition successful.
A12 TO GANTS HILL – 17 AUGUST 2019
Another weekend, another nitronite expedition, this time a little more prosaic. Instead of having a specific neo-paleontological theory in mind, we decided just to head out of London via the A12 to visit the London Cycling Centre at Gants Hill and to see what sort of nitronite deposits we came across.
We were not disappointed.
At Turnpike Lane we encountered an interesting phenomenon - a rare seam of “uncollectable” nitronites, mainly broken and literally melted into the tarmac in the middle of the busy box junction at the corner of Turnpike Lane and Green Lanes. Even at the weekend the sheer volume of traffic would make their collection extremely difficult, even if they had not been pummeled into the tarmac by repeated pounding of car tyres. I suppose we could go back at 4am one night with a torch and pickaxe but it doesn't really seem worth it, frankly. Giving up on the prospect of picking up the two pence pieces also melded with the road as well, a quick dash into the middle of the junction to collect some photographic evidence was all we could be bothered with.
We cycled on to Gants Hill, stopping to collect
almost an entire expedition’s worth of nitronites at a single roundabout – the overpass
and junction between the A12 and the A406 North Circular. A major arterial
route into and around London from Essex, this junction represents the richest
single seam of nitronites we have yet discovered, with a huge variety of (mainly) Argentonites
and Ferronites in their various subcategories, all formed after being left at the
roadside for a prolongued period of time (forever?) and subjected to repeated
impacts from passing traffic.
After a couple of circuits of the track at the
London Cycle Centre (quite nice, bit hilly) we returned to London with our bikeloads of recycled steel and for the first time with indisputable photographic evidence of our “future
A11/A12 JUNCTION – STRATFORD – 31 JULY 2019
Having essentially proven our theory of roadside Nitronites, and excited by our recent discovery of separate categories caused by recreational use of nitrous oxide cannisters in public spaces, as opposed to mindless littering from passing traffic, we decided to design a speculative expedition to explore some of London’s green spaces.First we dropped into Finsbury Park, well known as a seasonal site of excessive nitronite activity during the summer festival season
At the bandstand we discovered a cache of recently discarded Argentonites and encountered a passing teenager who found what we were doing completely hilarious and stopped to help us collect some specimens.
As part of the landscaping of the green canalside park and pedestrian footbridge at Mile End, a manmade mound or hill was created, with pedestrian and cycle access spiraling up to a viewing point at the summit, where there is a large overgrown planter surrounded by benches. The summit of this hill, which we dubbed “Mount Nitronite”, was littered with literally hundreds of nitronites. Unlike the nitronites commonly found at the roadsides, this rich and regularly replenished seam of recreational nitronites were almost exclusively whole, silver Argentonites, recently disgarded.
We gleefully filled our paniers at the top of 'party mountain' and took some
photos before moving (more slowly!) on to Stratford and the A11/A12 junction of
the “London Cycle Superhighway”.
Another rich seam of nitronites was discovered here, with plenty of variation as is usual with roadside nitronites, including some found in interesting locations.
Another successful expedition, another great find – this time
an exciting new location, a rich and clearly often replenished source of Argentonite in Tower Hamlets – Mount Nitronite.
A10/A406 JUNCTION – 14 JULY 2019
Emboldened by the success of our first
expedition we decided to try “excavating” another busy junction of the North
Circular Road – the A10, which heads northwards until it joins the M11 near
Cambridge – this time at another time of week that we figured would be busy for nitronites
but less bsuy for traffic, a Sunday afternoon.
As we headed through Haringey and joined the A10 we passed increasing numbers of nitronites at the roadside. We started our collecting of discarded nitronites as we neared Edmonton, before reaching the junction with the North Circular at approximately 3pm.
Our kerbside investigation and collection of nitronites was met with some interest and amusement by several passing motorists.
NB. Nitronite excavation can be a dangerous endeavour and can also attract attention since it presents some unusually counter-intuitive pedestrian behavior to passing motorists. We take great care to only investigate kerbs with contact with passing vehicles on foot, having parked our bikes, and while cars are stopped and lights are red, and absolutely avoiding obstructing cars at all times. However, our activity does attract some attention. Although we have had a few honking of horns, the comments and conversations we have had with passing drivers and pedestrians have been universally positive as soon as we explain what we are doing and why. Most people find our nitro-paleontology for the creation of artwork to be a great idea. Almost everyone comments on what a nuisance the cannisters are, and how the number of discarded cannisters has shot up over the past few years. “They’re everywhere these days” is our most common comment. Which is why, obviously, Nitronites form such an important part of the emerging geological record. Plus they make great keyrings.
The junction of the A10 and the North Circular is a roundabout with a large underpass for pedestrians and cyclists, with the various pathways meeting in a central area underneath the passing roads. Here, at the very end of our expedition, we were confronted by a new and unanticipated form of nitronite – the Bonfanite, caused when nitronites are discarded into a impromptu bonfire, presumably by some very bored teenagers. In the remains of this bonfire we discovered twelve charred but completely intact specimens of this new and rarely observed nitronite.
With our paniers full and our prize specimens collected, we returned to sort and classify our latest discoveries. Expedition successful.