Saturday, 31 December 2011

Friday, 9 December 2011

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011

OREGON FOSSIL MAMMALS


More than 100 groups of mammals have been found in the Miocene (37 – 20 mya) John Day Formation near Kimberly, Oregon. I'm planning a field trip this July to collect in the fossiliferous strata that have yielded beautifully preserved speciments of many of the animals we see domesticated today.

Dogs, cats, swine and horses are common. Oreodonts, camels, rhinoceras and rodents have also been found in this ancient deciduous forested area.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Friday, 28 October 2011

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Thursday, 13 October 2011

ANCIENT ANTACID: MIDDENS


Many First Nations sites were inhabited continually for centuries. The discarded shells and scraps of bone from their food formed enormous mounds called middens. Left over time, these unwanted dinner scraps can transform through a quiet process of preservation. Time and pressure leach the calcium carbonate, CaCO3, from the surrounding marine shells and help “embalm” bone and antler artifacts that would otherwise decay. Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound that shares the typical properties of other carbonates.

CaCO3 is common in rocks and shells and is a useful antacid for those of you with touchy stomachs. In prepping fossil specimens embedded in limestone, it is useful to know that it reacts with stronger acids, releasing carbon dioxide: CaCO3(s) + 2HCl(aq) → CaCl2(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l)

For those of you wildly interested in the properties of CaCO3, may also find it interesting to note that calcium carbonate also releases carbon dioxide on when heated to greater than 840°C, to form calcium oxide or quicklime, reaction enthalpy 178 kJ / mole: CaCO3 → CaO + CO2.

Calcium carbonate reacts with water saturated with carbon dioxide to form the soluble calcium bicarbonate. Bone already contains calcium carbonate, as well as calcium phosphate, Ca2, but it is also made of protein, cells and living tissue.

Decaying bone acts as a sort of natural sponge that wicks in the calcium carbonate displaced from the shells. As protein decays inside the bone, it is replaced by the incoming calcium carbonate, making the bone harder and thus more durable.

The shells, beautiful in their own right, make the surrounding soil more alkaline, helping to preserve the bone and turning the dinner scraps into exquisite scientific specimens for future generations.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

BOWRON BEAUTY


Yellow Lily line pathways and float in the cold, clear lake water. Somewhere I read a suggestion to bring a bathing suit to the park, but at the moment, I cannot imagine lowering anything more than my paddle into these icy waters. To reach the west side of the paddling route, we must first face several kilometres portaging muddy trails to meet up with the Isaac River and then paddle rapids to grade two.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

POWELL RIVER

PANGEA: THE GATHERING OF CONTINENTS

Pangea was an ancient continental landmass which formed about 240 million years ago. Had you been around to see the Earth at this time, you would have set your feet on most of the bits and pieces that would go on to become continents we know today. In the Earth's long history, most of the major continental places were gathered into a single mass. Pressure from deep within the Earth let to the break up of Pangea into the two huge landmasses of Gondwana and Laurasia.

Gondwana would split yet again into the modern contents of South America, Africa, India, Australasia and Antarctica. While they are far apart today, we find similar fossils on each of the continents from their shared history.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

PLATE TECTONICS & PINOT GRIS

An evening view of Lund Harbour off beautiful British Columbia's rugged west coast is enough to get most folks dreaming of an ocean view. 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.

Sipping a glass of Sandhill, I'm thankful for plate tectonics and the cultivation of the pinot gris grape.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Monday, 19 September 2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

SIVERT: AMMONITE PALEONTOLOGIST

A great temple to the god Amon was built at Karnak in Upper Egypt around c. 1785. It is from Amon that we get his cephalopod namesake, the ammonites and also the name origin for the compound ammonia or NH3.

Ammonites were a group of hugely successful aquatic molluscs that looked like the still extant Nautilus, a coiled shellfish that lives off the southern coast of Asia. While the Nautilus lived on, ammonites graced our waters from around 400 million years ago until the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years.

Varying in size from millimeters to meters across, these elegant marine dwellers are prized as both works of art and index fossils helping us better understand and date strata. In the photo above, my cousin and budding paleontologist Sivert, holds an ammonite from the Paris Basin.

Cousins in the Class Cephalopoda, meaning "head-footed," ammonites are closely related to modern squid, cuttlefish and octopus with complex eye structures and advanced swimming abilites. They used these evolutionary benefits to their advantage, making them successful marine predators cruising our ancient oceans expertly capturing prey with their tentacles.

Picture a hungry fellow at a smorgasborg. Now add water.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Friday, 2 September 2011

Saturday, 27 August 2011

MAMMA MOOSE, BABY MOOSE.... GRIZZLY!

A cool morning breeze keeps the mosquitoes down as we pack our kayaks and gear for today’s paddling journey. It is day four of our holiday, with two days driving up from Vancouver to Cache Creek, past the Eocene insect and plant site at McAbee, the well-bedded Permian limestone near Marble Canyon and onto Bowron Provincial Park, a geologic gem near the gold rush town of Barkerville.

The initial draw for me, given that collecting in a provincial park is forbidden and all collecting close at hand outside the park appears to amount to a handful of crushed crinoid bits and a few conodonts, was the gorgeous natural scenery and a broad range of species extant. It was also the proposition of padding the Bowron Canoe Circuit, a 149,207 hectare geologic wonderland, where a fortuitous combination of plate tectonics and glacial erosion have carved an unusual 116 kilometre near-continuous rectangular circuit of lakes, streams and rivers bound on all sides by snowcapped mountains. From all descriptions, something like heaven.

The east and south sides of the route are bound by the imposing white peaks of the Cariboo Mountains, the northern boundary of the Interior wet belt, rising up across the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Isaac Formation, the oldest of seven formations that make up the Cariboo Group (Struik, 1988). 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 what is now British Columbia. Continued pressure and volcanic activity helped create the tremendous slopes of the Cariboo Range we see today with repeated bouts of glaciation during the Pleistocene carving their final shape.

We brace our way into a head wind along the east side of the fjord-like Isaac Lake. Paddling in time to the wind, I soak up the view of this vast, deep green, ocean-like expanse that runs L-shape for nearly 38 kilometres, forming nearly half of the total circuit. The rock we paddle past is primarily calcareous phyllite, limestone and quartzite, typical of the type locality for this group and considered upper Proterozoic (Young, 1969), the time in our geologic history between the first algae and the first multicellular animals.It is striking how much this lake 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.

We’ve chosen kayaks over the more-popular canoes for this journey, as I got to experience my first taste of the handling capabilities of a canoe last year in Valhalla Provincial Park. The raised sides acted like sails and kept us off course in all but the lightest conditions. This year, Philip Torrens, Leanne Sylvest, and I were making our trek in low profile, Kevlar style. One single & one double kayak would be our faithful companions and mode of transport. They would also be briefly conscripted into service as a bear shield later in the trip.

Versatile those kayaks.

The area is home to a variety of plant life. Large sections of the forest floor are carpeted in the green and white of dogwood, a prolific ground cover we are lucky enough to see in full bloom. Moss, mushrooms and small wild grown on every available surface. Yellow Lily line pathways and float in the cold, clear lake water. Somewhere I read a suggestion to bring a bathing suit to the park, but at the moment, I cannot imagine lowering anything more than my paddle into these icy waters. To reach the west side of the paddling route, we must first face several kilometres portaging muddy trails to meet up with the Isaac River and then paddle rapids to grade two.

At the launch site, we meet up with two fellow kayakers, Adele and Mary of Victoria, and take advantage of their preceding us to watch the path they choose through the rapids. It has been raining in the area for forty plus days, so the water they run is high and fast. Hot on their heels, our short, thrilling ride along the Isaac River, is a flurry of paddle spray and playing around amid all the stumps, silt and conglomerate. The accommodation gods smile kindly on us as we are pushed out from Isaac River and settle into McLeary Lake. An old trapper cabin built by local Freddie Becker back in the 1930’s, sits vacant and inviting, providing a welcome place to hang our hats and dry out. From here we can see several moose, large, lumbering, peaceful animals, the largest members of the deer family, feeding on the grass-like sedge on the far shore. The next morning, we paddle leisurely down the slower, silt-laden Cariboo River, avoiding the occasional deadhead, and make our way into the milky, glacier fed Lanezi Lake.

Like most mountainous areas, Bowron makes its own weather system and it appears you get everything in a 24-hour period. In fact, whatever weather you are enjoying seems to change 40 minutes later; good for rain, bad for sun. Wisps of cloud that seemed light and airy only hours early have become dark. Careful to hug the shore, we are ready for a quick escape from lightening as thundershowers break.

Paddling in the rain, I notice bits of mica in the water, playing in the light and the rock change here to greywacke, argillite, phyllite and schist. Past Lanezi, we continue onto Sandy Lake, where old growth cedars line the south-facing slopes to our left and grey limestone, shale and dolostone line the shore. Mottled in with the rock, we sneak up on very convincing stumps posing as large mammals. Picking up the Cariboo River again, we follow it as it flows into Babcock Lake, an area edged with Lower Cambrian limestone, shale and argillite. At the time these rocks were laid down, the Earth was seeing our earliest relatives, the first chordates entering the geologic scene.

As we reach the end of Babcock Lake and prepare for our next portage I get my out to take advantage of the angle of the sun and the eroded rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highlands that stand as backdrop.Leanne remarks that she can see a moose a little ways off and that it appeared to be heading our way. Yes, heading our way quickly with a baby moose in tow. I lift my lens to immortalize the moment and we three realized the moose are heading our way in double time because they are being chased by a grizzly at top speed. A full-grown moose can run up to fifty-six kilometres per hour, slightly faster than a Grizzly. They are also strong swimmers. Had she been alone, Mamma moose would likely have tried to out swim the bear. Currently, however, this is not the case. From where we stand we can see the water turned to white foam at their feet as they fly towards us.

We freeze, bear spray in hand.

In seconds the three were upon us. Mamma moose, using home field advantage, runs straight for us and just reaching our boats, turned 90 degrees, bolting for the woods, baby moose fast on her heels.

The Grizzly, caught up in the froth of running and thrill of the kill, doesn’t notice the deke, hits the brakes at the boats and stands up, confused. Her eyes give her away. This was not what she had planned and the whole moose-suddenly-transformed-into-human thing is giving her pause. Her head tilts back as she gets a good smell of us.

Suddenly, a crack in the woods catches her attention. Her head snaps round and she drops back on all fours, beginning her chase anew. Somewhere there is a terrified mother moose and calf hoping the distance gained is enough to keep them from being lunch. I choose to believe both moose got away with the unwitting distraction we provided, but I’m certainly grateful we did.

The Lakes are at an elevation of over 900 m (3000 ft) and both grizzly and black bear sightings are common. Both bear families descend from a common ancestor, Ursavus, a bear-dog the size of a raccoon who lived more than 20 million years ago. Seems an implausible lineage having just met one of the larger descendents.While we’d grumbled only hours earlier about how tired we were feeling, we now feel quite motivated and do the next two portages and lakes in good time. Aside from the gripping fear that another bear encounter is imminent, we enjoy the park-like setting, careful to scan the stands of birch trees for dark shapes now posing as stumps. Fortunately, the only wildlife we see are a few wily chipmunks, various reticent warblers and some equally shy spruce grouse.

The wind favours us now as we paddle Skoi and Spectacle Lake, even giving us a chance to use the sails we’ve rigged to add an extra knot of oomph to our efforts. Reaching the golden land of safety-in-numbers, we leap from our kayaks, happy to see the smiling faces of Mary and Adele.

Making it here is doubly thrilling because it means I’m sleeping indoors tonight and I can tell the bear story with adrenaline still pumping through my veins. Tonight is all about camaraderie and the warmth of a campfire. Gobbling down Philip’s famous pizza, Leanne impresses everyone further by telling of his adventures in the arctic and surviving a polar bear attack.

This is our first starlit night without rain, a luxury everyone comments on, but quietly, not wanting to jinx it. We share a good laugh at the expense of the local common loons (both Homeo sapien sapien and Gavia immer). The marshy areas of the circuit provide a wonderful habitat for the regions many birds including a host of sleek, almost regal black and white common loons.

Their cool demeanour by day is reduced to surprisingly loud, maniacal hoots and yelps with undignified flapping and flailing by night. It seems hardly possible that these awful noises could be coming from the same birds and that this has been going for nearly 65 million years, since end of the age of dinosaurs, as loons are one of the oldest bird families in the fossil record.

A guitar is pulled out to liven the quiet night while small offerings, sacred and scare this late in our journey, are passed around.

Tonight is a celebration that we have all, both separately and together, made our way around this immense mountain-edged circuit.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

GODS OF GONDWANA

The dinosaurs of Australia disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous, as they did the world over. Their departure marked the end of the supercontinent of Gondwana. By the middle of the Eocene, some fifty-five million years ago, only Australia, Antarctica and South America remained as it straddled the South Pole.

Free of ice and the giant marine and flying reptiles, a new line-up of mammals, flightless birds, crocodiles, snakes and turtles thrived in the warm, wet climate, rapidly adapting and dominating the forests, oceans and skies. New and fanciful creatures, the monotremes, marsupials and placentals explored and took root in the Gondwanan forests as conifers gave way to broad-leaved trees in an ever changing landscape.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Monday, 1 August 2011

GREECE: FOSSILS OF THE AEGEAN

The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that extend out from the mainland. Crete is the last of this range and boasts a diverse beauty from its high mountains of Psiloritis, Lefka Ori, Dikti, to its ocean caressed pink sand beaches.

Much of the island of Crete is Miocene and filled with fossil mollusks, bivalves, gastropods who lived 5 to 23 million years ago in warm, tropical seas. They are easily collected from their pink limestone matrix and are often eroded out, mixing with their modern relatives. Aside from the marine deposits, the island boasts some of the best vertebrate finds, including the remains of Deinotherium giganteum, a massive 8 million-year-old mammal and primative relative of the elephants roaming the Earth today.

With an enormous large nasal opening at the centre of his skull, presumably to house a rather largish trunk, Deinotherium may be the inspiration behind the myth of the Cyclops, the one-eyed giant from Homer's famous Odyssey.

Aside from the plentiful fossils, the beach is home to sun bathing locals and rare extant marine species. Pinniped seals and Loggerhead sea turtles call this part of the world home. The local fields hold lush, red cretan poppies and the mountains house rare orchids and the last of remaining lynx, Roe deer, Wild goat and brown bear.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Friday, 29 July 2011

SLOTHS & BLUE GREEN ALGAE

Ever wonder why the slow moving sloth has a slightly greenish hue? Ever consider the sloth at all? Well, perhaps not. Location, location, location, is the mantra for many of us in our macro world, but it is also true for the small world of algae.

Blue green algae is a term used to describe any of a large, heterogeneous group of prokaryotic, principally photosynthetic organisms.

These little oxygenic (oxygen-producing) fellows appeared about 2,000,000,000 to 3,000,000,000 years ago and are given credit for greatly increasing the oxygen content of the atmosphere, making possible the development of aerobic (oxygen-using) organisms and some very special relationships with some of the slowest moving mammals on the planet, the sloths or Folivora.

The tribes of South America who live close to these insect and leaf-eaters, call these arboreal browsers "Ritto, Rit or Ridette, which roughly translates to variations on sleep, sleepy, munching and filthy. Not all that far off when you consider ths sloth and their lifestyle.

The sloth's body and shaggy coat, or pelage, provides a comfy habitat to two types of wee blue-green algae along with various other invertebrates. The hairs that make up the sloth's coat have grooves that help foster algal growth.

And, while Kermit the Frog says, "it's not easy being green," it couldn't be further from the truth for this slow-moving tree dweller. The blue-green algae gives the sloth a natural greenish camouflage, an arrangement that is certainly win-win.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

GLACIAL FJORD: SEA TO SKY



















A short 90-minute drive north of the city of Vancouver, the nation's gateway to the Pacific, is a recreational Shangri-La that attracts four season adventurers from around the globe to ski, board, hike, mountain bike, kayak and climb the local peaks.

This treasure trove wilderness playground stretches along the breathtaking Sea-to-Sky Highway affording breathtaking views of the Pacific as it follows Highway 99 north out of the sparkling gem of Vancouver from Lions Bay, through Squamish and Garibaldi and into the picturesque Whistler Valley.

As you drive out of the city, look at the mountains to the north. Grouse, Cypress and Seymour mountains provide easy access skiing for the happy winter adventurer and a beautiful backdrop to the young city of Vancouver, Canada's third-largest metropolis, year-round.

While the city sits on relatively young sandstone and mudstone, the North Shore Mountains are made from granite that formed deep within the Earth more than 100 million years ago.

Cretaceous plant material can be found at Brother's Creek as you head towards Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky highway. Following Highway 99, you’ll hug the coastline of Howe Sound, a glacially carved fiord which extends from Horseshoe Bay (20 km northwest of Vancouver) to the hamlet of Squamish. The road is perched high above the water, blasted into the rock of the steep glacial-valley slope and has been the chosen path for First Nation hunters, early explorers, the miners of the Gold Rush and now the rush of tourism.

Carved from the granitic mountainside high above Howe Sound, this scenic pathway has been a rich recreation corridor and traditional First Nation hunting ground for many years.

Steeped in a First Nations history, bountiful wildlife and gorgeous vistas, the Whistler corridor is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful spots on the globe with something for everyone.

Monday, 11 July 2011

CHUCKANUT DRIVE: EOCENE TROPICAL PARADISE

A trip along Chuckanut Drive, in northwestern Washington is a chance to view incredible diversity from sea to sky.

An amazing array of plants and animals call this coastline home. For the fossil enthusiast, it is a chance to slip back in time and have a bird’s eye view of a tropical paradise preserved in the Eocene strata of various fossil sites. Snug up against the Pacific Ocean, this 6000m thick exposure yields a vast number of tropical and flowering plants that you might see in Mexico today.

Easily accessible by car, this rich natural playground makes for an enjoyable daytrip just one hour south of the US Border.

Over vast expanses of time, powerful tectonic forces have massaged the western edge of the continent, smashing together a seemingly endless number of islands to produce what we now know as North America and the Pacific Northwest. Intuition tells us that the earth’s crust is a permanent, fixed outer shell – terra firma.

Aside from the rare event of an earthquake or the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, our world seems unchanging, the landscape constant. In fact, it has been on the move for billions of years and continues to shift each day. As the earth’s core began cooling, some 4.5 billion years ago, plates, small bits of continental crust, have become larger and smaller as they are swept up in or swept under their neighboring plates. Large chunks of the ocean floor have been uplifted, shifted and now find themselves thousands of miles in the air, part of mountain chains far from the ocean today or carved by glacial ice into valleys and basins.

Two hundred million years ago, Washington was two large islands, bits of continent on the move westward, eventually bumping up against the North American continent and calling it home. Even with their new fixed address, the shifting continues; the more extreme movement has subsided laterally and continues vertically. The upthrusting of plates continues to move our mountain ranges skyward – the path of least resistance. This dynamic movement has created the landscape we see today and helped form the fossil record that tells much of Washington’s relatively recent history – the past 50 million years.

Chuckanut Drive is much younger than other parts of Washington. The fossils found there lived and died some 40-55 million years ago, very close to where they are now, but in a much warmer, swampy setting. The exposures of the Chuckanut Formation were once part of a vast river delta; imagine, if you will, the bayou country of the Lower Mississippi. The siltstones, sandstones, mudstones and conglomerates of the Chuckanut Formation were laid down about 40-54 million years ago during the Eocene epoch, a time of luxuriant plant growth in the subtropical flood plain that covered much of the Pacific Northwest.

This ancient wetland provided ideal conditions to preserve the many trees, shrubs & plants that thrived here. Plants are important in the fossil record because they are more abundant and can give us a lot of information about climate, temperature, the water cycle and humidity of the region. The Chuckanut flora is made up predominantly of plants whose modern relatives live in tropical areas such as Mexico and Central America. If you are interesting in viewing a tropical paradise in your own backyard, look no further than the Chuckanut. Images and tag lines: Glyptostrobus, the Chinese swamp cypress, is perhaps the most common plant found here. Also abundant are fossilized remains of the North American bald cypress, Taxodium; Metasequoia (dawn redwood), Lygodium (climbing fern), large Sabal (palm) and leaves from a variety of broad leaf angiosperm plants such as (witch hazel), Laurus (laurel), Ficus (fig) and Platanus (sycamore), and several other forms.

While less abundant, evidence of the animals that called this ancient swamp home are also found here. Rare bird, reptile, and mammal tracks have been immortalized in the outcrops of the Chuckanut Formation. Tracks of a type of archaic mammal of the Orders Pantodonta or Dinocerata (blunt foot herbivores), footprints from a small shorebird, and tracks from an early equid or webbed bird track give evidence to the vertebrates that inhabited the swamps, lakes and river ways of the Pacific Northwest 50 million years ago.

The movement of these celebrity vertebrates was captured in the soft mud on the banks of a river, one of the only depositional environments favorable for track preservation.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sunday, 3 July 2011

TRIASSIC PAPER CLAMS

Paper clams or "flat clams" were widespread in the Triassic. They often dominate the rocks in which they are found, as in these specimens from Pine Pass near Chetwynd found on a wee pit stop enroute to a paleontological conference near Tumbler Ridge.

Pine Pass is part of the Pardonet Formation. Just a short hike from the road we were able to easily find the abundant outcroppings of the paper clam Moinotis subcircularis, perfectly preserved and cemented in this strata from the Late Triassic.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Friday, 1 July 2011

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Thursday, 16 June 2011

POND SCUM OF MY DREAMS

Slimeball…a derogative term to be sure, from the modern usage, but before it was ever dragged down to the world of insults and verbal nastiness we know it for today, the scum of which we speak and the small bacteria that form them were simply the catalysts for the many beautiful colours we see in hot springs. While a whole host of thermophilic (heat-loving) microorganisms are responsible, it is the cyanobacteria, one of the more common fellows from this group, which form most of the scum. Cyanobacteria grow together in huge colonies (bacterial mats) that form the delightfully colourful scums and slimes on the sides of hot springs.

You can tell a fair bit about the water temperature and chemistry by just looking at the colour of the pools… as cyanobacteria, while not considered picky pool dwellers, do prefer one pool to another. A fear of slime actually has a term, blennophobia, a term told to me by a very savvy 12-year old -- child not scotch. The next time you hear someone flinging this insult your way, stop and tell them how attractive scum make this world.

Monday, 6 June 2011

KOREA: KIM CHI AND DINOSAUR TRACKS

Many years ago, I was working for a Canadian/Norwegian company that sold log homes to Japanese and Korean buyers eager to have a taste of the "traditional" Scandinavian mixed with the West Coast experience. Young and willing to work for pennies plus my living allowance, I'd always thought I was hired for my language skills.

It was years later, upon looking at old photographs, that it dawned on me that my actual job, the one I was hired to do -- was stand at the from of the room flipping large photographs of log homes during afternoon presentations. I was a Canadian/Norwegian Vanna White doing much the same task, only in budding Japanese. Conichiwa!

This photograph was taken on a trip to Seoul, Korea, where we were meeting up with wholesalers and business folk eager to expand their networks. I spend a lovely afternoon visiting and enjoying a sizzling hot barbeque complete with beetles (yes, beetles!) and ample kim chi. Some of the staff agreed to join me outside for a photograph. As we posed, I thought how sweet the girls were in their traditional garb and how little. Upon seeing the final photograph, however, I was shocked to realize I was shorter than all but one. Apparently I'm taller in my mind's eye.

While in Korea, I did get to see some of their impressive Cretaceous dinosaur trackways, one of which is now proposed as a World Heritage Site. South Korea also boasts impressive trackways of shore birds and bountiful petrified wood. I've included coordinates for a few additional sites well worth a visit.

Fossil Sites of Korea:

Uhang-ri, Hwangsan-myeon, Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do:
(34°45' N, 126°25' E)

Bibong-ri, Deungnyang-myeon, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do:
(34°45' N, 127°10' E)

Sado-ri, Hwajeong-myeon, City of Yeosu, Jeollanam-do:
(34°34'-37' N, 127°31'-34' E)

Seoyu-ri, Buk-myeon, Hwasun-gun, Jeollanam-do:
(35°09'51" N, 127°36'31" E)

Deongmyeong-ri, Hai-myeon, Goseong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do:
(34°54' N, 128°08' E)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

REFUGE COVE: HEART OF DESOLATION

Those who make regular treks to Desolation Sound on British Columbia's west coast know the wee gem of Refuge Cove. Friendly faces, fresh seafood and hot showers bring folk back year upon year. Only a few hardy families call Refuge home year-round. The rest of the inhabitants are sun soaked sailors and power boaters stopping in to top up supplies or rest soundly in their well-sheltered bay on their Desolation travels.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Thursday, 12 May 2011

BEACHCOMBING PARADISE: FOSSILS OF SOOKE

Sunshine, salt air, the bark of seals and... fossils await for those lucky enough to beach comb the fossiliferous shores near the fishing community of Sooke on Vancouver Islands' southwestern edge.

Sooke was originally inhabited by the T'sou-ke, a group related to the Salishan First Nations, who found the mild climate and sea access ideal. A fossil field trip brought me there last summer to explore the tidepools and well preserved marine fossils near the seaside exposures at Muir Creek.

Along the beachfront, you can find blocks of late Oligocene, 20-25 million year old, sandstone full of small gastropods, bivalves and barnacle bits of the Sooke Formation. By the late Oligocene ocean temperatures had cooled to near modern levels and the taxa preserved as fossils bear a strong resemblance to those found living beneath the Strait of Juan de Fuca today.

Mammal material, echinoids, coral, chitin and limpets are also found here but are rare. The largely intertidal assemblage of fossil species, many of which will look familiar as you've seen their modern relatives, tell us that the formation was layed down near shore.

The thickly strewn layers you'll see as big fossiliferous blocks and the lines of fossils you'll notice in the nearby cliffs suggest that they may have been deposited along a strand line. What you're sure to notice is the great ocean view and how easy it is to find something spectacular.

Whether you make a day of it or just a twenty minute luxurious beach stroll, your pockets will be filled with a healthy serving of ancient clam stew!

HALE CREEK: HARRISON FOSSIL SITE

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

PERFECT MISTY MORNING

DINOSAUR HUNTERS: TUMBLER RIDGE

QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS: RING OF FIRE

Located as they are in Canada’s most active earthquake zone, the Queen Charlotte Islands have had their share of shake-ups and scourings. Many of the Islands’ hillsides are scarred by slides. But the rock beneath speaks of an even more violent past.

Very few people know that the rock in the Queen Charlottes holds the key to a catastrophic event from eons ago. We’ve heard tales and seen images of the cataclysmic damage caused by meteriorites smashing into the Earth’s surface.

Until recently, it was a meteorite impact that was blamed for the worldwide Triassic/Jurassic Mass Extinction. This wholesale dying out of species occurred some 200 million years ago. New evidence challenges the meteorite theory. Experts now believe that tectonic forces may have caused hundreds of volcanoes around the world to erupt simultaneously. The subsequent showers of volcanic ash would have altered the composition of the atmosphere dramatically and plunged the world into near total darkness for years until it settled from the sky.

The picture painted of the sun flickering fitfully through inky clouds, paling against the torrents of glowing lava, while everywhere life is smothered, poisoned, or starved, rivals the most apocalyptic imaginings of Hollywood or religion. We know from worldwide evidence that the extinction was dramatic and affected upwards of 70% of the world’s biota.

Perhaps counterintuitively, for one might think of water as a refuge from fire, smoke, and lava, it was marine lifeforms that suffered the most. This is particularly well documented in the rocks of the Queen Charlottes, especially at Kennecott Point and Kunga Island.

Radiolarian microfossils, tiny, siliceous, single-celled microrganisms, tell the tale. In the Upper Triassic rocks, which predate the extinction by about 10 million years, radiolarians are preserved in hundreds of forms. Just above them, in the early Jurassic rock layers laid down about the time of the great die-offs, only a fraction of the previous number of forms are represented. The more recent Jurassic rock shows a rebound of radiolarian diversity, though of course, in different forms, a diversity which continues to flourish and expand in today’s oceans.