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Part 1: Sydney Mines, Cape Breton (Short Stop To Wasson Bluff, Parrsboro)


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In Nova Scotia, it is illegal to collect fossils or archaeological artifacts without a Heritage Permit or proper authorization. You can message me if you want more info.

Hang on tight, my posts are usually long winded! :popcorn:

[Taken from my blog: http://redleafz.blogspot.ca]

Not too long ago I had made a list of fossil locations I would like to visit when I felt more knowledgeable and honed some of my field work skills. I had told my friend Matt Stimson (who works in the field of palaeontology) that I thought of heading East in Cape Breton sometime in the Summer. He wanted to tag along as he's familiar with the area and wouldn't mind revisiting some of the great locales around Sydney.

We decided that we'd spend 3 days in Nova Scotia (August 3rd to 5th, 2012). From Moncton (New Brunswick) to Sydney (Nova Scotia) is about a 5 hour drive one way. On our way to Cape Breton on Friday, we planned to take a little detour to Parrsboro and stop by to see Tim Feydak at Wasson Bluff.


As I've mentioned in the past, Wasson Bluff has in its cliffs some of Canada's oldest dinosaurs, prosauropods. Many important scientific contributions were made in this small corner of the world. Tim has taken up the torch and continues the tradition by laboring under the shadow of these red sandstone Triassic cliffs.

- Day 1


Matt Stimson (left) and Tim Feydak (center)

We swung by and Tim was already at the location working at it. He's been sifting through material for bone fragments from a section of the cliff that was quickly eroding. Shortly after meeting Tim, we were joined by our friend Ken Adams, curator of the Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, and some of its young staff.


Some of the crew collecting material from target area


Bone in sandstone

The tide was coming in, so we decided to give Tim a hand sifting through the material that he had collected. Not only is there bone material from these primitive dinosaurs, but those of ancient reptiles such as crocodiles. Some layers of the cliffs contain bones and teeth of fish such as primitive sharks. We've made a few finds for the short time we were there. These will be brought back to the museum lab for cleaning and prep work.


The "Two Brothers" in the background, basalt islands


One of the teeth found that day (center, top of rock)

After a few hours, we headed out for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before hitting the road. The plan was to at least take the 104 East towards Port Hawkesbury, and once crossing the Canso Causeway, to find a camping close to Sydney.


Sydney Coal Fields (area of interest in red)

We drove for a few hours and we came across the Ben Eoin Beach Resort and Camping Grounds, on the shores of Bras d'Or Lake. The entrance had areas where you could pitch your tent, picnic tables, and spots for starting your campfire. Closer to the lake was a long stretch of land where you could park your camper, with a cabin where you could take your shower. Price was reasonable, and the scenery was beautiful! We threw our tents out and settled for the night.


- Day 2

We woke up as the Sun came up, grabbed a bite to eat, and planned our day. There was plenty of time before the tides were low enough to hit our fossil sites in the Sydney area, so Matt suggested we check a quarry before heading to town.


Matt getting ready (Quartz vein

, rock bearing rubies [center-right to right])

This abandoned quarry bears a regional treasure: Cape Breton rubies! This granite-type hard igneous has rubies which the quality is all over the spectrum. We took our tools and proceeded up the quarry, whacking pieces of this creamy colored ruby gemstone. I've seen one cut before, but its pretty cool to actually get them from the source. Along with the rubies, I also got my hands on some nice quartz crystals from a big vein jutting out vertically from the quarry.


Some collected samples


Ruby in the rough =)


Taking a break, watching grasshoppers doing their business

Satisfied with our haul of pretty rocks, we hopped back in the car and headed towards Sydney.


Sydney region's areas of interest: 1- Cranberry Point; 2- Point Aconi; 3- Donkin Peninsula

First order of business as soon as we rolled in to town was to grab some early dinner. There was still some time before the tides were down, so Matt suggested we go visit the Fossil Center in Sydney Mines.


Displays at the Cape Breton Fossil Center, Sydney Mines

It was nice to swing by the center to check the type of fossils first hand found in the region. Most of the fossils they have at the center are plants, but man are they nice. The specimens they have are numerous, and in well built displays. We also took a moment to head over their other museum that displayed Sydney's mining past.


Megaphyton (tree fern) showing frond scars (elongated oval features)

After our visit, we made our way towards Cranberry Point in the Sydney Mines area, stopping at a few places along the way. Many of the coast of the area is elevated, meaning that there are many cliff face to explore, exposing coal seams and various fossils.



Fossilized tree

This area that the greater Sydney area is located in is described of being part of the Sydney Coal Fields. This section of the island is dominated by Carboniferous Period topography (Nova Scotia Geological Map), contributing to Sydney's rich coal industry. The plants found in these shale are like no other. These articulated plants have been the subject of study since the mid-1860s. Even though there is a rich catalog of fossils, there are still big gaps in the record and much more studying to be done. We were hoping that our weekend would yield more secrets to us.



First location on our list was Cranberry Point, North of Sydney Mines. We had some friends that were at this location recently and confirmed that there were upright trees, mostly bigger than the ones you'd usually see at Joggins, the world famous UNESCO site. Matt had been here in the past, so he knew which roads to take in this maze of houses and cottages.

We made our way down Peck Street and Matt was surprised that the road that led to the Point had a brand new house built in its way. We parked the car and walked up to where the old road was and met with the very nice lady that owns the new home. She was very interested by our work and would love for us to drop by after our trek and share what we found.


Remains of World War II's past

Where Peck Street ends, there's an old dirt road that leads to an old WWII era building, or what's left of it. It sits on a piece of the cliff that is slowly becoming an island. The trail that used to connect the mainland and this quasi-island has eroded away. The only thing that's left is a sheer fall, with a cable dangling down for beach access. That was our way down.


Rope access (Gulp!)

On to Part 2!

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  • 3 months later...

can you please tell me where the quarry is, i live here and have never heard of cape breton rubies wold be nice to find them?

Thanks again for your report


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I can find out exactly where that is. Its an abandonned quarry. The owner that lived in Ontario had passed away and nobody took over the quarry. The locals are suspicious of non locals that show up as there have many acts of vandalism in the past: people would bring stolen cars after a joyride and light them on fire.

I'll ask for the coordinates and I'll let you know. =P

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  • 3 weeks later...

did you get the location of the quarry yet i am a local they wouldnt give me a hard time.

Thanks again


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