The Roar of the Bay

The Roar of the Bay
The Roar of the Bay

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!

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