Field Trip Log: Mistaken Point, Newfoundland

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Mistaken Point viewpoint from the E surface.

OK, this post has little to do with economic geology, but it does have to deal with some really cool geology, paleontology, and a critical part of Earth’s history (the Ediacaran biota from the Ediacaran Period). So stick around….

On April 19th, I had to pleasure of visiting the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve recently with students from both Memorial University and the Arctic University of Norway as part of the Education 4464 course at Memorial University (Experiential Education: The arts, sciences, humanities through lived, community-­based experience), led by my colleague  Jennifer Anderson in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, along with Dr. Sylvia Moore (Labrador Institute and Faculty of Education), and Dr. Ketil Lenert Hansen (Department of Education, Artic University of Norway). The trip was also attended by 6 teacher interns from the Arctic University of Norway, 12 intermediate/secondary teacher interns from Memorial University, and Dr. Hansen’s son. The trip started at the Edge of Avalon Interpretative Centre where Pearl Coombs gave us a presentation on the centre and the local history and culture. An outstanding centre that one should visit if you are interested in shipwrecks, Irish history in Newfoundland, and great scenery!

The field trip to Mistaken Point was organized and led by Mr. Tony Power (Manager, Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve) and Dr. Richard Thomas (Reserve Geologist). The trip was fantastic, and while it was a brisk day with some pretty impressive winds on the coast (albeit followed up by record-setting snowfall on April 20th), it was a really nice walk to the site and back. The rocks are outstandingly preserved and the fossils here, the Ediacaran biota, represent some of the earliest forms of complex life that evolved in the Late Precambrian. These fossils, fossil assemblages, and preservation are quite unique and have significantly influenced the way we few biotic evolution, and their uniqueness has even resulted in the establishment of a new period in the Geological Time Scale in 2006: the Ediacaran Period. The site has also been proposed as a potential global UNESCO World Heritage site and they anticipate hearing the outcome this coming July (fingers crossed!).

I’ve included some links below to some general overviews and media about the Mistaken Point fossils and their significance. If people are interested in visiting, it is important to note that the reserve is managed by staff of the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation – Parks and Natural Areas Division, and you can only visit the site via an official Parks and Natural Areas Division tour. The link below provides information on when/how to visit the site. This site is well worth visiting for the world-class geology and it is only about a two-hour drive south of St. John’s (and why not take in the Cape Race Lighthouse National Historic Site and  Edge of Avalon Interpretative Centre as well!).

Many thanks to Dr. Richard Thomas and Mr. Tony Power for leading the tour, Pearl Coombs at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre, and Ms. Tina Leonard for the expeditious approval of the permit for the visit!

Some links and information on Mistaken Point

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