Geophysicist Shares the Story of the Blue Mountains with Surfer

Peter Hatherly is a long-time Surfer user who spent his career as a Geophysicist. Now in retirement he has pursued his passion for geology through a new outlet, writing.

Peter feels a great connection to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales and felt that the geological history of the range could be taught in a more engaging way. By combining his knowledge of geologic processes, partner Ian Brown’s photography, and maps created in Surfer they have self-published the guide book: The Blue Mountains: exploring landscapes shaped by the underlying rocks, uplift and erosion

Previously we shared the article “Geologic History of the Blue Mountains” providing an in-depth look at how Peter was transforming publicly available LiDAR data into stunning maps and diagrams with Surfer. Now that his work is available to the public, we caught back up with Peter.

Peter shared that feedback has been greatly positive and the number of unsolicited testimonials from readers has been incredibly gratifying. Stating that the production quality is beautiful and readers have been mesmerized by the combination of stunning photographs of the landscape with impressive maps and diagrams.

There is an inherent re-readability to the book as you can appreciate the nature photography, then the maps, and then double back to spend time learning from the text that explores the science behind these geologic processes. One of Peter’s favorite outcomes from publishing the book is that by combining all 3 of these mediums he can teach the average reader who may just enjoy recreating in the Blue Mountains about worldly scale geological processes through the lens of everyday life in the park.

This book by Peter Hatherly and Ian Brown explores the landscapes of the Blue Mountains in a new and different way. It incorporates three dimensional models created from laser imagery, high quality photographic imagery, and detailed text written in a way which brings the sciences of geology and geomorphology to life in a way accessible to all.”

– Roger Lembit, NPA Member

Topography map of the Blue Mountains created in Surfer
Export options within Surfer that ensure high quality final outputs
3D model of a relict landslide in the Blue Mountains created in Surfer
3D visualization of LiDAR data revealing a relict landslide due to sandstone cliff collapse
Topography map of the Katoomba Valleys created by processing LiDAR data in Surfer
Topography map of the Katoomba Valleys created by processing LiDAR data in Surfer

In addition to providing a new resource on the geologic processes that shaped the park, Surfer and LiDAR data enabled Peter to see through the dense vegetation pictured above. Leading to the identification of numerous relic landslides which point to the dynamic erosional development of this spectacular system of valleys. Surfer not only assisted in producing maps and diagrams it also provided some serious geomorphological insight which had not been previously seen.

During our discussion of the guidebook’s reception Peter stated that

…Without Surfer (he) wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this publishing feat. It’s an integral part of this journey and has always been a joy to use.”

Due to the incredibly straight forward exporting options in Surfer, Peter was able to export a huge number of maps to high quality images. He increased the pixels per inch upon export to meet publishing standards for image quality. As well as specified axes lengths to best fit a diagram onto a book page. With such presentation friendly customization options within Surfer itself, the publishing designer was able to transfer the final mapping outputs onto a page with ease.

In Peter’s own words, he simply could not have the same number of maps at such a high quality without Surfer.
Photograph of a relict landslide in the Blue Mountains
Photograph of the corresponding relict landslide site displayed in the map above
Photograph showing the typical landscape at the head of the Katoomba Valleys
Photograph showing the typical landscape at the head of the Katoomba Valleys displayed in the topography map above.

Peter wrapped up our conversation with this statement:

“There was a story of The Blue Mountains Ian and I wanted to tell and we’ve done it. People are enjoying our account, and we could not be more pleased to be seeing the results.”

Reviews from their peers echo the sentiment, that Peter and Ian have succeeded in telling the fascinating story of The Blue Mountain.

Overall, this is a fantastic book. It doubles as a practical guide for exploring The Blue Mountains, thanks to the descriptions, illustrations and annotations; and as a coffee table book, thanks to the high-quality photography… The passion of Peter and Ian for sharing their immense knowledge and love of the Blue Mountains is evident.

– Phil Gilmore, Geological Society of Australia

At Golden Software we could not be happier to celebrate our end-users who are making an impact with Surfer. Do you want to master Surfer so you can create guidebook quality visualizations of your own? Click here to trial Surfer today

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