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Thats one delivery we could have done without   Tuesday 06 October, 2015

Kidney stone connection to Antarctic sediments


Monday 5th October: Whilst we were expecting a container full of quartz to be delivered today, it was unexpectedly preceded by an unwelcome delivery with connections to submarine sediments in Antarctica.

Boffins amongst you will know that Weddellite Ca(C2O4).2H2O was first identified from sediment samples recovered from the Weddel Sea. However, it is perhaps better known as Hydrated Calcium Oxalate, one of the minerals associated with kidney stones.

Weddellite is something of an unusual mineral, being generally associated with a reaction between calcite ( Calcium Carbonate, CaCO3 ) and oxalic acid derived either from lichens, or apparently from bat guano!

These devilish little stones seldom more than a couple of millimetres across have a habit of precipitating harmlessly in my kidneys, however, it’s when they travel down the ureter to the bladder that they can cause excruciating pain. The onset of this morning’s episode was characteristically sudden, however, previous experience provided some solace in that it would, and did, (literally) soon pass.

My first introduction to kidney stones was whilst as a student at The Royal School of Mines in London. The symptoms were initially miss-diagnosed by the college medic as having “twisted awkwardly” during the previous weekend’s caving trip to Horton in Ribblesdale. (back to the bat guano!) On that occasion a three day visit to the former St Georges Hospital on Hyde Park Corner and copious amounts of water did the trick. That was back in 1974 prior to the site being redeveloped into the five star Lanesborough Hotel, reputedly the most expensive hotel in London.

Our collection of pictures of weddellite, and/or kidney stones is rather lacking,. The best we can offer are images of the type location for calcite (Iceland Spar) taken recently at Hoffsfelldalur on the east of Iceland. Whilst we found little evidence of the mine which closed in 1940, the superb mineral museum in nearby Hofn provided a collection of superb samples.

Thats one delivery we could have done without
Thats one delivery we could have done without
Thats one delivery we could have done without

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