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Devin Trefry

Fossil Fans!

by Devin Trefry, on Tue, 23 Jul 2013 | No Comments

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I was recently invited to Amherst to speak at an event hosted by the local area Chamber of Commerce. Amherst is a vibrant community with a beautiful historic downtown and is of course the first Town to greet visitors arriving to Nova Scotia through New Brunswick. Amherst is also just twenty minutes from UNESCO World Heritage site Joggins Fossil Cliffs, so I was excited to invite my wife Sara and the kids to join me for a little overnight adventure.

The event was held at the Amherst Golf Club. The clubhouse is situated on a hill with a beautiful view overlooking the course. I have never been much of a golfer, but I couldn't help but appreciate how immaculate and majestic looking the course was. Apparently it was established in 1902, which explains why it was such a mature looking course with impressive tree-lined fairways. With the sun setting the scene was even more alluring.

As I returned back to the hotel I was looking forward to relaxing for the rest of the evening. The Super 8 Motel suites with a bedroom and separate living room. This allows my 9-year old son Jaden and 7 year-old daughter Lienna to go to bed at a reasonable hour while Sara and I stay up a little later to chat or watch TV. Once we're ready for bed we transfer the kids to the pull-out couch in the living room and we take over the bed. - I laugh to think how this routine will work as the kids get bigger.

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The next morning Jaden, Lienna and I decided that we would let mom sleep in while we went for an early morning dip in the pool. I was excited to riffle down the Super 8's spiraling 80 foot waterslide. The kids were the first to go and they both shot out of the slide like a cannon. I had visions of me skipping across the pool so fast that I'd end up landing on the pool deck on the other side.

I got to the top of the slide and laid down with my back arched and my weight resting on my heels and shoulder blades. I figured that this would reduce my amount of surface area touching the slide, limiting my amount of 'drag', and ultimately increasing my speed. I was like a human bobsled! I didn't quite make it to the other side of the pool, but I think I was close to three quarters of the way! It was a lot of fun and definitely a refreshing and exhilarating way to wake up!

After a quick breakfast we were on the road to Joggins. It was a pleasant drive through the country passing by a Wetland Trail in Macccan and the tidal bore viewing area and Heritage Models Centre in River Hebert along the way.

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When we arrived we were greeted by the friendly staff and had an opportunity to explore the Centre before our guided beach tour was to begin. The museum is really impressive with a variety of interactive exhibits. As we pointed out the various fossils on display to the kids we quickly realized by their puzzled looks that we hadn't properly briefed them on what our outing was all about.

We had assumed by their excitement to be going to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs that they knew what a fossil was. With a quick, and less than scientific description, the kids caught on pretty quickly and became much more engaged in all that we explored from that point on.

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We gathered to meet our tour guide Sarah Hillier and followed her to the stairway to the beach. The view from the cliff-top was fantastic, despite the unseasonably cool and cloudy weather that day. One of the reasons that the cliffs are so special is that they contain the best fossil record in the world relating to the Pennsylvanian 'Coal Age' of the Earth's history. Fossils found at Joggins date back over 300 million years and the site is also where the fossilized remains of the first reptile on Earth were found: Hylonomus lyelli.

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The one thing that I couldn't get over was just how plentiful the fossils were on and along the beach. It was like we were on a real treasure hunt - wondering if the next fossil we might find would be something really rare or special!

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Although we weren't allowed to keep any of the fossils that we found, we were able to bring them back to the Centre for identification. We found some fossilized fish feces (say that five times fast) also known as coprolites. We found a great fossilized tree root and a variety of other vegetation.

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I must say, if the weather had been better we might have stayed on the beach all day scouring for fossils (or at least until the tide forced us to leave). It was kind of addictive. Following our tour we took some more time to explore the exhibit gallery. Our guide Sarah saw that we were keen and took a little extra time to show us around and answer our questions.

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We really enjoyed our day and looked forward to returning again when we could make our next great geological discovery along the cliffs!

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