When Nova Scotia was Twinned with Africa

Blue Beach, Nova Scotia

A few years ago I turned 60. When I look at that number on the page it looks big but when I listen to my thoughts or look into my heart or look around me I feel much, much younger. But even if I were turning 100 it would still feel insignificant after our journey in 2011 to a magical place in Nova Scotia that is 350 million years old.

Slate cliffs are partly buried.

I’m talking here about a little-known place called Blue Beach near Hantsport Nova Scotia.

Originally I wanted to go to New York for my birthday but as it turned out it was way more affordable to jump in the car with a very tasty picnic lunch that Larry had prepared and drive two hours up the valley past Wolfville, to visit the fossil beach that our visitors last month had told us about.

Fossil hunting.

Years ago Chris Mansky and Sonja Wood bought 20 acres of woods with a shale cliff overlooking the Avon River that empties into the Minas Basin and then to the Bay of Fundy.

Larry searches the beach.

Their beachfront was loaded with fossils–and I mean loaded; almost every stone you pickup has something embedded in it. They created a museum for the collection called the Blue Beach Fossil Museum.

Low tide reveals treasures.

Over the years they’ve learned a lot about paleontology and they’ve developed a museum to display some of their more spectacular finds. Chris spends his days cataloging the discoveries and documenting them and is in contact with paleontologists and scientists around the world who recognize what a significant and unusual beach it is.

They formed a non-profit society in 2011 to protect and promote Blue Beach and to apply for funding to help in its future research.

On our way down to the beach we chatted with a couple in their 80s who were just leaving. I mentioned that it was my birthday and the woman broke into song serenading me with the happy birthday song! It was very touching and very Nova Scotia.

Typical of sightseeing in this province in off-season, we would only run into one other couple during our 3 hour visit.

Larry and I spent three hours alone on the beach studying the fossils and watching the tide recede to reveal ever more pieces. The fossils are in the shale deposits that are in a constant state of erosion. The strong tides reveal new treasures all the time but they also take away the 350 million-year-old evidence of the rich life that happened on this beach when it was still part of–get this–Morocco. Yes, that would be Morocco, Africa. Because at one point when all the continents were together and it was called Pangaea, most of Nova Scotia was a piece of Africa fused with some of Scotland.

An ancient ripple, frozen in stone.

So I learned a couple of things on my birthday. I learned that 60 is a teeny, tiny number and that our existence is shorter than the flicker of a firefly in the summertime; and that even our Bear River used to be part of Africa.

The churning waves turn the salt water brown with silt and slowly dissolve the fossils.

On their website Sonja and Chris list the unique qualities of Blue Beach:

A. The world’s oldest and largest collection of tetrapod bone fossils dating from the Earliest Carboniferous interval known as “Romer’s Gap” (more than 500 specimens).

B. Recognized as earth’s earliest known assemblage of terrestrial tetrapods, showing a well-established population and previously unsuspected level of diversity with at least six species.

C. The oldest and largest collection of Carboniferous Tracks on earth (with over 1,700 specimens)

D.  Soon to be the most completely known and important fossil Rhizodontid fish in the world (over 2,000 specimens)

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Here is an article about the importance of this beach:

Blue Beach fossil finds are bridging gap in evolution timeline:

Kings County finds helping to solve mysteries in fossil record from 350 to 400 million years ago

And here is another article about a primary student who found the only fossil in the world of a horseshoe crab.

Blue Beach fossil first of specific horseshoe crab

One of a kind find has captured the interest of scientists from around the world

PS: the museum is looking for a benefactor or new owner to take it to the next step.