Monday, 31 December 2018


These festive lovelies are jellyfish. Jellyfish are found all over the world, from surface waters to our deepest seas — and they are old. They are some of the oldest animals in the fossil record.

Sea jellies and jellyfish are the common names for the medusa-phase or adult phase of certain gelatinous members of the subphylum Medusozoa, a major part of the phylum Cnidaria — more closely related to anemones and corals.

Jellyfish are not fish at all. Jellyfish evolved millions of years before true fish. 

The oldest conulariid scyphozoans — picture an ice-cream cone with fourfold symmetry — appeared between 635 and 577 million years ago in the Neoproterozoic of the Lantian Formation a 150-meter-thick sequence of rocks deposited in southern China. 

Others are found in the youngest Ediacaran rocks of the Tamengo Formation of Brazil, c. 505 mya, through to the Triassic. Cubozoans and hydrozoans appeared in the Cambrian of the Marjum Formation in Utah, USA, c. 540 mya. Like other soft-bodied organisms, ctenophores (comb jellies), sea jellies and jellyfish only produce fossils only under exceptional taphonomic conditions — think rare.

I have seen all sorts of their brethren growing up on the west coast of Canada. I have seen them in tide pools, washed up on the beach and swam amongst thousands of Moon Jellyfish while scuba diving in the Salish Sea. Their movement in the water is marvellous.  

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, jellyfish are known as ǥaǥisama.

The watercolour ǥaǥisama you see here is a bit of fancy. While I chose blue, purple and pink for these lovelies, they also come in bright yellow, orange and relatively clear — and are often luminescent.

Jellyfish such as comb jellies produce bright flashes to startle a predator, others such as siphonophores can produce a chain of light or release thousands of glowing particles into the water as a mimic of small plankton to confuse the predator.

For most jellyfish bioluminescence is used for defence against predators — and about half of all jellyfish are bioluminescent. Some produce a glowing sticky slime that clings to predators making them vulnerable to other predators. Some jellyfish can release their tentacles as glowing decoys. So you see that there are many strategies for using bioluminescence by jellyfish.

All bioluminescence comes from energy released from a chemical reaction. This is very different from other sources of light, such as from the sun or a light bulb, where the energy comes from heat. In a luminescent reaction, two types of chemicals, called luciferin and luciferase, combine together. The luciferase acts as an enzyme, allowing the luciferin to release energy as it is oxidized. The colour of the light depends on the chemical structures of the chemicals. 

There are more than a dozen known chemical luminescent systems, indicating that bioluminescence evolved independently in different groups of organisms. One type of luciferin is called coelenterazine, found in jellyfish, shrimp, and fish. Dinoflagellates and krill share another class of unique luciferins, while ostracods (firefleas) and some fish have a completely different luciferin. The occurrence of identical luciferins for different types of organisms suggests a dietary source for some groups. Organisms such as bacteria and fireflies have unique luminescent chemistries. In many other groups, the chemistry is still unknown

Some of the most amazing deep-sea jellyfish are the comb jellies, which can get as large as a basketball, and are in some cases so fragile that they are almost impossible to collect intact.

Also spectacular are the siphonophores, some of which can reach several meters in length. Siphonophores deploy many tentacles like a gill net casting for small fish.

Sunday, 30 December 2018


Previously Calycoceras Tarrantense, this ammonite is now called Conlinoceras tarrantense after J.P. Conlin, a famous early 20th century Texas fossil collector.

Ammonite expert Bill Cobban used this collection to describe many Texas Cretaceous ammonites species including this species from Tarrant County, Arlington, Texas.

He was a surveyor by training and kept incredibly detailed notes on the context of his fossils.

Conlin donated his collection to the USGS and we’ve learned much by studying it along with other specimens from the Lone Star State. Almost a quarter of Texas is covered by Cretaceous strata, much of it fossiliferous. If we stepped back 95 million years, the world and what we now call Texas, was a very different place.

95 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous, a shallow seaway separated North America into separate eastern and western landmasses. We have a pretty complete picture in the fossil record of the western groups of species but relatively little in comparison for their cohorts in the east.

At the time this fellow was swimming our ancient seas, he was sharing the Earth with carnivorous dinosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, mammals, crocodilians, turtles, a variety of amphibians, prehistoric bony fish, oddly prolific sea cucumbers, various invertebrates and plants. Many of these sites are just being written up now and contain new species just being discovered.

During the Late Cretaceous Period a shallow seaway separated North America into separate eastern and western landmasses. The Woodbine Formation in Texas preserves a rare fossil record of this time for the east, but many of these fossils are isolated and incomplete, making interpretations more difficult. Preliminary excavations at the AAS are providing hints at a more complete ecosystem, preserving similar patterns of change to what we see in the west.

The AAS contains an extraordinary diversity, abundance, and quality of fossil material, preserving one of the most complete terrestrial ecosystems known for this time period and area.

The AAS has a lot to tell us about Late Cretaceous life in the east. Over 2200 individual specimens have been found belonging to numerous groups including carnivorous dinosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, crocodilians, turtles, mammals, amphibians, sharks, bony fish, invertebrates, and plants.

Many of the fossils found here represent brand new species and studying these fossils will help to establish the geographic and environmental forces that shaped Cretaceous ecosystems in North America by providing a necessary comparison to the fossil record of the west.

Saturday, 29 December 2018


This calcified beauty is Orygmaspis (Parabolinoides) spinula (Westrop, 1986) an Upper Cambrian trilobite from the McKay Group near Tanglefoot Mountain in the Kootenay Rockies. 

Orygmaspis is a genus of asaphid trilobite with an inverted egg-shaped outline, a wide headshield, small eyes, long genal spines, 12 spined thorax segments and a small, short tail shield, with four pairs of spines. 

Asaphida is comprised of six superfamilies found as marine fossils that date from the Middle Cambrian through to the Ordovician — Anomocaroidea, Asaphoidea, Cyclopygoidea, Dikelocephaloidea, Remopleuridoidea and Trinucleioidea. It was here, in the Ordovician, that five of the six lineages met their end along with 60% of all marine life at the time. They did leave us with some wonderful examples of their form and adaptations. The stubby eyed Asaphids evolved to give us Asaphus kowalewskii with delightfully long eyestalks. These specialized protrusions would have given that lovely species a much better field of view in which to hunt Ordovician seas — and avoid becoming the hunted.

Only the hardy Superfamily Trinucleiodea pushed through. They were to meet their end in the final days of the Silurian where yet another cataclysmic event wiped out much of the life on Earth, including the last remains of Asaphida (Fortey & Chatterton, 1988).

The outline of the exoskeleton Orygmaspis is inverted egg-shaped, with a parabolic headshield — or cephalon less than twice as wide as long. Picture a 2-D egg where the head is wider than the tail.

The glabella, the well-defined central raised area excluding the backward occipital ring, is ¾× as wide as long, moderately convex, truncate-tapering, with 3 pairs of shallow to obsolete lateral furrows. 

The occipital ring is well defined. The distance between the glabella and the border (or preglabellar field) is ±¼× as long as the glabella. This fellow had small to medium-sized eyes, 12-20% of the length of the cephalon. These were positioned between the front and the middle of the glabella and about ⅓ as far out as the glabella is wide. 

The remaining parts of the cephalon, the fixed and free cheeks — or fixigenae and librigenae — are relatively flat. The fracture lines or sutures — that separate the librigenae from the fixigenae in moulting — are divergent just in front of the eyes. These become parallel near the border furrow and strongly convergent at the margin. 

From the back of the eyes, the sutures bend out, then in, diverging outward and backward at approximately 45°, cutting the posterior margin well within the inner bend of the spine — or opisthoparian sutures. 

The thorax or articulating middle part of the body has 12 segments. The anteriormost segment gradually narrows into a sideward directed point, while further to the back the spines are directed outward and the spine is of increasing length up until the ninth spine, while the spine on the tenth segment is abruptly smaller, and 11 and 12 even more so. 

This fellow has a wee pygidium or tail shield that is only about ⅓× as wide as the cephalon. It is narrowly transverse about 2× wider than long. Its axis is slightly wider than the pleural fields to each side, and has up to 4 axial rings and a terminal and almost reaches the margin. Up to 4 pleural segments with obsolete interpleural grooves and shallow pleural furrows. The posterior margin has 3 or 4 pairs of spines, getting smaller further to the back. 


Chatterton, Brian D. E.; Gibb, Stacey (2016). Furongian (Upper Cambrian) Trilobites from the McKay Group, Bull River Valley, Near Cranbrook, Southeastern British Columbia, Canada; Issue 35 of Palaeontographica Canadiana; ISBN: 978-1-897095-79-9

Moore, R.C. (1959). Arthropoda I - Arthropoda General Features, Proarthropoda, Euarthropoda General Features, Trilobitomorpha. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Part O. Boulder, Colorado/Lawrence, Kansas: Geological Society of America/University of Kansas Press. pp. O272–O273. ISBN 0-8137-3015-5.

Friday, 28 December 2018


Kourisodon puntledgensis
Mosasaurs were large, globally distributed marine predators who dominated our Late Cretaceous oceans. Since the unearthing of the first mosasaur in 1766 (Mulder, 2003) we've discovered their fossil remains most everywhere around the globe — New Zealand, Antarctica, Africa, North and South America, Europe and Japan.

We've now found the fossil remains of an elasmosaur and two mosasaurs along the banks of the Puntledge River, says Dan Bowen, Chair of the Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society.

The first set of about 10 mosasaurs vertebrae (Platecarpus) was found by Tim O’Bear and unearthed by a team of VIPS and Museum enthusiasts led by Dr. Rolf Ludvigsen. Dan Bowen and Joe Morin of the VIPS prepped these specimens for the Museum.

In 1993, a new species of mosasaur, Kourisodon puntledgensis, a razor-toothed mosasaur, was found upstream from the elasmosaur site by Joe Zembiliwich on a fossil field trip led by Mike Trask. A replica of this specimen now calls The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden home. What is significant about this specimen is that it is a new genus and species. At 4.5 meters, it is a bit smaller than most mosasaurs and similar to Clidastes, but just as mighty. It shared its environment with a variety of Elasmosaurids, turtles, and other mosasaurs, although it seems that no polycotylids were present in its Pacific environment.

Interestingly, this species has been found in this one locality in Canada and across the Pacific in the basal part of the Upper Cretaceous — middle Campanian to Maastrichtian — of the Izumi Group, Izumi Mountains and Awaji Island of southwestern Japan. We see an interesting correlation with the ammonite fauna from these two regions as well. What we do not see is a correlation between our Pacific fauna and those from our neighbouring province to the east. Betsy Nicholls and Dirk Meckert published on the marine reptiles from the Nanaimo Group (Upper Cretaceous) of Vancouver Island in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences in 2002. What we see in our faunal mix reinforces the provinciality of the Pacific faunas and their isolation from contemporaneous faunas in the Western Interior Seaway.

Thursday, 27 December 2018


Totem, Welcome & Mortuary Poles at Stanley Park
If you visit Brockton Point in Stanley Park, there are many carved red cedar First Nation poles for you to admire.  

What you are viewing are replicas of First Nation welcome and totem poles that once stood in the park but have been returned to their homes within the province's diverse First Nation communities — or held within museum collections. 

Some of the original totems came from Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, near the Port McNeill on the north coast of Vancouver Island. Others came from communities in Haida Gwaii — and still more from the Wuikinuxv First Nations at Rivers Inlet on British Columbia's central west coast — home of the Great Bear Rainforest with her Spirit Bears.

The exception is the most recent addition carved by Robert Yelton in 2009. Robert is a First Nation carver from the Squamish Nation and his original welcome pole graces Brockton Point, the original settlement site of a group of Squamish-Portuguese settlers.  

If you look at the photo above, the lovely chocolate, red and turquoise pole on the right is a replica of the mortuary pole raised to honour the Raven Chief of Skedans or Gida'nsta, the Haida phrase for from his daughter, the title of respect used when addressing a person of high rank. Early fur traders often took the name of the local Chief and used it synonymously as the place names for the sites they visited — hence Skedans from Gida'nsta.

Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole
Chief Skedans, or Qa'gials qe'gawa-i, to his children, lived in Ḵ’uuna Llnagaay, or village at the edge, in Xaayda Kil — a village on the exposed coast of Louise Island — now a Haida Heritage Site.  

There are some paintings you may have seen by Emily Carr of her visits to the site in 1912, She used the phonetic Q'una from Q:o'na to describe both the place name and title of her work. 

Carr's paintings of the totems have always looked to me to be a mash-up — imagine if painter Tamara de Lempicka and photographer Edward Curtis had a baby — not pretty, but interesting.

Some called this area, Huadju-lanas or Xu'adji la'nas, which means Grizzly-Bear-Town, in reference to resident grizzly bear population and their adornment of many totems and artwork by the local artists.

Upon Chief Skedan's death, the mortuary pole was carved both to honour him and provide his final resting place. Dates are a bit fuzzy, but local accounts have this as sometime between 1870-1878 — and at a cost of 290 blankets or roughly $600 in today's currency. 

The great artistry of the pole was much admired by those in the community and those organizing the celebrations for the 1936 Vancouver Golden Jubilee — witnessed by  350,000 newly arrived residents.

Negotiations were pursued and the pole made its way down from Haida Gwaii to Stanley Park in time for the celebrations. The original totem graced Stanley Park for a little over twenty years before eventually making its way back to Haida Gwaii. It was returned to the community with bits of plaster and shoddy paint marring the original. These bits were scraped off and the pole welcomed back with due ceremony. 

In 1964, respected and renowned Northwest Coast master carver, Bill Reid, from the Kaadaas gaah Kiiguwaay, Raven/Wolf Clan of T'anuu, Haida Gwaii and Scottish-German descent, was asked to carve this colourful replica. 

Mountain Goat Detail, Skedans Mortuary Pole
Reid carved the totem onsite in Stanley Park with the help of German carver Werner True. Interestingly, though I looked at length for information on Werner True, all I can find is that he aided Bill Reid on the carving for a payment of $1000.

Don Yeomans, Haida master carver, meticulously recarved the moon crest in 1998. If you have admired the totem pole in the Vancouver Airport, you will have seen some of Yeoman's incredible work. 

The crest is Moon with the face, wings, legs and claws of a mighty and proud Thunderbird with a fairly smallish hooked beak in a split design. We have Moon to thank for the tides and illuminating our darkest nights. As a crest, Moon is associated with transformation and acting as both guardian and protector.

The original pole had a mortuary box that held the Chief's remains. The crest sits atop a very charming mountain goat. I have included a nice close-up here of the replica for you to enjoy. 

Mountain Goats live in the high peaks of British Columbia and being so close to the sky, they have the supernatural ability to cross over to the sky world. They are also credited as being spirit guardians and guides to First Nation shamans.

I love his horns and tucked in cloven hooves. There is another pole being carved on Vancouver Island that I hope to see during its creation that also depicts a Mountain Goat. With permission and in time, I hope to share some of those photos with you. 

Mountain Goat is sitting atop Grizzly Bear or Huaji or Xhuwaji’ with little human figures placed in his ears to represent the Chief's daughter and son-in-law, who raised the pole and held a potlatch in his honour. 

Beneath the great bear is Seal or Killer Whale in his grasp. The inscription in the park says it is a Killer Whale but I am not sure about that interpretation — both the look and lore make Seal more likely. Perhaps if Killer Whale were within Thunderbird's grasp — maybe

Though it is always a pleasure to see Killer Whale carved in red cedar, as the first whales came into being when they were carved in wood by a human — or by Raven — then magically infused with the gift of life.

Siwash Rock on the northern end of Third Beach, Stanley Park
The ground these totems sit upon is composed of plutonic, volcanic and sedimentary layers of rock and exhibits the profound influences of glaciation and glacial retreat from the last ice age. 

Glacial deposits sit atop as a mix of clay, sand, cobbles and larger boulders of glacial till. 

There are a few areas of exposed volcanics within the park that speak to the scraping of the glaciers as they retreated about 12,500 years ago. 

The iconic moss and lichen coated Siwash Rock on the northern end of Third Beach is one of the more picturesque of these. It is a basaltic and andesitic volcanic rock — a blend of black phenocrysts of augite cemented together with plagioclase, hornblende and volcanic glass.

Images not shown: 

Do check out the work of Emily Carr and her paintings of Q:o'na from the 1940s. I'll share a link here but do not have permission to post her works.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018


Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation, like radio or microwaves. Some aspects of light, such as its frequency (colour), are based on its wave properties. 

Light can also be considered a stream of particles called photons, each of which contains energy. This concept is called the quantum theory. 

So there are two ways to express how much light there is. One is based on energy (in units of watts, joules, or calories, and the other is based on the number of photons. 

For example, the wavelength of green light is less than 1 millionth of an inch, and the energy of one photon of green light is equivalent to 1 million billionths of a calorie! Even though photons are particles, they are particles of energy and are different from particles in a cell such as molecules.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018


This lovely ocean dancer with her long delicate tentacles or lappets and thicker rouched oral arms is a jellyfish. 

Her brethren are playing in the waters of the deep all over the world, from surface waters to our deepest seas — and they are old. They are some of the oldest animals in the fossil record.

Jellyfish and sea jellies are the informal common names given to the medusa-phase or adult phase of certain gelatinous members of the subphylum Medusozoa, a major part of the phylum Cnidaria — more closely related to anemones and corals.

Jellyfish are not fish at all. They evolved millions of years before true fish. The oldest conulariid scyphozoans appeared between 635 and 577 million years ago in the Neoproterozoic of the Lantian Formation, a 150-meter-thick sequence of rocks deposited in southern China. 

Others are found in the youngest Ediacaran rocks of the Tamengo Formation of Brazil, c. 505 mya, through to the Triassic. Cubozoans and hydrozoans appeared in the Cambrian of the Marjum Formation in Utah, USA, c. 540 million years ago.

I have seen all sorts of their brethren growing up on the west coast of Canada. I have seen them in tide pools, washed up on the beach and swam amongst thousands of Moon Jellyfish while scuba diving in the Salish Sea. Their movement in the water is marvellous.  

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, jellyfish are known as ǥaǥisama.

The watercolour ǥaǥisama you see here in dreamy pink and white is but one colour variation. They come in blue, purple, orange, yellow and clear — and are often luminescent. They produce light by the oxidation of a substrate molecule, luciferin, in a reaction catalyzed by a protein, luciferase.

Monday, 24 December 2018


Squamish Valley / Mother of Wind
Eagles, bears and breathtakingly beautiful scenery await those who travel north of Vancouver, British Columbia to the town of Squamish.

Nestled at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be. 

Growing in fame as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, visitors enjoy the breathtaking scenery while hiking, climbing, kicking back or participating in the growing number of attractions to explore in this wilderness community.

The area is home to the Squamish First Nation, the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úxumixw and Lil’wat7ul Nations, both descendants of the Coast Salish First Nations. 

Before Europeans came to the Squamish Valley, the area was inhabited by the local First Nations. One of the first contact they had with European outsiders was in 1792, when Captain George Vancouver came to Squamish to trade near the residential area of Brackendale. At the time, the territory of the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úxumixw Nation and Lil’wat7ul Nation extended from present day Greater Vancouver, past Squamish and Brackendale all the way to Gibson's landing, some 6732 square kilometers.

During the 1850s gold miners came in search of gold and an easier gold route to the Interior. Settlers began arriving in the area in 1889, with the majority of them being farmers relocating to the Squamish Valley. The first school was built in 1893 and the first hotel opened in 1902, on the old dock in Squamish.

Squamish means Mother of the Wind in Coast Salish, an homage to the winds that rise from the north before noon and blow steadily until dusk, making Squamish a top wind surfing destination and host to the annual PRO-AM sailboard races.

Stawamus Chief, Squamish
The Stawamus Chief, the second largest free standing piece of granite in the world at a staggering 2,297 feet or over 700 metres. 

It has made Squamish one of the top rock climbing destinations in North America and been the source of inspiration for climbing legends like Peter Croft, Hamish Fraser and Greg Foweraker. 

The Stawamus Chief was formed in the early Cretaceous, 100 million years ago, as a pool of molten magma cooled deep in the Earth's belly.

This majestic peak is said to have been one of the last areas of dry ground during a time of tremendous flooding in the Squamish area. Many cultures have a flood myth in their oral history and the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úxumixw are no exception. They tell of a time when all the world save the highest peaks were submerged and only one of their nation survived. Warned in a vision, a fierce and clever warrior escaped to safety atop Mount Chuckigh — the inactive volcano now called Mount Garibaldi — as the flood waters rose.

An Eagle soars near Squamish, BC
After the flood, Eagle, a spiritual messenger from the Creator, came to him with a gift of salmon and told him that the world below was again hospitable and ready for his return. He climbed down the mountain to find his village covered by a layer of silt. 

All his people had perished, but his gods gave him another gift, a second survivor of the flood, a beautiful woman who became his wife. The couple shared the story of the Eagle's gift. Today, eagle feathers are given as sacred gifts to symbolize courage, wisdom and honour the commitment of relationships as eagles mate for life.  

If you look to the local mountains, you can see another peak that holds the nesting place of another legend. The Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úxumixw and Lil’wat7ul Nations share the story of Thunderbird, a supernatural being that causes thunder and lightning, who roosts atop Black Tusk, a volcanic mountain in the local range.

If you love eagles as much as I do, head to Squamish on the first Sunday after New Year's day, you can honour the eagles by participating in the Annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Count.

Sunday, 23 December 2018


Ammonites were prolific breeders that evolved rapidly. If you could cast a fishing line into our ancient seas, it is likely that you would hook an ammonite, not a fish.

They filled our world's oceans back in the day.  We find ammonite fossils (and plenty of them) in sedimentary rock from all over the world. In some cases, we find rock beds where we can see evidence of a new species that evolved, lived and died out in such a short time span that we can walk through time, following the course of evolution using ammonites as a window into the past.

For this reason, they make excellent index fossils. An index fossil is a species that allows us to link a particular rock formation, layered in time with a particular species or genus found there. Generally, deeper is older, so we use the sedimentary layers of rock to match up to specific geologic time periods, rather the way we use tree rings to date trees.

Saturday, 22 December 2018


Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus
These playful lovelies with the gorgeous gold and green plumage are beautiful examples of the Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus

We associate them with tweet shorn English aristocrats jauntily going about the hunt on horseback. 

Pheasants build their nests on the ground and can fly for short distances. They spend their days searching through fields and around streams looking for tasty insects, seeds and grain.

Friday, 21 December 2018


Cougars are meat-eating mammals, preferring to dine on deer. 

They are impressive athletes, able to leap 18 feet or more straight upward from a sitting position.

They are the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western hemisphere and yet we never seem to see them. They lead solitary lives and are excellent at avoiding humans. They see us far more often than we see them — boasting a field of vision spanning 130 degrees.

Cougars have a massive range that runs from the mountainous Canadian Rockies in northwestern Canada all the way down to Patagonia in South America. These cats make their dens in mountain crags, along rocky ledges, in dense woodland areas and under uprooted trees and debris. 

In the Kwak'wala language of the Kwakiutl First Nations of the Pacific Northwest — or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala — a cougar or mountain lion is known as ba̱di — with an emphasis on the b.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018


My cousin Andy Everson recently found this picture of a painting that Comox Valley artist Neil Howell did of him when he was in high school. 

It shows Andy dancing the Tła'sa̱la, or "Peace Dance". Beside Andy is our ancestor mask from the north, Wiget. Wiget originated amongst the Tsimshian First Nations and then made its way up to the Taant’a Kwáan of the Tlingit. 

With the marriage of Anisalaga (1823-1919) a Raven of Old Tongass, Drifted Ashore House to Robert Hunt, Wiget made its way down to the Hunt family of the Kwagu’ł in Tsaxis, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. 

In the background is one of the house posts from the Komoks Big House. 

Neil shared with Andy that he was welcome to get prints made of this piece and sell them if he wanted. This was the first time Andy ever considered making and selling a limited edition print. Neil passed away just this past year at the age of 94 years of age. 

Andy, of course, has gone on to sell many prints and original pieces of art. It is interesting the paths we take to where we are today. This is a beautiful piece and worthy of any gallery.

Monday, 17 December 2018


The mask you see here is Wiget. Wiget originated amongst the Tsimshian First Nations then made its way up to the Taant’a Kwáan of the Tlingit. 

With the marriage of Anisalaga (1823-1919) a Raven of Old Tongass, Drifted Ashore House to Robert Hunt, Wiget made its way down to the Hunt family of the Kwagu’ł in Tsaxis, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. 

The original mask on the left was given in dowry to Andy Everson's great grandfather Charlie Wilson from his wife Emily Hunt (1852-1922) daughter of Anisalaga, in the 1890s. 

The picture above right was taken by ES Curtis in 1914. The position of caretaker of this dance was passed from Chief Tony Hunt to Andy's brother Rick Everson in 2013. 

The mask in the lower right was commissioned by Andy Everson's grandmother in 1983 to replace the original. 

Sunday, 16 December 2018


Moon Raven Pole at Saxman Totem Park
Ketchikan is truly the totem capital of the world, and if you want to see the most standing totems in one location, a visit to Saxman Village’s Totem Park is in order. 

The 25 totems here are authentic replicas of the original poles that were left standing in abandoned villages as the villagers moved into more populated cities.

The art of totem pole carving was a luxury that experienced its heyday in the mid-1700s to the late 1800s. 

The fur trade had provided the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples with a renewed source of wealth – and time to focus on the artistry of the totem. 

These poles were symbols of cultural and economic wealth that told glorious, comprehensive stories about the First Nations people and legends of the land.

In the late 1800s, Tlingits from the old villages of Cape Fox and Tongass searched out the Saxman site as a place where they could build a school and a church. 

The site (just one square mile) was incorporated in 1929 and has a population of just over 400 today, mostly Native Alaskans. Thousands of people visit Saxman each year to witness the artistic craftsmanship and stand in the presence of history—both deeply moving and proud.

Saturday, 15 December 2018


In the early 1980s, Tim Tozer, Geological Survey of Canada, looked at the distribution of marine invertebrate fauna in the Triassic of North America.

Tozer's interest in our marine invert friends was their distribution and what those occurrences could tell us. How and when did certain species migrate, cluster, evolve — and for those that were prolific, how could their occurrence — and therefore significance — aide in an assessment of plate and terrane movements that would help us to determine paleolatitudinal significance.

In the western terranes of the Cordillera, marine faunas from southern Alaska and Yukon to Mexico are known from the parts that are obviously allochthonous with regard to the North American plates. Lower and upper Triadic faunas of these areas, as well as some that are today up to 63 ° North, have the characteristics of the lower paleo latitudes. As far as is known, Middle Triadic faunas in these zones do not provide any significant data. In the western Cordillera, the faunas of the lower paleo latitudes can be found up to 3000 km north of their counterparts on the American plate. This indicates a tectonic shift of this magnitude.

There are marine triads on the North American plate over 46 latitudes from California to Ellesmere Island. For some periods, two to three different fauna provinces can be distinguished from one another. The differences in fauna are obviously linked to the paleolatitude. They are called LPL, MPL, HPL (lower, middle, higher paleolatitude). Nevada provides the diagnostic features of the lower; northeastern British Columbia that of the middle and Sverdrup Basin that of the higher paleolatitude. A distinction between the provinces of the middle and the higher paleo-situations can not be made for the lower Triassic and lower Middle Triassic (anise). However, all three provinces can be seen in the deposits of Ladin, Kam and Nor.

Diatoms / Microalgae dominant components of phytoplankton
If one looks at the fauna and the type of sediment, the paleogeography of the Triassic can be interpreted as follows: a tectonically calm west coast of the North American plate that bordered on an open sea; in the area far from the coast, a series of volcanic archipelagos delivered sediment to the adjacent basins. Some were lined or temporarily covered with coral wadding and carbonate banks.

Deeper pools were in between. The islands were probably within 30 degrees of the triadic equator. They moved away from the coast up to about 5000 km from the forerunner of the East Pacific Ridge. The geographical situation west of the back was probably similar.

Jurassic and later generations of the crust from near the back have brought some of the islands to the North American plate; some likely to South America; others have drifted west, to Asia. There are indications that New Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand were at a northern latitude of 30 ° or more during the Triassic period. The terranes that now form the western Cordillera were probably welded together and reached the North American plate before the end of the Jurassic period.

Tozer, ET (Tim): Marine Triassic faunas of North America: Their significance for assessing plate and terrane movements. Geol Rundsch 71, 1077-1104 (1982).

Danner, W. (Ted): Limestone resources of southwestern British Columbia. Montana Bur. Mines & Geol., Special publ. 74: 171-185, 1976.

Davis, G., Monger, JWH & Burchfiel, BC: Mesozoic construction of the Cordilleran “collage”, central British Columbia to central California. Pacific Coast Paleography symposium 2, Soc. Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, Los Angeles: 1-32, 1978.

Gibson, DW: Triassic rocks of the Rocky Mountain foothills and front ranges of northeastern British Columbia and west-central Alberta. Geol. Surv. Canada Bull. 247, 1975.

Friday, 14 December 2018


One of the now rare species of oysters in the Pacific Northwest is the Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, (Carpenter, 1864).  

While rare today, these are British Columbia’s only native oyster. Had you been dining on their brethren in the 1800s or earlier, it would have been this species you were consuming. Middens from Port Hardy to California are built from Ostrea lurida.

These wonderful invertebrates bare their souls with every bite. Have they lived in cold water, deep beneath the sea away from the suns rays and heat? Are they the rough and tumbled beach denizens whose thick shells have formed to withstand the pounding of the sea? 

Is the oyster in your mouth thin and slimy having just done the nasty spurred by the warming waters of Spring? Is this oyster a local or was it shipped to your current local and if asked would greet you with "Kon'nichiwa?" Not if the beauty on your plate is indeed Ostrea lurida

We have been cultivating, indeed maximizing the influx of invasive species to the cold waters of the Salish Sea. But in the wild waters off the coast of British Columbia is the last natural abundant habitat of the tasty Ostrea lurida in the pristine waters of  Nootka Sound. The area is home to the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations who have consumed this species boiled or steamed for thousands of years. Here these ancient oysters not only survive but thrive — building reefs and providing habitat for crab, anemones and small marine animals. 

Oysters are in the family Ostreidae — the true oysters. Their lineage evolved in the Early Triassic — 251 - 247 million years ago. 

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, an oyster is known as t̕łox̱t̕łox̱. I am curious to learn if any of the Nuu-chah-nulth have a different word for an oyster. If you happen to know, I would be grateful to learn.

Sunday, 2 December 2018


Amazing suturing on this lovely ammonite, Holcophylloceras mediterraneum, (Neumayr 1871) from Late Jurassic (Oxfordian) deposits near Sokoja, Madagasgar.

The shells had many chambers divided by walls called septa. The chambers were connected by a tube called a siphuncle which allowed for the control of buoyancy with the hollow inner chambers of the shell acting as air tanks to help them float.

They were a group of extinct marine mollusc animals in the subclass Ammonoidea of the class Cephalopoda. These molluscs, commonly referred to as ammonites, are more closely related to living coleoids — octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) then they are to shelled nautiloids such as the living Nautilus species.

We can see the edges of this specimen's shell where it would have continued out to the last chamber, the body-chamber, where the ammonite lived. Picture a squid or octopus, now add a shell and a ton of water. That's him!

Saturday, 1 December 2018


A very pleasing example of the Ammonite Acanthohoplites bigoureti (Seunes, 1887). Lower Cretaceous, Upper Aptian, from a riverbed concretion, Kurdzhips River, North Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Adygea, Russia. 

Geologically, the Caucasus Mountains belong to a system that extends from southeastern Europe into Asia and is considered a border between them. The Greater Caucasus Mountains are mainly composed of Cretaceous and Jurassic rocks with the Paleozoic and Precambrian rocks in the higher regions. 

Some volcanic formations are found throughout the range. On the other hand, the Lesser Caucasus Mountains are formed predominantly of the Paleogene rocks with a much smaller portion of the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks. 

The evolution of the Caucasus began from the Late Triassic to the Late Jurassic during the Cimmerian orogeny at the active margin of the Tethys Ocean while the uplift of the Greater Caucasus is dated to the Miocene during the Alpine orogeny.

The Caucasus Mountains formed largely as the result of a tectonic plate collision between the Arabian plate moving northwards with respect to the Eurasian plate. As the Tethys Sea was closed and the Arabian Plate collided with the Iranian Plate and was pushed against it and with the clockwise movement of the Eurasian Plate towards the Iranian Plate and their final collision, the Iranian Plate was pressed against the Eurasian Plate. 

As this happened, the entire rocks that had been deposited in this basin from the Jurassic to the Miocene were folded to form the Greater Caucasus Mountains. This collision also caused the uplift and the Cenozoic volcanic activity in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.

The preservation of this Russian specimen is outstanding. Acanthohoplites bigoureti are also found in Madagascar, Mozambique, in the Rhone-Alps of France and the Western High Atlas Mountains and near Marrakech in Morocco. This specimen measures 55mm and is in the collection of the deeply awesome Emil Black.

Thursday, 29 November 2018


A sweet as you please example of Keuppia levante (Fuchs, Bracchi & Weis, 2009), an extinct genus of octopus that swam our ancient seas back in the Cretaceous. 

The dark black and brown area you see here is his ink sac which has been preserved for a remarkable 95 million years.

This cutie is in the family Palaeoctopodidae, and one of the earliest representatives of the order Octopoda — and perhaps my favourite fossil. It was this perfect specimen that inspired the logo for the Fossil Huntress brand.  

These ancient marine beauties are in the class Cephalopoda making them relatives of our modern octopus, squid and cuttlefish.

There are two species of Keuppia, Keuppia hyperbolaris and Keuppia levante, both of which we find as fossils. We find their remains, along with those of the genus Styletoctopus, in Cretaceous-age Hâqel and Hjoula localities in Lebanon. 

For many years, Palaeoctopus newboldi (Woodward, 1896) from the Santonian limestones at Sâhel Aalma, Lebanon, was the only known pre‐Cenozoic coleoid cephalopod believed to have an unambiguous stem‐lineage representative of Octobrachia fioroni

With the unearthing of some extraordinary specimens with exquisite soft‐part preservation in the Lebanon limestones, our understanding of ancient octopus morphology has blossomed. The specimens are from the sub‐lithographical limestones of Hâqel and Hâdjoula, in northwestern Lebanon. These localities are about 15 km apart, 45 km away from Beirut and 15 km away from the coastal city of Jbail. Fuchs et al. put a nice little map in their 2009 paper that I've included and referenced here.

Palaeoctopus newboldi had a spherical mantle sac, a head‐mantle fusion, eight equal arms armed with suckers, an ink sac, a medially isolated shell vestige, and a pair of (sub‐) terminal fins. The bipartite shell vestige suggests that Palaeoctopus belongs to the octopod stem‐lineage, as the sister taxon of the Octopoda, the Cirroctopoda, is characterized by an unpaired clasp‐like shell vestige (Engeser 1988; Haas 2002; Bizikov 2004).

It is from the comparisons of Canadian fauna combined with those from Lebanon and Japan that things really started to get interesting with Octobrachia. Working with fossil specimens from the Campanian of Canada, Fuchs et al. (2007a ) published on the first record of an unpaired, saddle‐shaped shell vestige that might have belonged to a cirroctopod. 

Again from the Santonian–Campanian of Canada and Japan, Tanabe et al. (2008) reported on at least four different jaw morphotypes. Two of them — Paleocirroteuthis haggarti (Tanabe et al., 2008) and Paleocirroteuthis Pacifica  (Tanabe et al ., 2008) — have been interpreted as being of cirroctopod type, one of octopod type, and one of uncertain octobrachiate type. 

Interestingly Fuchs et al. have gone on to describe the second species of Palaeoctopus, the Turonian Palaeoctopus pelagicus from limestones at Vallecillo, Mexico. While more of this fauna will likely be recovered in time, their work is based solely on a medially isolated shell vestige.

Five new specimens have been found in the well-known Upper Cenomanian limestones at Hâqel and Hâdjoula in Lebanon that can be reliably placed within the Octopoda. Fuchs et al. described these exceptionally well‐preserved specimens and discuss their morphology in the context of phylogeny and evolution in their 2008 paper (2009 publishing) in the Palaeontology Association Journal, Volume 51, Issue 1.

The presence of a gladius vestige in this genus shows a transition from squid to octopus in which the inner shell has divided into two parts in early forms to eventually be reduced to lateralized stylets, as can be seen in Styletoctopus.

The adorable fellow you see here with his remarkable soft-bodied preservation and inks sack and beak clearly visible is Keuppia levante. He hails from Late Cretaceous (Upper Cenomanian) limestone deposits near Hâdjoula, northwestern Lebanon. The vampyropod coleoid, Glyphiteuthis abisaadiorum n. sp. is also found at this locality. This specimen is about 5 cm long.

Fuchs, D.; Bracchi, G.; Weis, R. (2009). "New octopods (Cephalopoda: Coleoidea) from the Late Cretaceous (Upper Cenomanian) of Hâkel and Hâdjoula, Lebanon". Palaeontology. 52: 65–81. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2008.00828.x.

Photo one: Fossil Huntress. Figure Two: Topographic map of north‐western Lebanon with the outcrop area in the upper right-hand corner. Fuchs et al, 2009.  

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


The San Juan Islands Archipelago, a group of 175 named islands located in Washington State is in the heart of the Salish Sea, just north of Seattle.  

If all the exposed landmasses were counted at low tide, the number would rise to 700. 

Eighty-four of these islands are designated as National Wildlife Refuges and are mostly made up of Mesozoic bedrock.

People come to the San Juans from all over the world to enjoy the remote island lifestyle, to soak up the natural world, both in sights and sounds and to have the chance to be closer to what wild places can gift them.  

Hike or bike the trails and roads, watch both sea and terrestrial birds, spend time observing whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins or porpoises from a land or water base. Opportunities to experience and learn begin as you step onto the ferry or land at the marina or airport. Natural beauty abounds and where words might fail, the sights and sounds fill in the frame. 

There are only four ferries serving the islands. The islands were formed by massive geological events, mountains moving, land shifting, volcanos erupting and glacial ice carving.  The result produced the Salish Sea, a body of water encompassing: West in the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean, North to the Georgia Strait and Canada and South to Puget Sound. 

They were formed by massive geological events, mountains moving, land shifting, volcanos erupting and glacial ice carving. The result produced the Salish Sea, a body of water encompassing: West in the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean, North to the Georgia Strait and Canada and South to Puget Sound.


Western Prince Whale & Wildlife Tours:

Tuesday, 20 November 2018


Bears are one of my favourite mammals. Had they evolved in a slightly different way, we might well have chosen them as pets instead of the dogs so many of us have in our lives today. 

Bears are carnivoran mammals of the family Ursidae. They are classified as caniforms or doglike carnivorans. 

Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere —  making a home in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

In the Kwak'wala language of the Kwakiutl First Nations of the Pacific Northwest — or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala — a grizzly bear is known as na̱n and the ornamental grizzly bear headdress worn by the comic Dluwalakha grizzly bear dancers in the Grizzly Bear Dance, Gaga̱lalał, is known as na̱ng̱a̱mł. A black bear is known as t̕ła'yi — I do not know the word for Polar Bear in Kwak'wala.

The relatives of our black and brown bears, a dog-bear, entered the fossil record about 20 million years ago. We have found polar bear bones that tell us more about when they split off in the lineage.

DNA from a 110,000–130,000-year-old polar bear fossil has been successfully sequenced. The genome, from a jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, in 2004, indicates when polar bears, Ursus maritimus, diverged from their nearest common relative, the brown bear — Ursus arctos.

Because polar bears live on ice and their remains are unlikely to be buried in sediment and preserved, polar bear fossils are very rare. So the discovery of a jawbone and canine tooth — the entirety of the Svalbard find — is impressive. 

But far more important, is that when molecular biologist Charlotte Lindqvist, then at the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum and now at the University at Buffalo in New York, drilled into the jaw, she was able to collect intact mitochondrial DNA. Yes, a bit Jurassic Park-esque.

Mitochondria — organelles found in animal cells — have their own DNA and can replicate. And because there are many mitochondria per cell, mitochondrial DNA is easier to find in fossils than nuclear DNA. 

Lindqvist wondered whether this mitochondrial DNA could illuminate the evolutionary history of how and when polar bears diverged from brown bears. To find out, she worked with Stephan Schuster, a molecular biologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and a team of colleagues to sequence the genetic material she had collected and was successful.

It is the oldest mammalian mitochondrial genome yet sequenced — about twice the age of the oldest mammoth genome, which dates to around 65,000 years old. From Lindqvist's work, we learned that polar bears split off the lineage from brown bears about 150,000 years ago. They evolved rapidly in the Late Pleistocene, taking advantage of their hunting prowess to become the apex predators of the northern arctic region.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


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.

Thursday, 8 November 2018


Arturia angustata nautiloid, Clallam Formation, WA
This lovely Lower Miocene nautiloid is Aturia angustata collected on the foreshore near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington. Aturia is an extinct genus of Paleocene to Miocene nautilids within Aturiidae, a monotypic family, established by Campman in 1857 for Aturia Bronn, 1838, and is included in the superfamily Nautilaceae in Kümmel 1964.

Aturia is characterized by a smooth, highly involute, discoidal shell with a complex suture and subdorsal siphuncle. The shell of Aturia is rounded ventrally and flattened laterally; the dorsum is deeply impressed. The suture is one of the most complex within Nautiloidea. It has a broad flattened ventral saddle, narrow pointed lateral lobes, broad rounded lateral saddles, broad lobes on the dorso-umbilical slopes, and a broad dorsal saddle divided by a deep, narrow median lobe. The siphuncle is moderate in size and located subdorsally in the adapical dorsal flexure of the septum. Based on the feeding and hunting behaviours of living nautiluses, Aturia most likely preyed upon small fish and crustaceans. 

I've found a few of these specimens along the beaches of Clallam Bay and nearby in a local clay quarry. I've also seen calcified beauties of this species collected from river sites within the Olympic Peninsula range.

Saturday, 3 November 2018


Gwa'wina, a Raven of Tsaxis & Tongass
Gilakas'la! This lovely is Gwa'wina, wearing the traditional Chilkat blanket of her ancestors. 

Her proud lineage is mixed Tlingit (Lingit) and Kwakiutl from Tsaxis, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. 

Her Kwagu'ł  (Kwakiutl) name is Gwa'wina which means Raven in Kwak'wala. Her northern family call her Yéil, which means Raven in Łingít. 

They tell a story or kutláakw about how Raven lifted the lid of a box to release the sun, moon & stars. To celebrate, she is dancing her Chilkat Naaxein/Naaxiin or fringe about the body over a fire called a la̱ḵ̕wa̱s.

Kwak'wala is the language of the Kwakwakaʼwakw First Nations who live along the west coast of British Columbia and northern Vancouver Island. 

Kwakwaka'wakw means those who speak Kwakʼwala. It is a language shared by many proud and thriving First Nations & now with you. You are welcome to share this wee teaching tool with those learning Kwak'wala. If you would like something done up to tell a story or teach language skills, do let me know. I would be happy to help. Gwa'wina is based on my Grandmother Betty (Elizabeth Alberta Hunt) who I loved deeply and miss very much.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


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.  



Monday, 29 October 2018


Phylloceras consanguineum (Gemmellaro 1876) a fast-moving carnivorous ammonite from Late Jurassic (Middle Oxfordian) deposits near Sokoja, Madagasgar, off the southeast coast of Africa. (22.8° S, 44.4° E: 28.5° S, 18.2° E)

This classical Tethyan Mediterranean specimen is very well preserved, showing much of his delicate suturing in intricate detail. Phylloceras were primitive ammonites with involute, laterally flattened shells.

They were smooth, with very little ornamentation, which led researchers to think of them resembling plant leaves and gave rise to their name, which means "leaf-horn."

They can be found in three regions that I know of.  In the Jurassic of Italy near western Sicily's Rosso Ammonitico Formation, Lower Kimmeridgian fossiliferous beds of Monte Inici East and Castello Inici (38.0° N, 12.9° E: 26.7° N, 15.4° E) and in the Arimine area, southeastern Toyama Prefecture, northern central Japan, roughly (36.5° N, 137.5° E: 43.6° N, 140.6° E) Dōitashimashite ; )

Saturday, 27 October 2018


Rhacolepis Buccalis, an extinct genus of ray-finned fossil fish in carbonate concretion, Lower Cretaceous, Santana Formation, Brazil. These nektonic carnivores swam our ancient seas 122-109 million years ago.

Le premier et unique géoparc mondial UNESCO est situé dans le Cariri du Ceará (géoparc Araripe), dans l'intérieur semi-aride de la région Nordeste, Brésil

Friday, 26 October 2018


Goats, Capra hircus, are a domesticated species of goat-antelope typically kept as livestock. 

They were domesticated from wild goats, C. aegagrus, from Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. 

The goat is a member of the animal family Bovidae and the subfamily Caprinae, meaning it is closely related to sheep. 

There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat — one of the oldest domesticated species of animal. The archaeological evidence places their earliest domestication in Iran at 10,000 years ago.

Goat-herding is an ancient tradition that is still important in places like Egypt. Goats have been used for milk, meat, fur, and skins across much of the world. Milk from goats is often turned into white, crumbly goat cheese known as chèvre. If you love your palate, consider trying the Spanish take on slightly musty, velvety Garrotxa, a dense, aged explosion of flavour for the senses. You will taste some lemony tanginess with hints of toasted hazelnuts and aromatics of scrub brush and grasses growing in the foothills of the Pyrénées.

Female goats are referred to as does or nannies, intact males are called bucks or billies, and juvenile goats of both sexes are called kids. Castrated males are called wethers. While the words hircine and caprine both refer to anything having a goat-like quality, hircine is used most often to emphasize the distinct smell of domestic goats.

Thursday, 25 October 2018


Brewericeras hulenense (Anderson 1938) a fast-moving, nektonic (no idle floating here!) carnivorous ammonite from the Lower Cretaceous (Albian) of Haida Gwaii (aka Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia, Canada.

Ammonites belong to the class of animals called mollusks. More specifically they are cephalopods. and first appeared in the lower Devonian Period.

Cephalopods were an abundant and diverse group during the Paleozoic Era. This specimen is just over 12cm in length, a little under the average of 13.4cm. There are several localities in the Queen Charlotte Islands where Brewericeras can be found (six that I know of and likely plenty more!) This specimen was found on a trip a few years back done with the Vancouver Paleontological Society and a few of the members of some of the Island paleo groups. The preservation is quite remarkable!

Brewericeras are also found in Albian deposits in Svedenborgfjellet, Ulladalen, Norway (Cretaceous of Svalbard and Jan Mayen - så fin!) (77.7° N, 15.2° E: paleocoordinates 66.6° N, 13.6° E) and Matanuska-Susitna County, Alaska, 62.0° N, 147.7° W: paleocoordinates 57.3° N, 85.6° W (112.6 to 109.0 Ma.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Tuesday, 16 October 2018


One of the most beautiful areas of Vancouver Island is the town of Port Hardy on the north end of the island. 

Just outside Port Hardy further south on the west coast is the area known as Fort Rupert or Tsaxis. 

It was here that the Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Rupert both for trade with the local First Nation population and the allure of potential coal deposits. 

I headed up to the north island this past week to stomp around my old haunts, visit with family and get in a bit of late season kayaking. The town was much as I remembered it. There have been changes, of course. I lived up on Wally's hill above the reserve at Tsaxis beside the old cemetery. 

My wee childhood home is still there and I am very pleased to see that the earthly home of my ancestors is well maintained. The cemetery is groomed and cared for but the land surrounding it is overgrown and it took me a few minutes to orient myself to see where things used to be. Where the old Hudson's Bay Company Fort and its iconic chimney were in relation to the graveyard. 

A lifetimes worth of memories came flooding back. Those from my earliest years and then later when I returned to kayak, fish and scuba dive in these rich waters.

My plans of blissful days kayaking and taking photos of the scenery were altered by hurricane-force winds. Still beautiful, but chilly and choppy.

The beachhead here was clocking 120 km winds so I did a brief visit to the homestead, the graveyard and Jokerville then headed home to light the fire and hunker in as the storm blew through. 

Port Harty and Fort Rupert have an interesting history and how you read it or hear it truly depends on the lens that is applied. This has been the ancestral home to many First Nation groups. Mostly they were passing through and coming here to dig up delicious butter clams, roots, berries and other natural yummy goodness. Years before Port Hardy was settled at the turn of the century it was the home to the Kwakiutl or Kwagu’ł and part of my heritage. 

Alec and Sarah Lyon operated a store and post office on the east side of Hardy Bay. A 1912 land deal promoted by the Hardy Bay Land Co., put the area on the map and increased its population. By 1914, 12 families had settled, built a school, sawmill, church and hotel. 

The community of Port Hardy is situated within traditional Kwagu’ł First Nation territory. It is also home to the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. In 1964 all the First Nations communities were amalgamated and forced to relocate from their traditional territories by the federal government, for administrative reasons. 

The First Nation families were told that it would cost less for education, easier for medical help, and the government would help with housing, but it turned out to be a hidden agenda designed to assimilate the various groups into Canadian society — or face extermination. Several years of threats and promises later, the Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw reluctantly gave in to the relocation, but the government didn’t keep their promise for adequate housing. 

There were five homes for over 200 people on the Tsulquate Reservation. The Gwa’sala traditional territory is Smith Inlet and surrounding islands. ‘Nakwaxda’xw traditional territory is Seymour Inlet, the Deserter’s Group, Blunden Harbour, and surrounding islands.

There was limited access to the community until the logging road connecting Port Hardy to Campbell River was paved in December of 1979.

Port Hardy’s population grew to a little over 5,000 residents during the Island Copper Mine years (1971-1995). The former mine site is located 16 kilometres south of Port Hardy on the shores of Rupert Inlet. The open-pit porphyry copper mine employed over 900 employees from Port Hardy and the surrounding communities. Today, the former mine has been transformed into a wildlife habitat and pit lake biological treatment system (BHP Copper Inc., 2010). The Quatsino First Nation manage the property and their Economic Development Board is exploring options for its use. 

The Quatsino First Nations have conducted several feasibility studies around the implementation of a puck or brickett mill onsite, utilizing the existing infrastructure, which includes six industrial buildings.

Today, Port Hardy serves as the crossroads for air, ferry and marine transportation networks, and serves as the gateway to the fast-growing Central Coast, the Cape Scott and North Coast Trails, and BC Ferry’s northern terminus for the Discovery Coast run and Prince Rupert. It supports several traditional and emerging sectors and remains rich in natural resources and community spirit.

Every corner of the Port Hardy region is enriched with culture and history. Starting with the two welcome poles in Carrot Park, both carved and replicated by Calvin Hunt, a Kwagu’ł artist who is based in Tsax̱is. 

From here and along the seawall are interpretive signs with Kwak’wala words for various wildlife, such as salmon, bear, wolf, and orca. At the end of this walk is Tsulquate Park. 

From here you can see across Queen Charlotte Strait; the ocean highway and lands of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw. Port Hardy was named after Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (5 April 1769 – 20 September 1839) who served as the captain of H.M.S. Victory in the Royal Navy. 

He served at the Battle of Trafalgar and held Lord Nelson at the end of that battle where Nelson died in his arms. Though he never visited this island community, it bears his name today. 

A ten-minute drive from downtown Port Hardy, in the neighbouring community of Fort Rupert, is the village of Tsax̱is. This is the current home of the Kwagu’ł First Nation. Here lies elaborated totem poles and the big house; a venue where First Nations ceremonies take place, such as the potlatch. 

The potlatch is a First Nations constitution that determines our politics, our government, our education, our medicine, our territory, and our jurisdiction. Potlatch is a complex event with several ceremonies, which are still practiced in buildings like the Tsax̱is big house.

On the front porch of the village of Tsax̱is is Tayaguł (Storey’s Beach). Along this waterfront were several villages, which are depicted on map (pictured below) by Mervyn Child, a Kwagu’ł artist. 

Across the way and middle of K’ak’a (Beaver Harbour) are Atłanudzi (Cattle Island), Ḵ’ut’sa̱dze (Peel Island), Ḵ’a̱msa̱x̱tłe (Shell Island), and Uxwiwe’ (Deer Island). Once the words are broken down and translated; the names of these islands are unique to their environment, as they’re part of a story that belongs to the Kwagu’ł.

Where: Port Hardy, British Columbia. 50°43'27"N, 127°29'52"W