Canadian Identity, Economy, Government, Mine Explosion, Plymouth, Uncategorized, Westray

A walk back in Time

I am going to take everyone on a walk back in time. First off I should say that I live in a wonderful corner of the world. There are so many stories to tell.

Today I went for a drive along the shores of the Northumberland Strait in Nova Scotia. Canada. Starting in Arisaig, Antigonish County I headed southwest thru Lismore and on to where I grew up in shadows of the Pictou Coal Fields. But my First stop was in Knoydart where there was a cairn built some years back. Maintained by the locals it is tucked out of the way at the end of a road thru the woods to the shore.

It takes about five minutes to walk into the Cairn. It was constructed to commemorate two men who it is said fought at The Battle of Culloden in 1746. The final confrontation of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 and part of a religious civil war in Britain. In those days the men took a rock from where they lived threw it in a pile before casting their fate in battle. Afterwards those that lived picked up a rock and took it home. The rocks left would then become the Monument to those who died. These men in their later years came to these shores in the exodus from Scotland starting in the 1770’s. Legend has it that they took their rocks with them to the New World. It can’t be proven but it does make for a good story. This year, like years past, on the 16th of April people will gather at the Cairn. To remember those men and others. It will be followed by dinner at the Lismore Community Hall. It is always a great day.

The Cairn

The Plaque

It’s been over two hundred years since these men died. But remembered they are.

But that isn’t the only reason I made this trek today. I also went for a walk on the shores. The rocks here tell a story as well. But this story is much older then the one told at the cairn. For this story starts more than 420 million years ago.


When I was a child I played on these shores every summer not knowing that this formation is one the the best preserved Upper Silurian sedimentary sequences in the world. Scientists have been coming to this shore to study these rocks for over a hundred years. I then got in my Truck and left there. Drove southwest on Route 245 from Arisaig. I travel back again to Knoydart to where the Cairn is located. In doing this I have traveled thru the Devonian to the Upper Carboniferous of the Lismore Formation. This formation is 2.5 kilometers thick from top to bottom. I have driven six or seven kilometers and spanned about a hundred million years.

On this shore are interesting sequences of rock and fossils.

One can see fossilized remains plants and shellfish

Fossilized ripple marks in a Sandstone of an ancient ocean from over 300 million years ago.

From here I can again look southwest, past the Cairn towards the Pictou Coalfields of the Stellarton Formation. The place where my career in Geology ended 24 years ago.

I then decided to drive back to Stellarton. To the open pit mine where once men toiled underground in the dust and darkness. Above is a picture of the open pit mine where they have dug a big hole to exploit the Foord Seam. To the left thru the fence one can see the old workings dug many years ago mostly by hand. The shiny rocks are where the coal has been mined. This coal seam is over 40 feet thick. The amount of time required to deposit the material that would eventually become the coal boggles the mind in and of itself. I could continue on but my point in doing this is to give one a sense of scale. A story that spans 120 million years. This story shown in rocks is wonderful to see and ponder.

In a couple of weeks, on April 30th, I am going to again return to Lismore. This time it will be to work for an old friend. I will be helping set Lobster traps in these waters. Then a couple of weeks later I have made a promise to myself to return to New Glasgow. Long overdue, I will attend for the first time a memorial service for my friends who died needlessly mining the coal of this Foord Seam.

It does pain me to see so much misplaced skepticism of science these days. Climate change with it’s insistence on a consensus being the best example. Casting those opposed as Deniers and threatening them with fines doesn’t strike me a productive way to advance the Theories of Climate Change. And it seems suspicious to me that proponents of this theory are now resorting to these measures. All I know is that the models proffered 15 years ago are falling apart. Twenty years hence we will know once and for all if the Doomers were right. This can be said to be true because China and India will not agree to limits and the West will talk but nothing is going to change. A gigantic roll of dice I suppose but one I hope to live to see.

That said I don’t think it is fair to take the failings of one segment of scientific research and apply it whole cloth to everything else. There is always going to be disagreement. When a theory falls out of favour it should be seen not as a failure of science but as a triumph.

I will end by saying I often wonder why I stay here in Nova Scotia. Opportunities are much greater places elsewhere. But I know in my heart that this place and I are linked forever and all time. Maybe it can be said that this speaks to my humantity. To my insistence on doing things not because they are logical but because they are right. Some day in a blink of an eye I will be gone. I too have cast my fate, like those men at Culloden, with these shores. My intention is to have my ashes scattered in the waters of the Northumberland. The one and only thing I know for certain is that ten thousand years from now I will be like the rocks at that cairn but small specks of sand in a great monument.

It could be said that this too is a roll of the dice. It might be I suppose. But it is one that I am happy to accept.


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