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Excursion to Stevns Klint for 1i and 1j

Trip to Stevns Klint and the Cold War Museum for 1i and 1j September 26th 2014
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Stevns Klint -  now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
This year, Stevns Klint south of Copenhagen was accepted on the World Heritage List by United Nations organisation for education, science and culture, UNESCO.  The first time Denmark came on the list was with the Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church (1994), followed by Roskilde Cathedral (1995), Kronborg Castle (2000), Ilulissat Icefjord (2004) and Wadden Sea (2009). 

The reason for placing Stevns Klint on this prestigious list is that it is probably the best place in the World to see the dramatic transition from one major geological era to another. The Mesozoicum, a.k.a. known as ”The Age of the Dinosaurs” ended quite abruptly approximately 65 million years ago, and gave rise to the present era, The Cenozoicum, or ”The Age of the Mammals”. Most of Denmark and northern Europe was covered by a great ocean in those days, and Dinosaurs are therefore only known from the island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, which was not completely inundated in that time. The lower and softer parts of Stevns Klint consists of chalk and extend approximately 900 meters below ground showing that a deep, warm and tropical sea was present for many millions of years.

The chalk itself is composed of microfossils from small algae that thrived in the tropical waters, and whose skeletons slowly accumulated on the sea floor. The chalk is also rich in macro-fossils, such as squids and sea urchins, and even teeth of gigantic marine reptiles, mosasaurs, are known from here. As seen by the profile of Stevns Klint, the overhanging parts are different from the lower parts, and consists mainly of limestone deposited from colonies of small, marine invertebrates named bryozoans. The bands of flint stones in both the chalk and limestone tells of times where the sea level was lower and allowed burrowing animals to live on the sea floor leaving behind their holes and corridors which soon became filled with silicium and eventually fossilized to flint. The most dramatic zone is, however the approximately 10 cm. Think greyish layer called fish-clay, which segregates the older, Mesozoic layers from the younger Cenozoic deposits. The layes offers exceptional evidence of the Chicxulub meteorite that crashed into planet Earth at the end of the Creatceous and caused extinction of more than half of all life on earth, including the great dinosaurs. 

An abandoned church and fish-clay souvenirs
As part of our traditional general science (NV) trip with our pre-IB classes 1i and 1j to Stevns Klint, we started by seeing the old and abandoned Højerup Church, which is placed right on the cliff. The church has been closed ever since a large piece of it disappeared into the sea in 1928 and forced the community to shut it down and build a new church a short distance further inland. After seeing the church, we hiked down to the beach in order to sample limestone and water for chemical analyses and to see the famous boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic era. The water level was quite high, so it was quite a challenge to walk on the slippery rocks to a place where we could actually see and touch the fish-clay and bring home a souvenir.

Cold War Museum
After a short lunch, our bus took us to the Cold War Museum, which was a very important and top-secret military complex until year 2000 and opened as a museum a few years later. The complex is like a time pocket from the Cold War between East and West, which began at the end of WW2 and lasted until the Berlin wall was torn down and the Soviet Union was dissolved some 25 years ago. The fortress was in the first line of defence against soviet and east European aircrafts, which could carry everything from conventional to nuclear weapons, but it was also an important site for espionage against the enemy. When we arrived at the museum, we had organized a guided tour for approximately two hours where we saw all the weapons and military vehicles on display and entered the command centre situated 18 meter below the surface and drilled into the limestone. It was a fascinating experience to walk around in those tunnels, where the military personnel were on their daily duty so few years ago, and people who lived in those days probably will never forget nor completely understand the concept of mutual annihilation that balanced the two super powers of the Cold War.

You can see more about the reason for placing Stevns Klint on the list of World Heritage on the UNESCO website, and you can read more about the Cold War Museum here.

Pictures from the excursion

Our rented two storey bus:

Our rented two storey bus

Old Højerup Church sitting right on the edge:

Old Højerup Church sitting right on the edge

Walking along the beach. You can see the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic deposits as a long, horizontal band approximately half way up the cliff:

Walking along the beach

After a long and at times quite slippery walk, we could finally inspect the boundary at close range:

Inspecting the deposit boundary at close range

Carsten with some of his students at the Cold War Museum:

at the Cold War Museum

The boys enjoyed the military vehicles you could climb around on and into:

Military vehicles

Toys for boys!

Toys for boys

Deep below ground in the old fortress. The cold and damp conditions have given rise to a special ecosystem based on the growth of algae in the artificial light. The top predator is the rare cave spider (Meta menardi), whose bite can actually puncture human skin and inflict considerable pain:

Deep below ground in the old fortress