The Roar of the Bay

The Roar of the Bay
The Roar of the Bay

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wasson Bluff - Parrsboro, Nova Scotia

Every year the Fundy Geological Museum (FGM) hosts curatorial walks of the many sites located in the Parrsboro area in Nova Scotia. Saturday June 11th the FGM organized a curatorial walk of the Wasson Bluff located a few minutes east of Parrsboro, on Two Islands Road. I had gone only once before last Summer. I was happy to go back as I wanted to find out all the information I could get from Wasson Bluff.

Wasson Bluff is a very special place, as the earliest dinosaurs have been discovered in this area. This area has seen the smallest dinosaur foot prints ever found, some of Canada's oldest dinosaurs ever found, and important signs and clues of the ever changing landscape and makeup of the Earth.

The curatorial walks are free, and that weekend being tourism week, the admittance to the Fundy Geological Museum exhibit was also free. Me and my friend Craig, along with some other fellas had some time to spare before the walk, so we checked it out. It is well worth it as they have a lot of interactive games and displays, and wonderful specimens on display.

By the time we were done the museum, there was still about an hour left before the tour, so we asked for directions on local eats. The friendly staff helped us by pointing out local restaurants not too far in town. We opted for one that was at the end of a street next to the museum on Pier road. The tiny restaurant, the Harbour View, was a home cooking style seafood restaurant and it didn't disappoint. The food was great and the service was good.

View of the bay from the restaurant.

Wasson Bluff is located further west of the FGM on Two Islands road. It takes a little bit less than 15 minutes. Here's a few pics from the walk:

Getting ready for the hike. My friend Craig on the left.

The welcome sign at the Wasson Bluff entrance.

Hopping down the steep trail.
Easier down than up as I would learn coming back up.

Finally on the beach!

View of Clarke Head. The tip of the cliff is darker basalt/volcanic rock. The gray/greenish-like part of the cliffs is gypsum/salt-like sediments, remains of bodies of water that vanished a long time ago. From there to where I was standing were the different faults and strata that make up the general landscape of this part of Wasson Bluff.

Ken Adams, our interpreter, and also the FGM's curator.
(Two Islands in the background)

Close to the beach entrance you'd get these strata of sandstone and mudstone. These look similar to the carboniferous strata you'd encounter at beaches like Joggins. The sandstone show animal tracks and natural weathering.

Ichnofossils (animal tracks) made by ancient animals.

Cliff made up of volcanic rock.

Sedimentary mud filled with clastic basalt rocks and bone fragments.

Clastic basalt fragments in sedimentary silt, signs of the work of continents moving apart.

Bone fragment in sedimentary matrix.

The picture above seem to show sedimentary mud that would have squeezed in fractures of this volcanic rock, creating the look that we're seeing here. If I remember right, magma would have solidified (could have been underwater), and at a later period silt like mud would have made its way, filling any cavity it could propagate into. The green algae show the level of the tides.

Bone fragment in Triassic age rock.

In the background you have your greyish volcanic rock. In the foreground you have a mix of wind blown reddish sandstone to other types found in aquatic environment. This is the start of what they call Wasson Bluff, famous site of the many dinosaur bones, some deemed at least the oldest in Canada. The sandstone that bear the multitude of bone fragments are usually the ones that show clastic basalt, as they usually indicate some type of aquatic environment, like watering holes. From what I can remember this would have been a valley where animals would make their way. Several events happened to have retained the animals where they are, to later be unearthed by scientists. Such remains are displayed at the FGM for people to view.

The Triassic rock shows cavities where animal specimens had been found and unearthed. The cliff face changes all the time, so there is always a chance to find something.

What I found fascinating is that we have this type of site in our own backyard, at our doorstep. There is always that awe factor where you're thinking, some of the oldest animals have walked where you have walked. The features you can find in the earth, the traces of animals long gone, the pieces of a puzzle that help define the history of not just the locality, but the global picture of how things were at one point in time.

I have enjoyed Parrsboro and I'm convinced that anybody that goes there would enjoy it.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Caledonia Mountains - The Albert Mines Shale

Last week I had a few days off. I had made a list of places I wanted to check out if the weather permited it. One of those places was Albert Mines.

Albert Mines is located in the Albert County area, in New Brunswick. In the 1800s Albert Mines saw a lot of activity as people were looking for Albertite -- a solid form of petrole-like substance (like some type of gasoline that looks similar to coal). These mines were abanbanned a long time ago but there is renewed interest due to future stocks of petrolium and natural gas that lies underground.

My interest with the shale is not just its properties (you can light the rock sample on fire and they release a strong gasoline smell), but what you can potentially find by splitting the shale: fossilized fish.

On that sunny afternoon I packed up my gear and headed south to the Old Albert Mines Road on the other side of Hillsborough.

The location that I was looking for is what used to be the shale dump, basically where the miners would have dumped the shale tailings. The ideal thing to do would be probably to find undisturbed shale in situ, but this site in particular would do. I came across the site and could easily identify the shale as it has a darker coloration than the regular redish hued rock of the area as you get closer to the Peticodiac river.

Nice view of the mountains in the background.

Exposed shale.

Close up of the cliff.

The photo above shows a trail that was done by local ATVs. Beside the trail on the right you can distinguish the loose shale that wasn't worn by the coming and going of the all-terrain vehicules.

There are numerous trails made by the ATVs that go up and down the shale dump. The last time I had come here was actually the first time last year in the Spring. I didn't recognize this spot for what it was but now I was more comfortable identifying the type of rock and location I was looking for.

This pic was taken above the mounds of shale. The ATVs have done a good job at making the top of these hills very smooth. The shale is brittle so the weight of the ATVs has crushed the shale into very small tailing, creating trails that are also very hard. There are a lot of spots where the vehicules haven't gone and where the shale is actually loose and in nice big chunks.

Critter Killer, for the Just-In-Case scenarios.

This is what I'm looking for.

This is it, what I'm looking for. The shale rock that has a nice size that could potentially yield something interesting. The piece I worked on was quite large. I saw it jutting out of the trail between the loose shale, so I grabbed my folding shoven and cleared up a bit around the edges to get a better view of what I was playing with. It was really large, but the seems on that shale rock were exposed at the right angle, making it easy to split. I used a flat paint scraper to split the shale. By sliding the scraper in the crack, you can split it by gently applying pressure. The shale wasn't brittle enough to break in pieces if I had to apply more pressure to split it open.

By splitting the shale, I could smell the odor of petrolium, like the smell you get when you gas up your car. When you first split it open, you'd get a viscous liquid that would take a little bit of time to dry up. Digging around the shale I also got the chance to see a few samples of Albertite (shown below the handle of my shovel), which looks similar to coal.

Close up of the viscous material.

This time around I wasn't lucky enough to find anything, but I was pressed for time so I couldn't stay long. I will make this trek more often in the future to look for those elusive fish. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Site Scouting - "Fern Ledges"

I've been doing research on important geological and fossil sites in the Maritimes. I've come across some information about an old site once frequented by Sir John William Dawson and Charles Lyell. From what I've learned thus far, the fossils contained in the rocks at that location yield flora from the Carboniferous period (there was a lot of debate about dating this formation: Devonian vs. Carboniferous).

My travels that day took me to sunny Saint John, New Brunswick. Fern Ledges is just one of numerous sites of geological significance in the Saint John area.

View from Duck Cove.

Small island where seals were bathing in the Sun.

This was my view of the rock formation I was there to investigate. It was late in the afternoon when I got there so I didn't get the chance to walk around much, but what I saw made me want to come check it out again very soon.

From Duck Cove and Fern Ledges back at the turn of the 20th century.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rock Hunting in Rockport.. Part Deux

Two weeks before this last trek in Rockport, east of Dorchester NB, I found some good indicators of what could have been a very large body of water. The fossils that I was able to find were showing me a picture of trees all bunched up and stacked on top of each other, similar to what you would find in log jams in a body of water.

I also wanted to find out how the cliffs were structured in the Bay of Fundy outside the protection of Slacks Cove. I was curious if the cliffs exposed to the active bay on the New Brunswick side were similar to the sister cliffs at Joggins in Nova Scotia. The silt and seaweed on the rocks were making my getting on the other side tricky.

Seaweed, mud, and all that slippery crap in between.

Getting around the corner was a bit tricky. Instead of going around I decided to take a chance and pass through this hole that was about my height, around 5 feet and a few inches. The distance between the hole and the ground was about 12 feet. On the other side of this hole the cliff sloped down at about 45 degrees. I decided to sit down on my ass and slide all the way down.

Picture of the cliffs at the western tip of Slacks Cove.

After making my way south of the cove, tumbling through the whole way and clinging to the rocks, I made it to the outskirts in one muddy piece. The features on how the strats are layed are more pronounce.

You can see the different layers of strata in detail.

Fossil wood logs.

I added my blue backpack on the left of the logs for contrast.

The numerous of layers of strata made of sandstone and mudstone.

The top of the sandstone layers shows ripples, a good sign this was probably sand from a shallow body of water or something similar.

These cliffs were very hard to access as the seaweed and silt made the trek very treacherous. For the amount of time it takes to get there I would need to find alternative ways to reach them via other roads or trails. I'll need to pan out the topographical map of the area and scout the numerous trails, most of them used by local loggers. The area looks promising and I can get a clearer picture of how this area would have looked like over 300 million years ago.

Till next time!