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A Complex Geology

September 17, 2014

Nova Scotia’s geology rivals it’s political history in complexity: the land itself is a hybrid of disparate formations from across the Atlantic. The northern region was a part of, in geology speak, Avalonia, a shifting microcontinent that was torn between Gondwana and Laurasia during the re-shuffling of the earths’ crust. The southwest region, where I am staying, is called Meguma, and was a shard of North Africa that clung to America during the break-up of Pangea. Like a telltale paint chip on an offending hit-and-run car, the rocks I look over as I gaze at the bay match those found in Morocco. If the Acadians had been around then, they could have just clung to this shifting rock instead of immigrating in the wretched boats that initially brought them here.

Walking along the rocky shore, this tangled geology can be read in the rainbow of colors and textures underfoot. Sometimes the stones are perfectly ordered, like at Belliveau Cove, where it is hard to believe that the beach was not trucked in and mechanically raked like the shores of New Jersey. In other places, small rocks and large boulders compete for space in the tidal zone between the mats of rubbery seaweed and the jutting cliffs of tilted layers of what was once soft shale, which forms the bedrock here. It is not like the loose layered stone of my homeland in the Finger Lakes, whose horizontally stacked flat layers form an easy reading of the past 300 million years or so. The grey rock here has been through some hard times: cracked, bent and heated under pressure. Long straight fissures—familiar sights in the gorges back home–are all filled with white quartz, so that it looks as if someone ran back and forth with a leaking bucket of white paint. A cave at Smugglers Cove Park, used to hide booze during prohibition, is the result of a ten foot wide intrusive dike of black lava being eroded as the surf pounded away at it. The park signage refers only to the colorful recent history and makes no mention of the much more interesting black stripe that crosses the cove. Across the bay, a long finger of land intervenes between the Bay of Fundy. Its basalt lava cliffs, which gleam orange in the afternoon sun, mark the edge of another geologic region. To complicate (or enrich) things further, the glaciers brought granites, gabbros, conglomerates and other rocks from the North as they spilled over the land, dropping them here before melting and retreating. The pounding surf and flowing meltwater polished the stones and arranged them on the beach for tourist to gather and take back to their homes. Eventually, these house bound collections will spill out into the gardens of foreign landscapes; certain to confound future geologists.

Despite this complicated history, there is an underlying order here, where the ocean meets the land. Even the range of hues in the seaweed seems informed by the multicolored rocks. I try to refrain from photographing every other stone, or worse, collecting them all, and keep my work focused on the more didactic, with an eye towards the aesthetic. I turn over stones and probe crevices in an attempt to understand the Gestalt of the big picture: that which binds the animate to the inanimate, the mundane with the extraordinary and me to everything else.

work shot at Baie St MArie, Nova Scotia         nova scotia.060914.a.0205

work shot at Baie St Marie, Nova Scotia    work shot at Baie St MArie, Nova Scotia          

IMG_2438    work shot at Baie St MArie, Nova Scotiawork shot at Baie St MArie, Nova Scotia


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