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Geophysical Investigations of the Holy Island Dyke, Holy Island,

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Durham 2013
1.1 Geological Setting
The Holy Island Dyke is a vertical intrusion of
thoeliitic dolerite associated with the Whin Sill
complex (Fig.1a), a large basaltic intrusion in
northern England emplaced during the late
Carboniferous (Johnson & Dunham 2001),
which stretches on land around 120km in a
north-south direction and 80km in an east-west
direction. Its overall shape has been compared
to a crude saucer shape, with an increase in
thickness towards the middle (Goulty et al 2000
and references therein). The Holy Island dyke,
part of the Holy Island dyke echelon (Fig.1b), is
thought to be the most northern of four large en
echelon feeder dykes (Anderson 1951).
Palaeomagnetic studies suggest that the Whin
Sill complex is comprised of a series of distinct
sills (fig.1a), and that the Holy Island dyke
echelon is the feeder dyke for the Holy Island
sill (Liss et al 2004).

The dyke echelons on Holy Island itself, are
found on the South coast of the island, and are
composed of five discrete segments (Randall &
Farmer, 1970). The dyke is emplaced in Lower
Carboniferous strata of the Middle Limestone
Group (Goulty et al 2000), deposited due to a
long period of Yoredale-type deltaic
sedimentation, which took place throughtout
the Carboniferous (Fielding & Johnson, 1987).
Outcrops on the beach East of Castle Hill (Scar
Jockey), on Castle Hill itself, the coast west of
Castle Hill (Cockle Stone), and finally Heugh
Hill and St. Cuthberts Isle to the very western
extent of the island (Fig.2), indicate that the
dyke reached an upward termination which lies
close to, or at, the present erosion surface.
Addtionally, the outcrops show the flat topped
nature of the dyke, particularly at Cockle Stone
(Fig. 3), and field relationships indicate the
potential stair-step nature of the dyke
A magnetics survey and a gravity survey were conducted across the Holy Island dyke to investigate the geometry of the
subsurface dyke and to compute the density of the dyke using Nettletons method. The two preferred computer models show
stair-step geometry. From the dyke-sill-dyke models we found that the sill provides the dominant framework for the dolerite
intrusions and is the governing feature of Holy Islands geology and geomorphology. The gravity survey produced lower than
expected values for the density of the dolerite, and it is thought that either the dyke is particularly thin across Heugh Hill, or that
the country rock somehow disrupts the data, since the Nettletons method requires a uniform topographic feature. Both surveys
highlight the need for further study in the form of, a greater number of surveys and also a greater variety of geological,
geophysical and field constraints.

Fig.1(a) Overview map of Whin Sill complex
and its associated echelon dykes. The Holy
Island echelon dyke can be seen in the
northeastern corner of the map. Taken from
Liss et al (2004). (b) Location map showing
outcrops of the Holy Island dyke echelon and
associated Holy Island sill (Goulty et al 2000)
1.2 Geophysical Surveying
To investigate the subsurface geometry of the
Holy Island dyke, we conducted a magnetic
survey across an eastern section of the dyke
between Castle Point and Star Jockey (Fig.2).
Additionally, to investigate the rheology of the
intrusion we conducted a gravity survey across
Heugh Hill between Lindisfarne priory north of
the Heugh and the beach south of the Heugh.
We use Nettletons method to calculate the
density of the dyke.

2.1 Data Acquisition
A bearing was taken between two known
dolerite outcrops, from Castle Hill to Scar
Jockey, to ascertain the strike of the dyke. Two
survey profiles, A and B (Fig.4) were set up
accordingly, on a bearing of 78, so to be
perpendicular to the dyke. GPS was used to
mark the beginnings and ends of the profiles
(Fig.4). Profiles were chosen to the east of
Castle Hill (Fig.4) to avoid the steep sided hills
of Heugh Hill and Castle Hill, and the
complicated terrain corrections associated with
such relief. Additionally, the land to the east of
Castle Hill continues further south towards
Castle Point, and therefore allows land based
magnetic surveys to be conducted along a
greater length, which is more desirable for our
survey since it leads to greater clarity when

Measurements were made using a proton
magnetometer, and were tied back to a base
station to record drift. Readings were made
every 5 metres, which is a sufficient spacing not
to miss any small wavelength anomalies whilst
allowing for relatively efficient surveying.

2.2 Results and Magnetic Reductions
The field readings for profiles A and B are
shown in Table 4.0 in the Appendix. The
sensitivity of the instrument is 0.5 nT
(Geometrics Inc. 2007), however since the
anomaly of profiles A and B are in the order of
800nT, this error has been disregarded since it
is negligible compared to the overall magnitude
of the anomaly. Similarly, although a drift of 2
nT was recorded, this correction is uneccesary
considering the small change relative the the
magnitude of the overall anomaly.

Corrections for lattitude are also not neccesary
since the latitude variation is only in the order
of 0.01 nTm
(Kearey & Brooks 1984). As
discussed earlier, profiles were deliberately
chosen away from the steep sided hills of
Heugh Hill and Castle Hill, so as to avoid
corrections for terrain, which become
significant with gradients above 15 (Telford et
al 1990). Since the relief to the east is relatively
flat, terrain corrections can be ignored.

3.1 Ambiguities and the Inverse Problem
The modeling of shapes to fit observed
potential field anomalies are inherently and
notoriously ambiguous. This ambiguity is
commonly known as the inverse problem,
which generally states that although the
anomaly of a given body may be calculated
Fig. 2 (left) Map indicating the five exposed segments of the Holy Island Dyke. Dolerite is shown as boxed light grey
sections, solid black areas indicate flat surfaces of dolerite, often with amygdales Map data is Crown Copyright
Ordnance Survey. Fig 3 (right) photo taken before surveying. Looking east towards Castle Hill, shows Cockle Stone
exposure (notice flat top) and Castle Hill outcrop. Important to note the difference in height between the exposures.
uniquely, there are an infinite number of bodies
that could give rise to any specific anomaly
(Kearey & Brooks 1984). In magnetic modeling
even a simple vertical dyke, constrained to a
geometry with a flat top and parallel sides, can
produce an identical anomaly to that of a
dipping body, if the inclination of
magnetization, in the vertical plane containing
the profile, is rotated through the same angle as
the change in dip. Additionally, in a case where
the top of the dyke model is deeper than its
width, halving the width and doubling the
magnetization causes negligible change to the
calculated anomaly. To try and avoid the
problem of ambiguity in our models, we
constrain the model geometry to that of a flat-
topped vertical dyke.
3.2 Computer Model and Parameters
The sedimentary rocks that surround the Holy
Island Dyke contain negligible quantities of
ferromagnetic minerals (Goulty et al 2000) and
can be assumed to have zero magnetization.
Modeling in two dimensions is satisfactory for
bodies that are elongated in the strike direction
(Goulty et al 2000). 2D modeling of a profile
perpendicular to the strike allows us to
disregard the component of magnetization
along the strike direction, as this has no effect
on the calculated anomaly. Thus, the only
parameters to be changed are the geometry and
magnetization of the dyke in the vertical plane
perpendicular to the strike.

Consequently, in our models, we have fixed the
remanant declination to 6W, which is the
declination at Holy Island (Goulty et al 2000).
Other fixed parameters are shown in Table 1.0
below. Note we have fixed the susceptibility to
0 even though in reality the susceptibility of
dolerite is usually between 110
and 3510

(Telford et al 1990). This is because we
can only model the total magnetization of the
dyke, which is the vector sum of the remanant
and induced magnetizations, so to model the
anomaly we applied the values of total
magnetization to the remanent magnetization
parameters and then set the induced
magnetization and the susceptibility to 0.
Additionally, it was found that changing the
limiting depth of the dykes had little effect on
the expected anomaly; therefore the limiting
depth of the dyke models has been fixed
arbitrarily to 1km.

Table 1.0 Fixed parameters for computer
models of the Holy Island dyke

In the 2D models we proceed with the above
fixed parameters. To limit the number of
possible dyke geometries, to reduce the
ambiguity of the results, the value of the
remanent magnetization is chosen between 1.0
and 6.0. Additionally, the inclination of the
remanent magnetization is chosen between 69
and 180, a range based on data aquired from
laboratory measurements of the remanent
magnetization of samples of the Whin Sill suite
(Creer et al 1959). External constraints such as
this are particularly useful in narrowing the
number of possible models.

Fixed Value
Profile orientation

Earths magnetic field

39 Am

Declination of earths field

Inclination of earths field


Declination of remnant

Limiting depth

Fig.4 Map of 2 magnetic profiles A and B
conducted along a bearing of 78, perpendicular
to the strike of the Holy Island dyke.
3.3 Profile A
The preferred model for Profile A is shown in
Fig.5 and is modeled as a 25m wide subsurface
dyke, which at a depth of 6m turns into a sill of
width 10m, which continues northwards until
finally propagating upwards as a small dyke-
like nub (Goulty et al 2000) and terminating at
a depth of around 2m. The remanant
magnetization was modeled at 2.5 Am
and the
magnetic inclination was modeled at 102.

An equally good fit to the observed anomaly
can be caused by modeling two separate dykes
(Fig.6), where the two dyke features are not
connected by a northward propagating sill as in
Fig.5. The dyke to the south was modeled with
a magnetization of 3.6 Am
at an inclination of
127, and the second dyke to the north of the
profile was modeled with a magnetization of
2.5 Am
at an inclination of 32.

3.4 Profile B
The preferred model for profile B is shown in
Fig.7. It is modeled as a 20m wide dyke, which
again turns into a 13m wide sill at a depth of
7m, and then continues northwards and ends as
a small dyke nub with a width of 29m and
terminating at a depth of 0.5m. The dyke-sill-
dyke body is modeled with a magnetization of
1.7 and at an inclination of 90.

4.1 Data Acquisition
A gravity survey was conducted using a
LaCoste Romberg gravimeter. Gravity stations
were initially chosen so to give a profile
perpendicular to Heugh Hill (Fig.8).
Additionally, the stations were chosen where a
relatively flat position could be found, to ease
measurement reading, and if possible in a
position that was sheltered from the wind. Since
the LaCoste Romberg gravimeter is very
sensitive to movement, particularly windy
conditions on the proposed day of survey meant
that taking accurate readings was near
impossible. The data analyzed in this paper are
therefore courtesy of Becky Hayes, who
conducted the same survey on a different day in
calmer conditions. Although conditions were
more favorable for gravity surveying, station B
still had to be moved slightly to the west, where
buildings provided better shelter. As a result,
for the data analysis, station B is extrapolated
onto the north-south trending line of profile.
This is shown by station B on Fig.8. The
gravity profile is 1km in length, with station B
40m from A and station C 60m from B.

Fig.5 Preferred magnetic model for profile A showing a
dyke-sill-dyke formation. A constant regional has been
subtracted from the observed data.
Fig.6 Alternative magnetic model for profile A showing
two separate dykes not connected by a sill. A constant
regional has been subtracted from the data.
Fig.7 Preferred magnetic model for profile B
showing similar dyke-sill-dyke formation. Shows a
more protruded dyke-nub to the north of the profile,
which is modeled as almost outcropping. A regional
has been subtracted from the data.
Since there is no IGSN station nearby, and we
were unable to set up a station to record
absolute gravity, we used Station A as the base
station, and repeated readings were tied back to
station A to record instrumental drift. The other
stations are therefore always measured relative
to the base station and further analysis
continues in this manner. Additionally, five
readings were taken at each station to improve
reliability and accuracy. A leveling survey was
conducted in conjunction with the gravity
survey to accurately determine the relative
station heights. The leveling procedure
consisted of progressively measuring the
change in elevation from the base station,
which we consider as our datum, over small
distances by measuring the difference in
elevation to the backsight and foresight points,
and then repeating. The elevations of the
gravity stations were calculated in this way
twice, forwards and backwards, to increase the
reliability and accuracy of the data and are
shown in Table 2.0.
4.2 Results and Gravity Reduction
The field data is shown in Table 5.0 in the
appendix. An average is taken of the three
readings and standard error computed for each.

Drift Correction
Correction for the drift in the gravimeter is
calculated by repeating readings at the base
station at recorded times. This was done after
taking readings at both stations B and C. We
can calculate the amount of drift in stations B
and C by plotting a graph of station reading
against time (Fig.9, appendix). The standard
error for the readings from base station (A)
were added to the drift correction graph to
calculate the minimum and maximum drift
correction for stations B and C. The drift
corrected value for B is given by

4968.80 0.019 +0.056 0.027
= 4968.86 0.03

and given for C by

4973.372 0.72+0.176 0.025
= 4973.548 0.72

I nstrument Calibration
The drift corrected values can be converted in
mGal using the calibration table supplied
courtesy of LaCoste & Romberg (2004). We
convert the values to mGals relative to the local
base station (A). The station readings in mGal
are given by:

A = 0.00 0.02
B = 2.45 0.03
C = 2.36 0.76

Latitude Correction
The latitude correction is to eliminate the
centrifugal acceleration that acts to decrease
gravity closer towards the equator. As we dont
have a reference station with an absolute value
of gravity, it is not possible to apply the
international gravity formula. However, since
our survey is only concerned with relative
changes in gravity with reference to the base
station (A) we can calculate the relative
anomaly with respect to the base station, and
apply a local latitude correction. The local
correction is approximately
=-0.812sin2 mGal per km north, where is
the latitude of the base station, which for Holy
Island base station A is 55.668N 0.090
(10m uncertainty of GPS equates to 0.090,
since at a latitude of 55 there are 111.29 km in
a degree) Therefore the latitude correction for
our survey can be written
=-0.756 0.084 mGal per km north
Since we used GPS to locate the base station
and considering that station B had to be
extrapolated onto the profile line it is
reasonable to suggest an error of 15m. Thus
station B is 0.04 0.015 km south of station A,
and the latitude correction is given by
=-0.756 0.084 0.04 0.015
= 0.030 0.012
and for station C which is 0.1 0.015 km from
station A, the latitude correction is given by
Fig.8 Map showing Heugh Hill and the gravity
stations A, B and C. B is the extrapolated position
of station B onto the gravity profile.
=-0.756 0.084 0.1 0.015
= 0.075 0.014

Free-air Correction
This is the first of three elevation corrections.
The free-air correction FAC compensates for
the decrease in gravity with distance from the
Earths centre (Kearey 1984). In the case of our
profile it is used to correct for the height
difference between the observation point and
the datum (station A), and is given by the
formula FAC = 0.3086h mGal
(where h is height above the datum).
In this calculation we make use of the leveling
data, which is shown below in Table 2.0. An
average of the forward and backward elevations
are used and the standard error is calculated.
These are then converted into elevation relative
to A (the datum) and are shown in Table 3.0.

Table 2.0 Leveling data from station A to
station B and then continuing to station C.
Station Elevation
A-B 11.230 -11.120
B-C 17.555 -17.505

Table 3.0 Relative heights of stations B and C
to base-station A.
Station Distance from A
Elevation relative
to A (m)
A 0 0
B 0.04 0.015 11.175 0.055
C 0.1 0.015 -6.355 0.025

Therefore using the equation above, the free-air
correction for station B can be calculated
= 0.3086 11.175 0.055
= 3.4486 0.017

and calculated for station C
= 0.3086 -6.355 0.025
= -1.9612 0.008
Bouguer Correction
This second elevation correction accounts for
the gravitational effect from the layers of rock
between the datum and station 16A. The
calculation approximates the rock layer to an
infinite horizontal slab of thickness equal to
that of the height of the station, and is given by
the equation
BC = 2Gh (where G is the gravitational
constant = 6.67 10
). Since we will be using
Nettletons method to determine the density of
the dyke, the bouguer correction is calculated
without the inclusion of a density value and for
station B is given by
BC = 2 6.6710
11.175 0.055
= 0.000468 0.0000023
And for station C
BC = 2 6.6710
-6.355 0.025
= 0.000266 0.0000012

Terrain Correction
The gravitational effect caused by the relief of
Heugh Hill is compensated for by the terrain
correction, which is computed by estimating the
change in elevation away from the given station
in a number of zones. The closest zones,
labeled B and C, which correspond to radii of
16.6m and 53.3m respectively, were estimated
in the field (Table 6.0, appendix). Zones D and
E were calculated using hammer charts laid on
top of a detailed digital elevation map (Fig. 10).
Again the terrain corrections were computed
without a value for density, as this will be
inputted when using Nettletons method. Due to
the slightly crude nature of eyeballing the
average elevation changes required for terrain
correction, there can be as much as a 20% error
in the correction. The terrain corrections for
sites A, B and C were calculated as 0.00034
0.00007, 0.00048 0.00010 and 0.000261
0.000052 respectively.

4.3 Nettletons Method
Nettletons method is used to compute a
possible density for the Holy Island Dyke
modeled of Heugh Hill (Fig.10). Field data are
reduced using a series of different densities for
the Bouguer and terrain corrections (Table 7.0,
appendix). The density value yielding the least
correlation with the topography can be taken as
an estimate of the density of the associated
anomaly. The topography is shown in Fig.12
Fig.10 Detailed digital elevation map of Heugh Hill.
Created using Generic Mapping Tools (Wessel &
Smith 1991).
below, and the Bouguer anomalies created by
using different densities are plotted in Fig.11.
Densities ranging from 500 to 3000 kgm
computed with the Bouguer and terrain
corrections to reduce the gravity anomaly to
one that least resembled the topography. The
profile corresponding to 2250 kgm
3 shows the
least correlation with topography since it is an
almost straight line. Final calculation of the
Bouguer anomaly using this density allows us
to calculate the uncertainty of our result by
continuing earlier error computations. The
errors are compiled from the terrain, Bouguer,
free-air and latitude corrections. An example is
shown for survey site B how the errors were
2 2 2 2
o o o o o = + + +

2 2
BC h

o o

| | | |
| |
= +
| | |
\ .
\ . \ .

| |
\ .

and so on. The calculations are long and tedious
and are not included in the text, but the reader is
referred to Hughes and Hase (2010) for more
detailed reading into error analysis. The
Bouguer anomaly at sites A, B and C created by
a body with a density 2250 kgm
3 are:
A = 0.765 0.157
B = 1.0440 0.224
C = 1.6612 0.412


5.1 Magnetic Profile A
It is possible to achieve an equally satisfactory
fit with two different dyke geometries (Figs. 5
& 6), which further highlights the ambiguity of
modeling potential fields. It seems satisfactory,
at first, to model 2 separate vertical dykes, since
the shape of the anomaly is often associated
with a dyke formation of this kind. However,
(Goulty et al 2000) list several reasons why a 2
dyke case is unlikely. Firstly, outcrops to the
south of Castle hill are not significant enough to
suggest the existence of a major dyke segment.
Secondly, seismic refraction profiles and other
geological surveys conducted in the area
suggest a depth to the bedrock to the southern
point of the profile of around 8 2m (Goulty et
al 2000), agreeing with the step-stair formation
modeled in Fig.5. Additionally, field
relationships observed in the field suggest that a
stair-step formation is likely. This is
particularly apparent to the east of Castle Hill at
Cockle Stone (Fig.3) where the change in
elevation from the flat topped exposure at
Cockle Stone to that of the Castle Hill outcrop,
is visible in the order of around 10m.

5.2 Magnetic Profile B
The preferred model for profile B (Fig.7) is
similar in its shape to that of the preferred
model for profile A. However, its geometry is
slightly different, mainly the first part of the

Fig.11 Nettletons method of density
determination over Heugh Hill on Holy Island.
Fig.12 Elevation of the Heugh Hill, dots
represent gravity stations. Isolated topographic
features such as this allow for Nettletons
method to applied.
dyke is thinner and the dyke like nub protrudes
further towards the surface in relation to the sill.
When comparing models of potential field
anomalies it is not significant to consider the
possible changes in model geometries due to
errors in the data or simplifying assumptions
made in modeling, but rather to consider the
possible range of model parameters that can fit
the data well (Goulty et al 2000). It is often
common practice to begin modeling with the
simplest geometry (Telford et al 1990) and then
to consider the range of possible parameters. In
the case of our models for profiles A and B, the
width of the sill is pretty similar in both cases
around 15m, but the dyke and dyke-like nub
parts of the formation seem more variable.

5.3 Dyke-Sill Formation
Consistent modeling of a similarly sized sill, in
contrast to rather more inconsistent dyke-like
nub modeling, may suggest that the sill was the
dominant mechanism of controlling fluid
movement through the crust when the Holy
Island formation was emplaced, and that it
remains the governing feature of Holy Islands
geology and geomorphology. In fact, although
the Great Whin sill is commonly thought of as
the stereotypically flat and horizontal intrusion,
in reality it is seldom concordant over wide
areas and commonly rises and falls in the
stratigraphical succession in gentle
transgressions and abrupt jumps to new levels
(Johnson and Dunham 2001). It seems possible
then, that even on a relatively small scale, that
stepping and transgression of the Holy Island
intrusion is likely. Although magnetic models
are unable to give an indication of how the
geometry would have continued above the
erosional surface, significantly sized outcrops
protruding further northwards from scar jockey,
and the geometry of the outcrops seen in a N-S
profile of Castle Hill suggest that the formation
may have continued as another sill. The sketch
(Fig. 11) summarizes the possible dyke-sill

5.4 Density of the Dyke Using Nettletons
The density value computed using Nettletons
method is a little too low to be considered for
dolerite intrusions, which usually display
densities in the order of 3000 kgm
et al 1997). The computed value (2250 kgm
is more similar to that of a limestone or
sandstone. This may indicate that the dyke
below the surface of Heugh Hill is still covered,
or partly covered by a small layer of bedrock.
However, this seems unlikely since dolerite
outcrops on top of Heugh Hill suggest that the
present day erosion surface meets the top of the

The geological map shown in Fig.2 indicates
that the acre limestone and the Alston formation
make direct contact with the dyke to the north
and south of Heugh Hill. Further evidence for
contact was seen in baked sediments on the
southern side of Heugh Hill. This may suggest
that for significant parts of the survey profile,
the subsurface body was in fact limestone and
not dolerite. This may indicate why the
Nettletons method computed a slightly lower
than average density for dolerite. Additionally,
carboniferous limestone is usually quite dense
in comparison to some other common bedrocks
and this may have led to the density contrast
being smaller than expected, generally causing
a broader and less distinct anomaly. However,
gravity surveys of this nature are usually
sensitive enough to detect density anomalies in
the order of 500 1000 kgm
. However, it may
be that the dyke is particularly thin in this
section of the Holy Island echelon, and the
gravity survey has been unable to define this
shorter wavelength anomaly.

5.5 Need for Further Study
The results from the gravity survey shows a
lower than average density for a typical dolerite
dyke. It is difficult to ascertain the reason for
this without conducting another survey. It may
be that particularly windy conditions caused an
error large enough to disrupt the data and
therefore spoil the computation. The hilly relief
of Heugh Hill makes it difficult to survey the
dyke using any other method than gravity, but
other geological constraints such as field
Castle Hill
Present day
Fig.11 schematic diagram of the Holy Island
dyke-sill formation in a north south profile
relationships and geological maps can be used
to compliment a further survey.

Although we were able to produce two well
constrained models from the magnetics data,
the results are not reliable enough to be fully
conclusive. A greater number of magnetics
profiles needs to be carried out, across much of
the length of the dyke. Additionally, extra
geological constraints are important, and
borehole data is a viable consideration, since it
is the only sure fired way of knowing the depth
to a particular layer. In much the same way, the
magnetics profiles could easily be
complimented by other geophysical surveys
such as seismic refraction and resistivity.
Measurements for the density of the dyke from
such methods would also compliment any
further gravity work. A rather more
complicated way of combining geophysical
surveys, but a method that seems to
dramatically increase accuracy of results, is
joint inversion, which uses large-scale
optimization methods and model
parameterization to couple physical parameters
(Moorkamp et al 2010).

Computer models of the magnetics data is
successful in modeling a stair-step type
intrusion, characterized by dyke and sill
segments. Due to the dominant confining
geometry of the modeled sills, and from field
relationships, it is possible that the sill provides
the framework for the dolerite intrusions found
on Holy Island. The gravity survey produced
lower than expected values for the density of
the dolerite, and it is thought that perhaps the
dyke is particularly thin across Heugh Hill, or
that the country rock somehow disrupts the data
since the Nettletons method requires a uniform
topographic feature. Both surveys highlight the
need for further study in the form of, a greater
number of surveys and also a greater variety of
geological, geophysical and field constraints.

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