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by Alexia Johnston

Timaru’s loess clay will be the topic of conversation when UK-based Dr Ian Smalley talks to an audience at the South Canterbury Museum via Skype tonight.
Dr Smalley, a specialist professor who is based in Leicestershire University, has been collaborating with South Canterbury man Roger Fagg for the event, which would showcase findings by the late John Hardcastle.
Mr Hardcastle, who was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1847, moved to New Zealand in 1858. Throughout his adult life he worked as a teacher and journalist in South Canterbury, but was also considered an amateur scientist. He received no formal training in the science field but taught himself by reading many books. Mr Hardcastle became a member of the New Zealand Institute – the forerunner of the Royal Society of New Zealand – and later also joined the Canterbury branch, to which he presented papers, including his loess stratigraphy findings.
He was believed to have been the first person to relate loess deposits to climate change, based on the rock formations.
Loess is a soft, porous yellow rock found around the world, including in the cliffs that help shape Timaru.
Mr Fagg said tonight’s free event, taking place at the South Canterbury Museum at 7pm, would feature details about Mr Hardcastle’s findings and background.
“The talk is mostly about John Hardcastle but, of course, it contains a lot about loess.”
Copies of Mr Hardcastle’s “Notes on the Geology of South Canterbury” have also printed in time for the presentation.