Christmas morning I found a surprise under the tree! I had expressed interest in “Geology of Nova Scotia” once or twice during the year… and imagine my surprise when I unwrapped my very own copy. I love the layout of the book with its 48 scenic sites clearly defined, each one with a short write-up about the specific site, its natural history and geological significance as well as the mention and images of related sites elsewhere in the province. Perusing the book on Christmas Day awakened the urge to go exploring.
We woke up to glorious weather on Boxing Day and the suggestion to go for a drive and take full advantage of azure skies and the absence of wind was quickly embraced. We had not been back to Joggins, or The Joggins as the locals call it, since November 2020. In 2020 we took the road from Advocate via Apple River, this year we decided to travel the shorter route from Parrsboro toward Amherst where we turned toward River Hebert in Southampton. This route is much shorter and the roads are less pitted with fewer potholes.
Last year the Fossil Centre was closed due to the pandemic, this year the centre was closed because of the winter season. Not much remains open once tourist season is over. I love the interpretive centre with its clean lines and shadows its casts with the sun just at the right angle. We parked the car and navigated our way through the green space, past the meditation spiral toward the stairs.
On July 30th, 1842 the British geologist Charles Lyell in a letter to his sister wrote: “My dear Marianne, – We have just returned from an expedition of three days… I went to see a forest of fossil coal trees – the most wonderful phenomenon perhaps I have seen…” He was in the process of concluding a year-long journey touring geological wonders navigating eastern North America from end to end and the Joggins Cliffs topped his list.
In quoting the authors M. Hickman Hild and S. M. Barr: “For more than 170 years the site has been one of the most closely studied in the world. The cliffs preserve an array of 63 successive, upright forests, rooted in coal or black shale and buried in layer upon layer of sandstone. Among the giant fossil plants are the tracks and remains of forest inhabitants, including the world’s oldest known reptiles. – The site has a unique ability to inspire visions of the Earth’s mysterious Coal Age, as seen in displays at the adjacent Joggins Fossil Centre. In 2008 the cliffs were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.”
We were only able to get as far as the viewing platform close to the beach. The steps are removed and safely stored out of the elements for winter. The fossil forests eluded us yesterday but we will be returning once winter moves on and geological sites, like Joggins, are more accessible. I captured a few images of the running water oozing from the cliffs to continually erode the red sandstone below… The wall of ice to the right of the viewing platform was equally impressive. Two pigeons appeared out of place as they were exploring the layered rocks nearby.
We spotted people on the distant beach but decided not to scramble down the steep and unstable cliff where they had parked their vehicles. We will wait for another chance to access the beach when the stairs are installed.
Hope this post has sparked your interest in The Joggins Fossil Cliffs. It’s a fascinating place to visit and explore. Wishing you all a good start to the week, one that sees the old year come to a close and welcome a new one. Best wishes, Anna