Documentary Film

54 mins 28 sec

UHD 25 P

Aspect Ratio: 2:35

Audio: Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1

Screening formats: DCP, QuickTime ProRes

Year of production: 2019

Country of production: UK


Every earthquake starts in the size of a grain

The black & white documentary film ‘Pseudotachylyte’ portrays how scientists explore landscape; through the microscopic view of the world to an understanding of deep time.

 In 2017, a team of international geo-scientists investigate the Arctic landscape of the Lofoten Islands in Norway in order to examine causes of earthquakes originating deep below earth’s surface.

In an exceptionally well-preserved field site, this natural laboratory provides a rare ’window’ into these exposed rocks that were once deep below the surface of the earth and the ocean.

The rocks formed more than 2 billion years ago, almost half the age of planet Earth.

After millions of years of erosion, they now show visible traces of ancient earthquakes as ‘scars’, so-called Pseudotachylytes.

Most earthquakes occur in the upper 20 km of the earth’s crust, where rocks are cold, brittle and elastic, and able to build up the tectonic stresses released in sudden earthquakes.

Below this depth, the lower crust is hotter and rocks there typically deform plastically and steadily, rarely accumulating enough stress for large earthquakes.

Despite this, some of the largest earthquakes initiate in the lower crust.

The aim of this expedition was to improve the understanding of these deeper and potentially devastating earthquakes by mapping out the fault zone network and assessing where and when geologically ancient earthquakes occurred.

Ultimately, information derived from these ancient fault roots will be used to infer processes occurring at depth along faults that are currently active in modern earthquake zones.


Lucy Campbell

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Structural Geology and Rock Deformation

Åke Fagereng  

Reader in Structural Geology, Cardiff University

Elisabetti Mariani                    

Reader in Earth Materials, University of Liverpool

Luca Menegon 

Associate Professor of Structural Geology and Tectonics, University of Plymouth  

Giorgio Pennacchioni              

Professor of Structural Geology, University of Padova, Italy 

Director / Editor / Script / Producer       

Heidi C Morstang


Patrik Säfström (fnf)

Sound design & Mix                                      

Paul Donovan

Track lay                                             

Jon Cawte


Jon Cawte and Tom Chilcott


Christian Short

Post-production manager                   

Miles Hall


Iain Stewart 

Professor of Geoscience Communication,  University of Plymouth


Supported by 

Arts Research, University of Plymouth 

Natural Environment Research Council

Creative Associates 2019, Sustainable Earth Institute, University of Plymouth


Screening History

Premiere screening of Pseudotachylyte at Bergen International Film  Festival, Norway

25th September – 3rd October 2019

Selected for the Norwegian Documentaries Competition

Selected for the Golden Owl Competition