Let the rocks tell the stories

Text: Finn Jørn Jakobsen, Photo: David Trood, greenland today, no. 3, 2008
The Geological Museum in Copenhagen has a collection of geological deposits from all over the world. Many come from Greenland, just like the museum’s scientific leader, Minik T. Rosing.
– The place is already influenced by Greenland, which is very prominent in Danish and International research. I would even maintain that there isn’t a geologist in the entire world who doesn’t know something about Greenland, he declares.
– My workday is often a bit hectic. In addition to research and teaching my work consists of meetings, support, advisory services regarding e.g. allocation of funding and a series of administrative duties, smiles Minik Rosing.
– Communication is also an important part of my work. You mustn’t think that research is only introverted, concentrated processes performed by starry-eyed nerds.
– We also have to be available for the world around us. If it was only me, who knew about the results of my research, none of it would matter.
– There is a tendency to think of science as one of the hard and concrete subjects, as opposed to the experiencing subjects. On the contrary, knowing something about our planet, its origin and structure, increases your sense of wonder and experience. When you know something about geology, the stories start turning up.
– Nature is deeply fascinating and it is still mysterious. The boundary to the unknown is moved further away, as we understand more and more how things are connected. Good research is all about asking the questions to which you have a chance of finding the answers.
Minik Rosing’s research has changed the dating of life on earth by no less than 300 million years.
A life filled with rocks
Over the years, Rosing is one of the Danish researchers who has been cited most abroad. His groundbreaking research has, for example, changed the dating of life on earth with no less than 300 million years! This discovery has completely turned the scientific account of creation upside down – and with one stroke this epoch-making theory made Minik Rosing world famous.
– My interest for geology started early, he says. When I was 9 years old, we sailed up and down the west coast of Greenland. It was here I started to speculate why the rocks and stones were so different.
Geology was an obvious choice, and his childhood fascination with rocks resulted in groundbreaking research we still don’t know the full extent of.
Minik Rosing is the Greenlander who has reached furthest in the international scientific world, but this doesn’t interest him. He has high ambitions, but these are for the subject and the research.
– I would rather be a person than a role model, he stresses. At the same time I stand by being a Greenlander. I am proud of my heritage and if this can inspire others to become interested in geology or natural science that would be great.
Minik Thorleif Rosing was born in 1957 in Nuuk. He lives in Humlebaek in Denmark with his wife Tine Keiser-Nielsen and their three children.
Geological Museum
The creation of the planet
About 4.567 billion years ago, a cloud of stardust formed and then collapsed under its own weight. Our sun emerged in the middle and around it, the planets. Later a glowing ball under constant bombardment of meteorites and comets was formed. During the next 150 billion years it cooled. Nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapour rose to form the atmosphere. Water vapour condensed and rained on the surface of the planet, lying like an ocean on top of the solidified lava. The earth was born!
The blue planet (4.4 billion years ago)
During the next 800 billion years the earth was one huge ocean. There were no continents and no land. The air was poisonous and consisted of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The first life emerged in the pre-historic ocean in the form of primitive bacteria.
Photosynthesis (3.8 billion years ago)
Life evolved and photosynthetic cyan bacteria pumped oxygen into the ocean. Granite was formed in huge quantities and the continents were formed.
Granite that rusts is the basis for life (2.2 billion years ago)
Oxygen started to occur in the atmosphere. Geologists can see this, because the granite started to rust. This happened because the iron in the granite became oxygenated enough to form the red colour. The continents spread like lids to cover the basalt which would otherwise react chemically with the oxygen. The earth’s core produced less heat and when this was combined with the production of basalt, less material from the centre of the earth disintegrated. This created conditions suitable for the formation of life as we know it. There was land and an atmosphere with oxygen.

Read the full article from the magazine here minik_rosing_greeenlandtoday_uk