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Explore France’s geological triumphs and curiosities with new website

Funny-looking chasms, dinosaur eggs and even fossils embedded in a Parisian pavement feature as well as traditional sites. The map is published by academics in Lyon

From top left clockwise: a fossilised ammonite in front of the Eiffel tower, a fossilised starfish exposed in the Musée des Confluences of Lyon, the monolithic church of Saint-Émilion in Gironde and honeycomb worm reefs on the shores of Mont-Saint-Michel. Pic: From top left clockwise: Nicolas Lieury (2012), Pierre Thomas (2009), Fabien1309 (2008) and Thibault Lorin (2020)

If you have ever looked in wonder at the many fossils at the beaches of Dorset, the heights of El Capitan or the Giant’s Causeway of Northern Ireland, then this new interactive map on ‘Planet Terre’ will be your treasure trove.

Created by the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon, the interactive map shows geological curiosities from the entire world, with links to detailed articles written by faculty members.

The map and most of the articles are in French but the photos enable non-speakers to also benefit.

Wonders of geology

Olivier Dequincey, editorial manager of Planet Terre at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, said that the map is a way of making geology easier to reach.

“It shows how geology isn’t just in the ground,” he told The Connexion. “It’s in art and in public buildings.

“It was intended for high school teachers at first, to fill them in on new subjects where they weren't proficient. So there is extensive and peer-reviewed data, but the goal isn’t to overwhelm visitors with information. It’s to make it accessible to as many people as possible, with many pictures to illustrate.”

Although the creators are French, the map covers the entire world, with points of interest as far as Greenland, South America and Australia.

The map is far from exhaustive, but it may help you discover new beautiful places, or understand how the cliffs of Étretat came to be.

Articles are written by experts from around the country, and peer reviewed by researchers at the ENS Lyon. They go in depth in the origin of rock formations and the lessons learned by geologists, with many pictures to illustrate.

You can also find oddities, like a dinosaur egg preserved in stone near Montpellier, or a church carved directly into a limestone hill in Gironde.

Wherever you live in France, there is a good chance this map teaches you something new about it.

For Olivier Dequincey, you should definitely go visit a 'travertine', limestone deposits formed around mineral springs. Known as 'Fontaines Pétrifiantes' these awesome natural monuments can be found across France.

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