Monthly Archive: December From
After three days of successful fieldwork on the chilly Grand Rapids Uplands, we return – toting a fresh batch of fossils – to The Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg. This is the home turf of my colleague, Graham Young, and almost a second home for me.
Ah, the romance of fieldwork. There’s nothing quite like waiting for the morning sun to rise high enough to illuminate a cold, wet outcrop, so that one can spend the next 8 or 9 hours kneeling in mud and splitting razor-sharp rock slabs. But we have hot coffee in the thermos, dry gloves in the pack, and — hopefully — there are some new fossils to be found!
The weather forecast was pretty much on the money, and a dismal dawn yields to thunder-squalls rolling across the tundra. But, after breakfast and a second cup of coffee, the rain eases and we are a shade more optimistic about our flight out later this morning. Time for one last walkabout of our temporary home.
Clear skies at last! Down to the coast to catch good morning lighting and a fortuitously low tide, so we can see in detail how fossil-bearing Upper Ordovician carbonate deposits (445 million years old) at our main locality “lap” against the elevated flanks of a much more ancient rock mass. This highly resistant Proterozoic (about 2500 million-year-old) quartzite body is the remnant of a small island that formed part of an archipelago in shallow Ordovician subtropical seas.
Walking through the badlands is like walking through a western novel: canyons cut through the prairie, exposing layers of brown, gold, black and white sediment. Clichés keep popping up: tumbleweeds roll by, cactus pop out from unexpected places, and cattle skulls bleach in the sun. Scorpions hide in coal seams, soaking up the sun’s heat from the black rock that camouflages them. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but once you accept the fact that you’re in a place unlike anywhere else in Canada, it all becomes simple and beautiful.