Monday, 31 December 2012


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, ammonites are prized as both works of art and index fossils helping us date rock. The ammonites were cousins in the Class Cephalopoda, meaning "head-footed," closely related to modern squid, cuttlefish and octopus. Cephalopods have a complex eye structure and swim rapidly.

Ammonites used these evolutionary benefits to their advantage, making them successful marine predators. I shared some ammonites with my wee paleontologist cousins this weekend, Maddison and Malena. They were impressed with the amazing range of species and body styles. Their favorites were the ones from Alberta and England with their original mother of pearl still intact.

Ammonites cruised our ancient oceans expertly capturing prey with their tentacles. We danced around the deck pretending to be predators from ancient seas. Picture a hungry fellow at a smorgasbord with just a dash of crazy. Now add water.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


Plant fossils from the Okanagan highlands, an area centred in the Interior of British Columbia, provide important clues to an ancient climate.

While the area is referred to as the Okanagan, the term is used in a slightly misleading fashion to describe an arc of Eocene lakebed sites that extend from Smithers in the north, down to the fossil site of Republic Washington. The grouping includes the fossil sites of Driftwood Canyon, Quilchena, Allenby, Tranquille, McAbee, Princeton and Republic.

These fossil sites range in time from Early to Middle Eocene, and the fossil they contain give us a snapshot of what was happening in this part of the world because of the varied plant fossils they contain.

While the area around the Interior of British Columbia was affected. McAbee was not as warm as some of the other Middle Eocene sites, a fact inferred by what we see and what is conspicuously missing. In looking at the plant species, it has been suggested that the area of McAbee had a more temperate climate, slightly cooler and wetter than other Eocene sites to the south at Princeton, British Columbia and Republic and Chuckanut, Washington. Missing are the tropical Sabal (palm), seen at Princeton and the impressive Ensete (banana) and Zamiaceae (cycad) found at Republic and Chuckanut, Washington.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Autumn is a wonderful time to explore Vancouver. It is a riot of yellow, orange and green. The fallen debris you crunch through send up wafts of earthy smells that whisper of decomposition, the journey from leaf to soil.

It is a wonderful time to be out and about. I do love the mountain trails but must confess to loving our cultivated gardens for their colour and variety. 

We have some lovely native plants and trees and more than a few exotics at Vancouver's arboreal trifecta — Van Dusen, Queen E Park and UBC Botanical Gardens. One of those exotics, at least exotic to me, is the lovely conifer you see here is Metasequoia glyptostroboides — the dawn redwood. 

Of this long lineage, this is the sole surviving species in the genus Metasequoia and one of three species of conifers known as redwoods. Metasequoia are the smaller cousins of the mighty Giant Sequoia, the most massive trees on Earth. 

As a group, the redwoods are impressive trees and very long-lived. The President, an ancient Giant Sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum, and granddaddy to them all has lived for more than 3,200 years. While this tree is named The President, a worthy name, it doesn't really cover the magnitude of this giant by half.   

This tree was a wee seedling making its way in the soils of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California before we invented writing. It had reached full height before any of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, those remarkable constructions of classical antiquity, were even an inkling of our budding human achievements. And it has outlasted them all save the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest and last of those seven still standing, though the tree has faired better. Giza still stands but the majority of the limestone façade is long gone.

Aside from their good looks (which can really only get you so far), they are resistant to fire and insects through a combined effort of bark over a foot thick, a high tannin content and minimal resin, a genius of evolutionary design. 

While individual Metasequoia live a long time, as a genus they have lived far longer. 

Like Phoenix from the Ashes, the Cretaceous (K-Pg) extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, ammonites and more than seventy-five percent of all species on the planet was their curtain call. The void left by that devastation saw the birth of this genus — and they have not changed all that much in the 65 million years since. Modern Metasequoia glyptostroboides looks pretty much identical to their late Cretaceous brethren.

Dawn Redwood Cones with scales paired in opposite rows
They are remarkably similar to and sometimes mistaken for Sequoia at first glance but are easily distinguishable if you look at their size (an obvious visual in a mature tree) or to their needles and cones in younger specimens. 

Metasequoia has paired needles that attach opposite to each other on the compound stem. Sequoia needles are offset and attached alternately. Think of the pattern as jumping versus walking with your two feet moving forward parallel to one another. 

Metasequoia needles are paired as if you were jumping forward, one print beside the other, while Sequoia needles have the one-in-front-of-the-other pattern of walking.

The seed-bearing cones of Metasequoia have a stalk at their base and the scales are arranged in paired opposite rows which you can see quite well in the visual above. Coast redwood cone scales are arranged in a spiral and lack a stalk at their base.

Although the least tall of the redwoods, it grows to an impressive sixty meters (200 feet) in height. It is sometimes called Shui-sa, or water fir by those who live in the secluded mountainous region of China where it was rediscovered.

Fossil Metasequoia, McAbee Fossil Beds
Metasequoia fossils are known from many areas in the Northern Hemisphere and were one of my first fossil finds as a teenager. 

And folk love naming them. More than twenty fossil species have been named over time —  some even identified as the genus Sequoia in error — but for all their collective efforts to beef up this genus there are just three species: Metasequoia foxii, Metasequoia milleri, and Metasequoia occidentalis.

During the Paleocene and Eocene, extensive forests of Metasequoia thrived as far north as Strathcona Fiord on Ellesmere Island and sites on Axel Heiberg Island in Canada's far north around 80° N latitude.

We find lovely examples of Metasequoia occidentalis in the Eocene outcrops at McAbee near Cache Creek, British Columbia, Canada. I shared a photo here of one of those specimens. Once this piece dries out a bit, I will take a dental pick to it to reveal some of the teaser fossils peeking out.

The McAbee Fossil Beds are known for their incredible abundance, diversity and quality of fossils including lovely plant, insect and fish species that lived in an old lake bed setting. While the Metasequoia and other fossils found here are 52-53 million years old, the genus is much older. It is quite remarkable that both their fossil and extant lineage were discovered in just a few years of one another. 

Metasequoia was first described as a new genus from a fossil specimen found in 1939 and published by Japanese paleobotanist Shigeru Miki in 1941. Remarkably, the living version of this new genus was discovered later that same year. 

Professor Zhan Wang, an official from the Bureau of Forest Research was recovering from malaria at an old school chum's home in central China. His friend told him of a stand of trees discovered in the winter of 1941 by Chinese botanist Toh Gan (干铎). The trees were not far away from where they were staying and Gan's winter visit meant he did not collect any specimen as the trees had lost their leaves. 

The locals called the trees Shui-sa, or water fir. As trees go, they were reportedly quite impressive with some growing as much as sixty feet tall. Wang was excited by the possibility of finding a new species and asked his friend to describe the trees and their needles in detail. Emboldened by the tale, Wang set off through the remote mountains to search for his mysterious trees and found them deep in the heart of  Modaoxi (磨刀溪; now renamed Moudao (谋道), in Lichuan County, in the central China province of Hubei. He found the trees and was able to collect living specimens but initially thought they were from Glyptostrobus pensilis (水松). 

A few years later, Wang showed the trees to botanist Wan-Chun Cheng and learned that these were not the leaves of s Glyptostrobus pensilis (水松 ) but belonged to a new species. 

While the find was exciting, it was overshadowed by China's ongoing conflict with the Japanese that was continuing to escalate. With war at hand, Wang's research funding and science focus needed to be set aside for another two years as he fled the bombing of Beijing. 

When you live in a world without war on home soil it is easy to forget the realities for those who grew up in it. 

Zhan Wang and his family lived to witness the 1931 invasion of Manchuria, then the 1937 clash between Chinese and Japanese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge, just outside Beijing. 

That clash sparked an all-out war that would grow in ferocity to become World War II. 

Within a year, the Chinese military situation was dire. Most of eastern China lay in Japanese hands: Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Wuhan. As the Japanese advanced, they left a devastated population in their path where atrocity after atrocity was the norm. Many outside observers assumed that China could not hold out, and the most likely scenario was a Japanese victory over China.

Yet the Chinese hung on, and after the horrors of Pearl Harbor, the war became genuinely global. The western Allies and China were now united in their war against Japan, a conflict that would finally end on September 2, 1945, after Allied naval forces blockaded Japan and subjected the island nation to intensive bombing, including the utter devastation that was the Enola Gay's atomic payload over Hiroshima. 

With World War II behind them, the Chinese researchers were able to re-focus their energies on the sciences. Sadly, Wang was not able to join them. Instead, two of his colleagues, Wan Chun Cheng and Hu Hsen Hsu, the director of Fan Memorial Institute of Biology would continue the work. Wan-Chun Cheng sent specimens to Hu Hsen Hsu and upon examination realised they were the living version of the trees Miki had published upon in 1941. 

Hu and Cheng published a paper describing a new living species of Metasequoia in May 1948 in the Bulletin of Fan Memorial Institute of Biology.

That same year, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University sent an expedition to collect seeds and, soon after, seedling trees were distributed to various universities and arboreta worldwide. 

Today, Metasequoia grow around the globe. When I see them, I think of Wang and all he went through. He survived the conflict and went on to teach other bright, young minds about the bountiful flora in China. I think of Wan Chun Cheng collaborating with Hu Hsen Hsu in a time of war and of Hu keeping up to date on scientific research, even published works from colleagues from countries with whom his country was at war. Deep in my belly, I ache for the huge cost to science, research and all the species impacted on the planet from our human conflicts. Each year in April, I plant more Metasequoia to celebrate Earth Day and all that means for every living thing on this big blue orb.  



Friday, 12 October 2012

Mary Ebbetts, Asnaq

Mary Ebbetts was born Asnaq of the Raven/Yéil phratry of the Gigalgam Kyinanuk Tlingit of Tongas and Larhtorh/Larhsail of Cape Fox. 

She was the daughter of Chief Nenkoot aka Ebbets (1790-1880) and his wife, Aanseet (Chief of All Women) (1800-1870)

Keishíshk' Shakes IV and his wife, S’eitlin — a Deisheetaan (Gaanax.ádi) from Aan goon (Angoon), and granddaughter to the Head-Chief of Wrangell. 

Anislaga married Robert Hunt of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Simpson at Lax-Kw'alaams on the Nass River while staying with the Tsimshian. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012


Rare bird, reptile and mammal tracks have been immortalized in the outcrops of the Chuckanut Formation. We found these tracks from a Diatryma high up on a slope a few field seasons ago. George Mustoe from the University of Washington did some latex peels then flew them out to be studied.

These massive flightless birds reached up to 9 feet in height and made a living in the grasslands and swamps of the Eocene. The largest of the prints you see here measures 11 inches wide and 12 inches high. Truly a big bird!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Thursday, 27 September 2012



While at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week in New York, I was struck by the beauty of many of their pieces. A sculptured jar that stopped me dead in my tracks was the striking face representing one of the royal women of Amarna. 

Her hairstyle of overlapping curls, known as the Nubian wig, was popular among the female members of Akhenten's family. The hole at the centre of her forehead once secured the separately carved upper body of a rearing cobra whose tail is visible across the top of the wig. This royal protector was exclusively worn by kings and queens.

A beautifully rendered Egyptian alabaster (calcite); obsidian, steatite Canopic Jar from Thebes, Valley of the Kings, Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 B.C. Since its discovery in 1907, the face has been identified as that of Queen Tiye, Akhenaten's mother, Queen Nefertiti.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Those working in the Jurassic exposures on Vancouver Island are a determined crew. Most of the sedimentary deposits of the Jurassic are exposed in the hard to reach areas between Nootka Sound and Cape Scott.

By the time these ammonites were being buried in sediment, Wrangellia, the predominately volcanic terrane that now forms Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, had made its way to the northern mid-laditudes.

This detail of the Jurassic ammonite, Paltechioceras sp. shot with an ultra-low f-stop, is from an all but inaccessible site in Sayward, Bonanza Group, Vancouver Island.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Saturday, 1 September 2012



In 2004, a scientific crew braced the cold and the odds to extract a sediment core from 400m below the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. The core showed that Fifty-five million years ago, deep in the Eocene, the North Pole was ice-free and enjoying tropical temperatures. It also told us that the temperature of the ocean was 20C, instead of the coolish –1.5C we see today… a truth that is hard to imagine with all the hype around global warming.

The bottom end of that core helped explain the fossils found at Eocene sites around British Columbia, species commonly seen in more tropical environments today.

The warmer temperatures seen at McAbee and around the globe were recorded in the core sample and reveal evidence for a global event known at the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Back in the Eocene, a gigantic emission of greenhouse gases was released into the atmosphere and the global temperature warmed by about 5C.

While the bookends of the geologic time scale slide back and forth a wee bit, the current experts in the geologic community set the limits to be 33.9 +_ 0.1 to 55.8 +_ 0.2 million years ago. The fossil record tells us that this part of British Columbia and much of the Earth was significantly warmer around that time, so warm in fact that we find temperate and tropical plant fossils in areas that now sport plants that prefer much colder climes, or as is the case in the Arctic, snow and ice.

The Okanagan Highlands is an area centred in the Interior of British Columbia, but the term is used in a slightly misleading fashion to describe an arc of Eocene lakebed sites that extend from Smithers in the north, down to the fossil site of Republic Washington. The grouping includes the fossil sites of Driftwood Canyon, Quilchena, Allenby, Tranquille, McAbee, Princeton and Republic.

These fossil sites range in time from Early to Middle Eocene, and the fossil they contain give us a snapshot of what was happening in this part of the world because of the varied plant fossils they contain.

While the area around the Interior of British Columbia was affected. McAbee was not as warm as some of the other Middle Eocene sites, a fact inferred by what we see and what is conspicuously missing. In looking at the plant species, it has been suggested that the area of McAbee had a more temperate climate, slightly cooler and wetter than other Eocene sites to the south at Princeton, British Columbia and Republic and Chuckanut, Washington. Missing are the tropical Sabal (palm), seen at Princeton and the impressive Ensete (banana) and Zamiaceae (cycad) found at Republic and Chuckanut, Washington.

While we are the likely culprits of much of the warming of the Arctic today, natural processes operating in the not too distant past have also resulted in significant temperature fluxuations on a world-wide scale.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Friday, 6 July 2012


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.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Monday, 25 June 2012


Around 45-50 million years ago, during the middle Eocene, a number of freshwater lakes appeared in an arc extending from Smithers in northern British Columbia, south through the modern Cariboo, to Kamloops, the Nicola Valley, Princeton and finally, Republic, WA.

The lakes likely formed after a period of faulting created depressions in the ground, producing a number of basins or grabens into which water collected - imagine gorgeous smallish lakes similar to Cultus Lake near Chiliwack, British Columbia.

The groaning Earth, pressured by the collision of tectonic plates producted a series of erupting volcanoes around the Pacific Northwest. These spouting volcanoes blew fine-grained ash into the atmosphere and it rained down on the land. The ash washed into the lakes and because of its texture, and possibly because of low water oxygen levels on the bottoms that slowed decay beautifully preserved the dead remains of plant, invertebrate, and fish fossils - some in wonderful detail.

In and around the town of Princeton, there are many places to collect. The fossils you find here are all middle Eocene, Allenby Formation and most have a high degree of detail in their preservation.

A crack of the hammer yields fossil maple, alder, fir, pine, dawn redwood and ginko fossil material. Several species of fossilized insects can be found in the area and rare, occasional fossil flowers and small, perfectly preserved fish. It is also home to one of the world's oldest bee's - a find by Rene Saveneye - naturalist and keen paleo hunter who will be much missed.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


When we are out enjoying the gorgeous wilderness that surrounds us, we think more about air quality and how amazing our world really it. When we get back to the city, we sometimes forget the little things we can do to help protect our air and water quality.

I met two enthusiastic environmentalist today, Megan and Eric, who would like us to take up a couple of easy habits to do our part. They are raising awareness around greenhouse gas emissions and what you can do to make a difference. Idling your engine for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and causes more emissions that turning it off entirely and restarting it.

So, what can you do? Turn off your vehicle while waiting at train crossings, schools, drive-thrus, community centres and other places you may need to wait in the car. They recommend you drive your vehicle to warm it up rather than idling the engine and telling others to stop their engine, helping them save money and protect the environment.

If you have trouble remembering, keep a delicious bar of dark chocolate on hand at all times and a small post-it note that reads, "turn off your car and indulge yourself." Eating antioxidant-rich chocolate is good for your brain and will help you save the environment. Make your own commitment to be healthy, green and idle free!

For more information visit

Sunday, 3 June 2012


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. So, the next time you hear someone fling this insult your way, stop and tell them how attractive scum make this world.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Sunday, 13 May 2012


This watercolour is from a photograph of a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, Tluwulahu costume was photographed (ca. 1914) by American photographer and ethnologist Edward Curtis (1868-1952). 

It was published as part of his collective works on the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest on November 13, 1914. Upon publication, this photo was called, A Tluwalahu Costume — Qagyuhl, a phonetic version of the word Kwagu'ł. 

This Chilkat is Wiget — a treasure that was brought down from Alaska by our Tlingit ancestor Mary Ebbets, Anéin, Anisalaga, Drifted Ashore House. It went as dowry to Chief Nagedzi Charles Mountain Wilson and is still danced to this day.

The original photograph is not merely incorrectly named because of this misspelling of Kwagu' but also what Curtis believed it represented. 

The woman you see here is Anisalaga (1823-1919) wearing one of her Chilkat Naaxein traditional Tlingit blanket weavings, a tradition she brought with her from Tongass, Alaska. 

Anisalaga was Tlingit, not Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, though she lived and raised her children in Tsaxis, a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw community on northeastern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Anisalaga's mother was Aanseet, Chief-of-All-Women. 

Edward Curtis gained access to those practising Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw and Tlingit traditional dance and artistry through Anisalaga's eldest son, George Hunt. 

George is often portrayed as Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw — and leaned into that portrayal — but he was half English and half Tlingit by birth and raised as a boy speaking English and Tlingit in the home. He was later adopted into the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw traditions and gained status but was referred to as the "little northern" because of his mother's Tlingit blood.  

George gained his knowledge and access to Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw traditions through the community in which he lived, Tsaxis, Fort Rupert, on the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island, and once old enough to marry, through his two Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw wives.

The woman wearing this Chilkat is likely Anisalaga, George's mothers' and the only woman, beyond her daughters with the heritage right to don it. It is possible that George asked his new bride, Francine T'łat'ł a ł awid z a m g a, also known as Tsukwani, to wear the Chilkat solely as a model for this photograph. Given that wearing this particular Chilkat was a right by blood, it is highly likely she would have refused. She certainly would not have danced it in public as doing so would shame both her and her husband as Francine did not inherit this right but did inherit dances and costumes of her own.

Photo information: Anisalaga (or one of her daughters) wearing a fringed traditional Chilkat Naaxein Tlingit blanket, a Hamatsa neck ring and mask representing a deceased relative who had been a shaman.

Photo information: Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-52211 (b&w film copy neg.); Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. No renewal in Copyright office. Call Number: LOT 12328-A . Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

This watercolor is an interpretation of J197488 U.S. Copyright Office. Title from item. Curtis no. 3565. Forms part of: Edward S. Curtis Collection (Library of Congress). Published in: The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30, v. 10, p. 244.

Monday, 7 May 2012


The Big House at Tsaxis designed by Tony Hunt
Fort Rupert was and still is an historic Kwagu'ł (Kwakiutl) village by the name of Tsaxis with evidence of occupation reaching back as far as 6000 years before the present. 

Coal was discovered in the adjacent area in 1849 and the Hudson’s Bay Company made the decision to open a coal mine and build a fort the same year. 

The supply of coal in the area was short-lived and overtaken by new fields developed at Nanaimo. 

Although the fort was initially built to protect the coal mining operation, it immediately became the hub of colonial activity along the central coast of British Columbia and northern Vancouver Island. It remained an important post for trade and resupply for the remainder of the 19th Century.

Sadly, most of the records—-reports and financial accounts—-from Fort Rupert have been lost. 

Robert Hunt had been the last Hudson’s Bay Company Factor (Chief Trader) at Fort Rupert.  The records show that he started as a labourer for the HBC in 1850, at £25 per year. His salary was quickly doubled shortly after he started at Fort Rupert. I am guessing that many salaries went up at that time on the Northwest Coast, because the discovery of gold in California in 1849 led to a labour shortage. Robert Hunt met and married Mary Ebbets, a Tlingit noblewoman from Tongass, Alaska. 

Robert Hunt’s brother, who I believe came round Cape Horn with him on the HBC ship the “Norman Morrison”, disappears from the historical record at this time. Did he head off to California? 

From the few remaining records from the 1870s, we learn that Robert Hunt was the last HBC Factor and then its owner. Robert Hunt passed it to his daughter Jane Charity and her husband Harry Tennyson Cadwallader. 

His immediate superiors at Fort Victoria were pleased with his work, his ingenuity in keeping the fort in good repair, and with his reliability. As many of you know, Robert ended up purchasing the fort, including 600 acres of land, in the 1880s. I have not been able to locate any records or reports from Robert’s time at his one-man post on the Nass River.  

Cousin Alec Hunt, who drove trucks up to Port Hardy in the late sixties, and often visited with mom and dad, told my cousin John Lyon that according to family lore, Aunt Lizzie, George and Sarah’s sister, was born up north while Robert ran the trading post on the Nass River. 

Four Kwakwaka’wakw families (septs) settled at Fort Rupert to exploit the trading opportunities the post presented. These groups came to be known collectively as the Kwagu'ł (pronounced Kwa-gyu-thl) or Fort Rupert Kwakiutl Band. 

These groups are identified by Galois (1994) as Walas Kwakiutl (Lakwilala), Komkiutis, Kwakiutl (Kwágu7lh), and Kweeha (Komoyoi).

A catastrophic episode occurred at the village in 1865. Captain Nicholas Edward Brooke Turnour, commanding the British Navy's steam corvette Clio, arrived at the Fort to demand the surrender of three Fort Rupert Kwagu'ł charged with murdering an a man from Nawitti. 

After issuing a number of ultimatums, the Navy ship shelled the adjacent village, often referred to as Ku-Kultz, destroying a large section of it, in addition to about 60 canoes. 

According to anthropologst Johan Adrian Jacobsen, there in 1881, the Navy attack severely impacted the village and its inhabitants. 

Many moved across the strait to the inlets of the mainland, while another 250 to 300 returned and rebuilt the devastated village. (Gough, 1984: 82-84).

There is an image here of Tsaxis circa 1866 by Franz Boas detailing the house ownership by Kwakwaka’wakw family.

From the Bill Reid Centre:

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Monday, 16 April 2012

Thursday, 12 April 2012

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.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


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.

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.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Thursday, 8 March 2012


No visit to BC's Peace Region is complete without a trip to the Tumbler Ridge Museum. In 2000, Mark Turner and Daniel Helm were tubing down the rapids of Flatbed Creek just below Tumbler Ridge. As they walked up the shoreline excitement began to build as they quickly recognized a series of regular depressions as dinosaur footprints.

Their discovery spurred an infusion of tourism and research in the area. The Hudson's Hope Museum has an extensive collection of terrestrial and marine fossils from the area. They feature ichthysaurs, a marine reptile and hadrosaur tracks.

At a British Columbia Paleontological Symposium in Tumbler Ridge, I joined Jen Becker for an impromtu late night tour of Wolverine River. There are two types of footprints at the Wolverine River Tracksite, carnivorous theropods and plant eating ankylosaurs.

During the day, the trackways at Wolverine are difficult to see. Many of the prints are so shallow that they can only be recognized by the skin impressions pressed into the tracks. By night, we filled them water and lit them by lamplight to make them stand out, reflecting the light.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Monday, 13 February 2012

Saturday, 11 February 2012


We soak up the breathtaking views after a long morning's paddle. The east and south sides of our 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.

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. Warm and dry with bellies filled full of soup and crisps, we head back out to explore more of nature's bounty.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Hatshepsut, whose name means, "Foremost of Noble Ladies, was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the time of the joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutnose III, ca. 1473-1458 B.C. 

Here she is lovingly carved out of indurated limestone, a fitting homage as Hatshepsut is regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty. 

This piece, originally from Hathshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahri, now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.