The latest chart issued by the International Committee on Stratigraphy (ICS) no longer shows the period, from about 65 million years ago to 2.6 million years ago, familiar to geologists as the Tertiary. Its sediments filled the London Basin. This called for investigation (with apologies to a certain dead parrot).

The Tertiary is no more: it’s ceased to be.
It has expired and gone to meet its maker.
A stiff, bereft of life, it rests in peace.
It’s pushing up the daisies in God’s acre.

What scoundrel could have dealt the deadly blow
That sent it shuffling off this mortal coil?
The question needed answering, and so
I sought out Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle.

Could Holmes identify the perpetrator?
“I see . . .” the great man said, then “I see . . . yes . . .”
And that was all. I questioned Watson later:
“That’s just like Holmes,” he said, “I must confess.

“His answer seems obscure; but think about it –
Repeat it several times, with different stress.
The culprit will emerge, I do not doubt it.”
I tried it: “Yes . . . I see, yes . . . ICS!

I wondered how he’d solved this heinous crime.
Had killing off the Tertiary left a clue
That only this detective in his prime
Could see for what it was? And then I knew:

Those rascals, in their international meetings,
Had ordered that the Tertiary should not stay;
And Holmes had felt the shock of their deletings,
For Baker Street is built on London Clay!

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]
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