Newfoundlanders are world-renowned for their stories (this side of the grass of course), but it is the ground beneath their feet that is offering up fascinating tales of their own. Scientists and rock hounds the world over come to explore the island’s ancient, world class geology and ecology. With early life formation, continental fault lines, exotic plant species, and ancient seas, why would they not?
On July 17, 2016, Mistaken Point was announced as NL’s 4th UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 5 kilometer (3 mile) stretch of coastline, situated along the southeast Avalon Peninsula, is actually part of a 579-560 million year old ancient sea floor that is home to the ediacaran fossils. Here you walk among the oldest, complex, life fossils found anywhere on earth. So abundant, that exposed areas, the size of tennis courts, are covered in ancient life.
Note Guided tour only. See map.
Fortune Head, situated just outside the Town of Fortune, is a 140 meter (460 foot) headland called a global boundary stratotype section and point (GSSP), weird name I know. A thick low lying rock cliff jutting into the sea, it is a 542 million year old geological boundary between the Precambrian and Cambrian periods. To put it another way, this is the point where animal life began on earth and where you will discover some of the world’s oldest fossils of skeletal organisms superbly exposed.
Note Wonderful geology center situated nearby to complement your experience.
Dover Fault Site
The Town of Dover is home to a 410 million year old fault site, 200-500 meters (656-1640 feet) wide and 343 kilometers (213 miles) long, it is still visible to the eye today. Newfoundland’s plate was once separated by a sea at this very spot until the ancient continents of Laurentia and Gondwana collided together, then broke apart.
Note Museum situated inside town hall sheds further light on this site, as well as, illustrates town history.
The Tablelands, situated in Gros Morne National Park, are a 1.2 billion year old ocean floor and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region here looks more like Arizona than Newfoundland, a flat-topped mountain of scorched orange and red desert that is part of the Appalachians mountain range. Ancient peridotite rocks can be found here, so rare they are usually only located deep in the earth’s mantle.
The Limestone Barrens are a unique terrain type and ecosystem, patches and slivers of widely separated unforested land found only in a few other places in the world. Home to native plants not found anywhere else on the planet, this 200 kilometer (124 mile) long disjointed string, totalling 15 hectares (37 acres), along the Great Northern Peninsula, is an “at risk” ecosystem.
The geology of Gros Morne illustrates the concept of plate tectonics that has shed important light on geological evolution and its processes. In 2000, Green Point was designated a global stratotype section and point (GSSP), the division between the Cambrian and the Ordovician systems, by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
The first appearance of iapetognathus fluctivagus, a conodont fossil, 4.8m below the earliest known planktic graptolite fossil rhabdinopora praeparabola, occurred here. These shales also represent a 30 million year record of deep-ocean sediments laid in a base-of-slope environment in the Iapetus Ocean. This geological significance of Gros Morne helped it secure UNESCO World Heritage site status in 1987.