Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chisel, Chisel, Chiselers of the high standards of Canada's National Parks via portable fossil saws and helicopters

In the Globe and Mail newspaper this morning (August 9, 2013) is an article written by Carrie Tait on the findings of a NEW fossil bed found in Kootenay National Park, at the foot of Stanley Glacier:

Fossil hunters Jean-Bernard Caron and Robert Gaines walk through the wreckage of a forest fire, cross a creek by balancing on logs, hike up loose mountain rocks and lateral moraines above the treeline – all to reach the bottom of an ocean.


Sounds like they are pretty prudent, respectful, of their surroundings, eh?

They chisel, chisel, chisel the length of the middle of a rock until they see a fracture. Then they do the same at the fracture until the grey rock splits in two. The researchers inspect the face of the split rock, and if nothing excites them, they toss it aside and repeat the process. The repetition can be dull until they find new shapes – forms of life last spotted half a billion years ago.

“Usually there is a swear word and everyone turns around,” Prof. Caron says.


 Profs. Caron and Gaines are even more keen on another new fossil find. This new discovery, however, makes them cagey. They won’t reveal its location, save for hinting it is near the Stanley Glacier site. The newest Burgess Shale-like discovery further increases diversity in this neighbourhood of the animal kingdom, they say, and the quality of the preservation makes them giddy.

Even at the Stanley Glacier site there is plenty more work to do. A German adventurer found the first fossil here in 1996 and reported it to authorities. Preliminary scientific legwork followed in 2007, and the first expedition, led by Prof. Caron, started chiseling away here in August, 2008.


Profs. Caron and Gaines believe that expedition only scratched the surface. They did not have permission to camp near the site, so they had to trek to the fossil find, about two hours each way. The daily hike meant they returned home with fewer fossils, and fewer inches around their waists – they dubbed it the Burgess Shale Workout.

Next time they are allowed back to the field – they need Parks Canada’s permission to search for and remove fossils – the scientists would love to trade their chisels for jackhammers to get further inside the mountains. Prof. Gaines, who conducted his PhD research in western Utah, puts the potential in perspective.


UNESCO World Heritage Centre

World List UNESCO long list

Canadian Rocky Mountains UNESCO short list

Now here's the rub, with the Globe and Mail story, because of an earlier story on the same "Chisels", in 2010.  In the report above, the scene is set whereby the scientists are using hard labour to get to and from the site AND not leaving anything behind at their campsite .... that might damage the environment.... nothing foreign to taint the high standards expected from a UNESCO billing... 

Pomona College

New Fossil Bed Discovery by Royal Ontario Museum/Pomona College Team Challenges Assumptions

About Famous Fossil Site  By Cynthia Peters 4:09 pm September 2, 2010 Research, Faculty

Robert Gaines, professor of geology at Pomona College, is part of an exploration team that discovered a new fossil deposit whose existence challenges long-held assumptions about the Burgess Shale, which is famous for its exceptional preservation of soft-bodied fossils of the Cambrian-era, during the dawn of animal life.

The discovery, “A new Burgess Shale-type assemblage from the ‘thin’ Stephen Formation of the southern Canadian Rockies,” was reported in the September 2010 issue of Geology. (Abstract)

“The classic Burgess Shale deposits,” explains Gaines, “are found at the base of a large underwater cliff. What is preserved there is extraordinary: We find eyes, antennae, guts and other soft body parts that normally stand no chance of fossilization. The cliff was thought to be important in producing mudslides that transported the organisms from their living environment to a habitat that was hostile but great for preservation. The new locality challenges that assumption.”


Chisel, Chisel, Chisel

Fossil hunters Jean-Bernard Caron and Robert Gaines walk through the wreckage of a forest fire.....

If you've clicked on the link to "Pomona", the article is all fine and dandy.... for Kootenay National Park... but the two bottom images included with that article and copied here...above..... are from Yoho National Park!  Beyond and below the helicopter, the valley bottom, is the Kicking Horse River, that flows out of Wapta Lake, which is hemmed in to the east, by the Continental Divide.  The "loop", down below, to the left of the helicopter, on the other side of the river, is the road for the overflow camping area of Kicking Horse Campground.

Now contrast all of the above to what we observed on a trip into Lake O'Hara this past month: No transportation (no bikes either) except for two shuttle Private buses managed by Yoho National Park staff, on a Private road owned by a Private Lodge in a Public park, with a Jasper National Park like quota system on visitors, 42 day timers not including overnighters (campers/lodge and bungalow guests).

Once a week scientists billeted in Canmore, take the bus up to Lake O'Hara, with all their gear.... then backpack all of their computer equipment, cables, inflatable 2 person zodiac, oars too, up to Lake Oesa, take their readings from the depths, and then cart all of their equipment back down again.  one way = 3.2 Kilometers (2 Miles); 240 Metres (787 feet) .... A helicopter carting the fossil spoils would be fine... but.... this isn't Kootenay National Park.

The scientists are NOT permitted to leave any of the equipment on site.  They're not even permitted to STAY in the Park because of the Quota system.... which is great... for the environment.

Helicopters are a No go.  Outboard engines..... are a No go.

The apparent difference between Yoho/Kootenay Park's fossil beds and Yoho's Lake O'Hara is that the Lodge owner has it in writing that their pristine surroundings remain out of bounds for airborne  equipment, ......  a no-fly-zone.

Google Search Criteria:  Jean-Bernard Caron and Robert Gaines


Heaps of Fossils From Evolutionary ‘Big Bang’ Discovered

souggy,  Aug 31, 2010 16:09 EDT (2 years ago)  on  (Original Article
---Quote--- By Alexandra Witze, Science News August 30, 2010 | 5:28 pm | Categories: Biology, Earth Science Image: 
One of paleontology’s most revered fossil sites now has a baby brother. Scientists have discovered a group of astonishing fossils high in the Canadian Rockies, just 40 kilometers from the famous Burgess Shale location. A paper describing the find appears in the September issue of Geology. Since its discovery in 1909, the Burgess Shale has yielded many thousands of fossils dating to 505 million years ago — a period often called “evolution’s big bang,” when animals were exploding in diverse body plans. 
....the creatures unearthed also include eight taxa previously unknown to science. They include an unnamed worm; Stanleycaris hirpex, a segmented shrimp-like critter known as an anomalocarid; and an arthropod with big eyes dangling on stalks from its head shield. Until now, paleontologists had thought one reason the Burgess fossils were so well preserved was because they settled in thick deposits at the bottom of an ancient ocean protected by a submarine cliff. But the Stanley Glacier fossils weren’'t formed in the presence of such a cliff, suggesting that creatures can be fossilized in amazing detail in other environments. 
In May, after studying new Burgess fossils from one of the original sites, Caron and colleagues reported new details on a creature that may be one of the earliest known relatives of octopuses, squid and other cephalopods. 
Image: Looking towards Stanley Glacier, site of the new fossil deposit. Flickr/judemat. Read More Heaps of Fossils From Evolutionary ‘Big Bang’ Discovered | Wired Science | ---End Quote--- Burgress Shale is on one of my destination lists. :hmm: Maybe this one as well.


Walcott Peak

Parks Canada

Yoho National Park

The Burgess Shale

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