Sunday, 28 June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Monday, 22 June 2009

CATACLYSMIC FORCE: THE BUILDING OF BC

Waterfront Property fetches a high price today, even in this economy. Investing early is clearly the way to go. We've all heard tales of folk who bought up acreage in the early days for pennies and much to their delight, the bit of land they chose is now worth millions.

How early is early is a matter of perspective. Some 270 million plus years ago, had one wanted to buy waterfront property in what is now British Columbia, you’d be looking somewhere between Prince George and the Alberta border. The rest of the province had yet to arrive but would be made up of over twenty major terranes from around the Pacific.

The rock that would eventually become the Cariboo Mountains and form the lakes and valleys of Bowron was far out in the Pacific Ocean, down near the equator. With tectonic shifting, these rocks drifted north-eastward, riding their continental plate, until they collided with and joined the Cordillera in the Pacific Northwest and helped to shape British Columbia.

Continued pressure and volcanic activity pushed and shoved, sculpting the tremendous slopes of the Cariboo Range we see today. Repeated bouts of glaciation during the Pleistocene carved the valleys and mountainside into the slightly smoother finish we see today. Wish I'd been around to stake a claim, even a little bit earlier... land as far as the eye can see... open vistas... and all for a penny.

The image above was taken from a jet ranger helicopter on the way to the fossil exposures near Castle Peak. I've flown in many times to search for exquisite Hettangian ammonites. These extinct cephalopods, now find high in the rockies, lived in the open ocean while BC was still being formed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

HORNBY ISLAND PALEONTOLOGY

Hornby, one of the northern Gulf Islands on the west coast of British Columbia, draws me back year upon year. Both for its picture perfect sunny days, stormy seas and the island's own rugged beauty.

Hornby also has some of the best preserved fossil specimens of the Pacific Northwest. Many species of ammonites (mainly Pachydiscus), crabs, bivalves, sharks teeth, echinoids, wood and bone can be found in the Upper Cretaceous shales and concretions of the Lambert Formation. Interestingly, they are remarkably similar to the ones you find in the French and Tamil areas of Pondicherry, India, telling us a great deal about what was happening back in the Maastrichtian some 70-million years ago.

If you happen to find yourself in Pondicherry, be sure to take in the exceptional cuisine and fossils at Thriuvakkarai. Photo by Tina Beard, beautiful friend and artist, on a particularly lovely afternoon.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Friday, 12 June 2009

QUARTZITE KIND OF BLUE

Paddling in time to the wind, I soak up the view of Isaac Lake, a vast, deep green, ocean-like expanse that runs L-shape for nearly 38 kilometres. The strata I paddle past is primarily calcareous phyllite, limestone and quartzite, typical of the type locality for this group and considered upper Proterozoic, the time in our geologic history between the first algae and the first multicellular animals.

It is striking how much this scene fits exactly how you might picture pristine wilderness paddling in your mind’s eye. No power boats, no city hum, just pure silence, broken only by the sound of my paddle pulling through the water and the occasional burst of glee from one of the park’s many songbirds. Somewhere in the back of my head Miles Davis is working through Kind of Blue, in time to the wind and my slow, smooth strokes - perfect pairing for this lazy day.

Friday, 5 June 2009

THROW ANOTHER SHRIMP ON THE BARBIE

What looked to be a small stroke of genius in the fight against global warming has resulted in huge disaster.

Planktos, a California-based company that sells “carbon credits” to businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint and contribution to global emissions has been taken down by a swarm of shrimp. They had planned to harness the photosynthetic power of algae to lower greenhouse gases.

Algae come cheap, requiring light and water. They also require iron, which may be the sixth most abundant element in the Universe, but still relatively rare in the ocean. The small bits algae utilize are blown in by the wind and runoff from rivers and streams.

While some scientists and environmental groups object to their plan fearing harmful changes to the ecosystem, Planktos went ahead and dumped a hundred tons of iron dust mixed with seawater into international waters off the coast of the Argentina.

Expecting a plankton bloom and carbon credit riches to follow, their plans were literally eaten alive by a swarm of algae-loving shrimp. They did get their bloom, but it was not the algae they were expecting.

Instead of large diatom algae, they got millions and millions of haptophytes, a tiny algae common in the open ocean and extremely abundant in the fossil record. They are also the fellows responsible for the white foam you sometimes see on the edge of beaches.

Most importantly, however, they are the food of choice for the equally common copepod, a shrimp-like crustacean who complete with krill for forming the largest animal biomass on earth. And perhaps, having the largest appetite.

Sometimes brilliance arises from thinking outside the box. Sometimes not. The copepods ate all the haptophytes and Planktos' dreams. It seems the wee shrimp-like fellows didn’t get the memo. Instead they got an all you can eat coupon to a fine seafood buffet.

HIGH-ELEVATION ICE CAPADE

Our base camp near the Tyaughton fossil exposures, Taseko Lake area, British Columbia.

Thursday, 4 June 2009