Seaham Quarry | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Seaham Quarry

Item details

Name of item: Seaham Quarry
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Natural
Category: Geological site or area
Location: Lat: -32.6631167424 Long: 151.7271690840
Primary address: Torrence Street, Seaham, NSW 2324
Parish: Seaham
County: Durham
Local govt. area: Port Stephens
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Worimi
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT10 DP258195
LOT95 DP42639
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Torrence StreetSeahamPort StephensSeahamDurhamPrimary Address
Torrence StreetSeahamPort StephensSeahamDurhamAlternate Address

Statement of significance:

Seaham Quarry is significant to the history of Australian geology and its associations with the famous Australian geologist, Professor Edgeworth David who first recognised the glacigene origin of the Carboniferous sediments in the Seaham area in 1914. Seaham Quarry is of international scientific importance because of the perfection of preservation of its varied shales and the associated contorted beds exposed in them. The shale deposits are estimated by scientists to be more than 300 million years old. The quarry contains, in its shale deposits, evidence of the galcial origin of rocks in the Hunter River Valley. (Heritage Office file notes 1979)
Date significance updated: 05 Jan 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Physical description: Seaham Quarry is a small, disused shale quarry at Seaham, 14 kilometres northwest of Raymond Terrace. The quarry walls are north facing and one to two metres high. In 1925 a signboard was erected by Edgeworth David proclaiming the area is to 'preserved in perpetuity'.

The varved sediments in the Seaham Quarry belong to the Upper Carboniferous Seaham Formation (Engel, 1966), equivalent to the Main Glacial Beds of Osborne (1922). In the Seaham area the formation consists of 600mm of tillite, varved shale, aqueo-glacial conglomerate, tuffaceous sandstone, and mudstone. Osborne (1925) recognised three tillite and three varved shale horizons, of which that exposed in the quarry is the lower-most and thickest.

Crowell and Frakes (1971,p.137) described the appearance of the strata in the quarry as follows: 'Laminated clay-shale layers, from 5 mm to 10 cm are separated by thinner fine-sandstone layers, from a few millimetres to a centimetre in thickness. Many thin sandstone units are graded, and locally display starved ripples with shapes and internal cross-laminations indicating the sense of current transport. Scattered through the section are rounded pebbles up to 6 cm in diameter...which occur within thicker mudstone layers as well as on bedding planes demarcated by graded sandstones'...Occasional pockets of such pebbles were observed by Sussmilch (in Sussmilch and David, 1920). Glaessner (1957) described and illustrated a new species of arthropod trace fossil, Isododichnus osbornei, from varve shales at Seaham. The exact locality is not stated but the specimens were most likely collected from the quarry where they had previously been recorded (Sussmilch and David, 1920) as annelid tracks. The probable depositional environment of the quarry strata, as envisaged by Rattigan (1967) and other workers, was a shallow periglacial lake which received sediment influxes via turbidity currents. Low velocity traction currents modified the surface of these lake bed deposits, and ice-rafted pebbles (derived from moraines) were dropped into them at intervals from melting floes and icebergs. Crowell and Frakes (1971) consider that this glaciation was of alpine type and took place at a (late Carboniferous) latitude of 45-50 degree S.

Perhaps the most spectacular features exposed in the quarry are localised contorted beds interstratified between apparently undisturbed layers and laterally
continuous with undeformed planar strata. The height of the contorted layers ranges from a few centimetres to a metre or more. In David Edgeworth's day, the
cause of the deformation was thought to be 'the dragging force of glacial ice or icebergs'. - However Fairbridge (1947), who reviewed in detail seven possible
explanations of the origin of the contortions, concluded that -ravitational slumping - probably due to release of water from impounded glacial lakes, or over loading,
was the most likely cause. Subsequent investigators (Rattigan, 1967; Crowell and Frakes, 1971) considered that some of the contorted layers could equally well have resulted from groudning of icebergs and floes.

Rattigan (1967) described a variety of other deformational phenomena from these strata, including lode and flow structures, intraformational facturing, penecontemporaneous sand intrusions, and non-hydrodynamic ripple forms. He proposed earthquake-activated slumping as a possible mechanism of formation.

The other feature of the strata exposed in the quarry which has attracted scientific interest is the significance of the laminations. The explanation on the signboard reflects the view of early workers in the area that the alternation of coarse and fine bands was attributable to seasonal deposition, and that the approximate time taken for accumulation could be established by counting pairs of layers. Sussmilch (in Sussmilch and David, 1.920) in fact estimated that all-out 3000 years would have been required to deposit the total thickness of varve shales (some 60 m) in the Seaham, district, but the accuracy of this measurement was questioned by Osborne (1925) because it disregarded the effects of contemporaneous erosion, non-annual depositional rhythms, and weathering-induced variability in prominence of laminations. The exceptional preservation of the Seaham varves (considering their age) prompted the Swedish scientist Carl Caldenius to investigate their potential use in geochronology (a section was actually measured for this purpose at Paterson nearby (Caldenius, 1938). However, subsequent workers (e.g. Crowell and Frakes. 1971) have been more cautious about use of the term 'varves' in reference to the Seaham strata, as the rhythmic bedding exhibited has not been proven to follow an annual cycle. (Percival)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The quarry and signboard are in good condition (1979)
Date condition updated:05 Jan 00
Further information: The quarry itself could be detrimentally affected by indiscriminate and quite unnecessary use of geological hammers.
Current use: Geological site
Former use: Quarry

History

Historical notes: The glacigene origin of the Carboniferous sediments in the Seaham area was first recognised by Professor Edgeworth David in 1914. Subsequently Sussmilch (in Sussmich and David, 1920) reported the occurence of varved shales in the Seaham Quarry, which rapidly gained famed in Australia and internationally because of the perfection of preservation of the varves and the associated contorted beds exposed in them. David exhibited specimens of the varved shales in Honolulu in 1920 at the First Pan Pacific Science Congree, and three years later led a party of visiting scientists to the quarry on the occasion of the Second Pan Pacific Science Congress. In 1925 a signboard describing the phenomena exposed in the quarry was erected in the site.

In 1979 the Geological Society of Australia (NSW Division) nominated the site for an Interim Conservation Order. The order was sought as the site was for sale and possible development. On 12 April 1979 an Interim Conservation order was placed over the site to provide time for further investigation. On 14 December 1979 a Permanent Conservation order was placed over the site. The site was transferred onto the State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Science-Activities associated with systematic observations, experiments and processes for the explanation of observable phenomena (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Seaham Quarry is significant to the history of Australian geology and its associations with the famous Australian geologist, Professor Edgeworth David who first recognised the glacigene origin of the Carboniferous sediments in the Seaham area in 1914. (Heritage Office file notes 1979)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Seaham Quarry is of international scientific importance because of the perfection of preservation of its varied shales and the associated contorted beds exposed in them. The shale deposits are estimated by scientists to be more than 300 million years old. The quarry contains, in its shale deposits, evidence of the galcial origin of rocks in the Hunter River Valley. (Heritage Office file notes 1979)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0002302 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0002314 Dec 79 1786348

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1925The Geology and pertology of the Clarencetown - Paterson District. Part III
WrittenCaldenius C1938Carboniferous varves, measured at Perterson, New South Wales
WrittenEngel B A1966Newcastle 1:250 000 Geological Series Explanatory notes. Geol. Surv. NSW
WrittenFairbridge R W1947Possible causes of intraformational disturbance in the carboniferous varve rocks of Australia
WrittenGlaessner M F1957Palaezoic arthropod trails from Australia
WrittenOsborne G D1922The Geology and pertology of the Clarencetown - Paterson District. Part I
WrittenPercival I Report (Undated)
WrittenRattigan J H1967Depositional, soft sediment and post-consolidation structures in a Palaeozoic aqueglacial sequence
WrittenSussmilch C A & David T W E1920Sequence, glaciation and correlation of the Carboniferous rocks of the Hunter River district of NSW

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045417
File number: S90/06099 & HC 32203


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