Saturday, 29 October 2011


During the Miocene and Pliocene, 12-1.6 million years ago, a diverse group of extinct proboscideans, elephant-like animals walked the Earth.

Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them.

Beyond our neanderthal friends, one such fellow was Quintus Sertorius, a Roman statesman come general, who grew up in Umbria. Born into a world at war just two years before the Romans sacked Corinth to bring Greece under Roman rule, Quintus lived much of his life as a military man far from his native Norcia. Around 81 BC, he travelled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.

The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales so they took him to a mound at Tingis, Morocco, where they unearthed the bones of a Neogene elephant, Tetralophodon.

Tetralophodon bones are large and skeletons singularly impressive. Impressive enough to be taken for something else entirely. By all accounts these proboscidean remains were that of the mythical ogre Antaeus and were thus reported back to Rome as such. It was hundreds of years later before their true heritage was known.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Thursday, 13 October 2011


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


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



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


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