Event Detail


Hong Kong Landscapes: 400 Million Years of Geological History

Dr Raynor Shaw & Dr Bernie Owen
Tuesday, 12 May 2009


"Hong Kong Landscapes: 400 Million Years of Geological History"

Dr Raynor Shaw and Professor Bernie Owen

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay

Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm

The Royal Geographical Society is pleased to welcome Dr Raynor Shaw and Professor Bernie Owen to lecture on the landscapes of Hong Kong. Dr Shaw and Professor Owen are well known to most RGS members, having led many field trips for the Society. They are coauthors of two popular geological landscape guides: "Hong Kong Landscapes: Along the MacLehose Trail"; and "Hong Kong Landscapes: Shaping the Barren Rock". Their events have included walks along most stages of the MacLehose Trail, and boat trips to see the fascinating island scenery of northeastern Hong Kong and the spectacular columnarjointed rocks of the Ninepins.

Dr Shaw's and Professor Owen's wealth of knowledge about the local scenery derive from a combined total of over 40 years in Hong Kong, exploring, studying, researching and describing many aspects of the geology, geomorphology, offshore sediments, engineering geology and engineering geomorphology of the territory and its surrounding waters. They are to present a beautifully illustrated summary of this varied experience during the evening, using their fabulous slides, including showing why the glorious scenery of eastern Hong Kong is to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Geoparks List.

In this lecture, Dr Shaw and Professor Owen provide an overview of the 400 million year geological history of Hong Kong and how that legacy has given rise to the varied scenery that occurs today. Past environments ranged from warm shelf seas to deep oceans, and from extensive river floodplains to arid desert basins. Within these markedly different environments was squeezed a geologically brief episode that had the most profound effect upon the physical landscape, and the subsequent economic development, of Hong Kong. For 25 million years, between about 165 and 140 million years ago, Hong Kong was shaped by violently explosive volcanoes. The volcanic and granitic rocks formed during this period now underlie 85% of the territory, the remaining 15% being underlain by sedimentary rocks.

Lowimpact human influences on the Hong Kong landscape began only about 6,000 years ago, in the form of farming, building limekilns, making pottery, tree felling and forging tools. Human activities gradually increased in their breadth and intensity over the historical period. Thus, by 1900, most of the land area of Hong Kong had been affected to some degree by human pursuits. However, the twentieth century witnessed an exponential increase in human activities, developments that changed the face of Hong Kong forever.

Despite the popular perception of Hong Kong as an "urban jungle", 60% of the landscape is officially recognised as "natural terrain', which is considered to be land that has not been subjected to major disturbance by human activities. The 40% of the territory that is urbanised is squeezed onto the limited level areas between the steepsided hills, the surrounding uplands providing a stunning scenic backdrop to the towering buildings.

Importantly, about 40% of the landscape of the territory is preserved as Country Parks that are protected from indiscriminate developments. Further, the image of Hong Kong abroad is soon to be changed when the planned Hong Kong Geopark is formed. This is to place the scenery of eastern Hong Kong on the UNESCO World Geoparks List, finally giving international recognition to the intrinsic natural beauty of the Hong Kong landscape.

Dr Shaw has recently retired after working in Hong Kong for 25 years. Most of that time was spent with the Hong Kong Geological Survey, making geological maps of the territory and providing geological advice to engineers. He was educated at London and Edinburgh Universities, before lecturing at McMaster University in Canada, and then prospecting for alluvial diamonds and gold in West Africa and Venezuela. Dr Shaw has now turned his attention to writing popular accounts of the geology and scenery of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia for a range of publications.

Professor Owen currently lectures in physical geography and geology at the Hong Kong Baptist University, where he been based since 1991. He was educated at Sheffield and London Universities, before lecturing for eight years at the University of Malawi. Professor Owen carries out research on geomorphology, lake and marine sedimentology, and microfossils in Hong Kong and overseas, including Malawi, British Columbia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Greece.

Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others.

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