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The MSc class of the Dept. of geology was taken on a field show and study trip to parts of western south India. The first stop was Kozhikod, where we stopped to have a closer look at the Cheruppa hillock along the northern side of the road leading beyond the Kozhikod Government Medical College campus. The summit of the hill stands roughly at 250 ft. Magnetite-Quartzite reefs of 2.0-3.0 m wide sit atop the hill. The north facing slopes expose large chunks as well as wide bands of the magnetite quartzite rock.

This occurrence is among the smallest of all magnetite ore deposits in the Malabar region, in that the outcrop in the West Hill along the suburban Kozhikod and to the NW of the town, is located in a pretty busy area and heavily settled part.  But the largest exposure of all in the Nanminda village forms a topographic ridge and is the largest of all.  The ridge has a relative relief of say 100.0 m or more and extends for about 3 to 4 km., spreading through several villages abutting the foothills.

My maiden trip to these areas occurred when I was a naïve and nascent Asst. Geologist with the Geology Dept. of GOK, and while serving in the Kozhikod office of the GD. I and my good friend and fellow geologist, Mr. Iyer, had to accompany a Keralite Geologist, then working for the UN, and on a tour to the Iron ore deposits of Malabar.  Being the guest of KISIDC, the GD was obliged to assist, this scientist in the field.

(As young and energetic we used to lead the pack of people-one field coolie and the other scientist along the trails in the Nanminda Hill along the trails and foot paths. Then, this senior UN specialist told us in English (which still rings in my mind) “ Look youngsters, this coolie should walk first as if at all any reptile it will only chase that fellow and hence we will be quite safe”. We agreed and then let our coolie walk first and lead us).

(To the north of Angadippuram dozens of slag patches are known to exist. The slag is a refuse from the extraction of metal iron using crude or archaic methods. The lore is that the pyroxene-magnetite-quartzite reefs exposed along the ridges or slopes of ridges are excavated and ‘fired’ using locally harvested logs for several days. This process of extraction of metal iron is incomplete, leaving behind piles and patches of slag at these sites).

Now back to the class visit to the Cheruppa deposit.  The student party reached the Cheruppa site from the town around three thirty. I, the leader of the team jumped the schedule to visit the outcrop. Truly, Dr.Reddy (GSI, Kerala Circle) was to lead the party to the outcrop. This jump, according to Dr Reddy, was not in ‘good taste’.

That aside the trip was wonderful. I had also gathered more information and knowledge of the deposit from Dr.Roy Chacko, who did a Ph.D. thesis, on the same theme.

The team went around the hillock crawled on the outcrops and gazed on the current deposited euhedral magnetite grain layers. This cross-bedding did excite me as well as the class. The segment we saw was typical of a meta-sediment. The class members collected samples by knocking off fresh samples, of course with huge difficulty. I am not sure if any one had a camera in possession. Generally when I go for field inspections, Sri KVK Nair used to lend his camera.

Cross walk over the Cheruppa hill, is usually avoided by natives once they get off the bus at that point. Children and women generally followed a track or foot path along the perimeter of the hill to reach the respective villages on the far side of the hill. Yet there is trail leading the steep slope and and then down hill.

Our team took the trail on way up as well as back. The hill had several large and small fallen blocks of laterite buried partly mostly in the lateritic soil. While coming down I was hoping from one block to the other. Indeed at that age I enjoyed this hop over the stones quite excitedly. Occasionally, when there is no stone to jump on I will target the ground to land then hop back again on the next rock block.  Hence, this back-to-road trip was quite faster. Some of members of the team followed my style.

On landing a boulder, I had to arrest my speed to practically nil, as I saw a cobra with open hood facing me and on my way down. Further, I could not have jumped from the stone I was on as the next stone to land was beyond the reach of my spread out leg.  The only way I could proceed down was after a landing on the ground, in spite of the cobra defending itself. With any second thought I jumped over and across the deadly reptile as far away as I can, so that I can run for my life. As I was running as fast as I can to reach the road, I was shouting to warn the rest of the team about the cobra on their way down.

For a great relief, I escaped the direct encounter with the reptile as well as the members of my team.  That was a memorable event in one of the field programs I had led.


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