Fundy Dinosaur Field Notes 1511

Fundy Dinosaur Field Notes 1511

Hurricane Patricia Storm Surge

On Thursday October 29th the remnants of Hurricane Patricia rolled through the Maritimes. The storm coincided with a particularly high tide (14.1 meters) that was forecast to occur in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. The storm surge resulting from the post-hurricane storm caused damage along the Parrsboro Shore of the Bay of Fundy. Spencer’s Island saw large gravel movement and coastal flooding. Waves in the Minas Basin (Bay of Fundy) were also large and pounded against the cliffs at Two Islands. This storm battered the sandstone cliffs at Wasson Bluff, where the dinosaur research site is located.

The Museum received information from D. Nardini, a private mineral collector who had visited the shore after the storm. The cliffs were washed clean and there appeared to be some recent erosion from the storm surge. Dr. Tim Fedak, a palaeontologist and the curator at the Fundy Geological Museum went to examine the cliffs after the storm surge.

NOTE: The site at Wasson Bluff is protected by Special Places Protection Act. No one is to carry out any work around the cliffs, with all fossil collection prohibited, except with an approved Nova Scotia Heritage Research Permit.

Halloween Dinosaur Discovery

Fedak visited the research site in the morning of Halloween Day 2015.  The initial task at the Research Site there was to capture several high-resolution photographs of the cliff to be used to create 3D scans of the cliff surface. More on this in the future.

Tim Fedak at the Dinosaur Research Site

After completing the photographs for 3D scanning, Fedak examined the site of the “Princeton Quarry” where a mass accumulation of dinosaur skeletons has been recovered during previous research. The sandstone cliff at the research site was washed clean of all debris – and new dinosaur bone was visible on the surface of the cliff. A new discovery!

The sandstone cliff at the research site was washed clean of all debris – and new dinosaur bone was visible on the surface of the cliff. A new discovery!

The weather forecast was calling for rain, so to prevent further erosion of the specimen a channel was cut in the sandstone. The channel around the specimen would direct rain flowing down the cliff around the specimen.

Over the next several days the edges of the Fundy dinosaur bones were carefully exposed. During one of these trips, a high school student (Timo Sanders) and his father (Frans) assisted with some of the early excavation work. An excellent opportunity for Timo to learn first hand how palaeontologists work to collect new fossil specimens.

A highschool student (Timo Sanders) and his father observed and assisted with fossil collecting for one afternoon..

After several trips to the research site, the channel around the specimen was carefully expanded to allow a small block to be removed. Watch a video showing some of the work done to create the channel around the dinosaur bones.


The fossil bones and sandstone block were then covered with a plaster and burlap field jacket (like a cast for a broken arm), which protected the bone and sandstone block. A large and wide chisel was used to separate the block of sandstone containing the 200 million year old dinosaur bones.

The block was then removed and taken to the Fundy Geological Museum. The new dinosaur bones will be  studied in the Fossil Research Lab. Visitors to the Museum will be able look into the Fossil Research Lab and see the block being worked on by museum staff and volunteers.  Visit the Fundy Geological Museum next spring/summer to see the latest updates on this new discovery.




Five Islands Arch – Before and After

Five Islands Arch – Before and After

For many years, the Five Islands Arch has been an iconic scene on the Parrsboro Shore of the Bay of Fundy. Sometime in the evening on October 19th, the Arch on Long Island collapsed (Chronicle Herald)

Residents from Five Islands and other visitors will share information about the Long Island Arch, at a Community Meeting scheduled for November 1 (1 – 4 pm) at the Fundy Geological Museum.  For more information on that event see the Facebook Event posting.


The Arch and Canada’s Oldest Dinosaurs

The rock that makes up Five Islands is basalt, a hard igneous type of rock that forms when molten magma cools. The basalt at Five Islands was formed 200 million years ago, when Canada’s oldest dinosaurs were roaming this area. The dinosaur footprints are also found at Five Islands in the sandstone deposited above the basalt.

The basalt rock at Five Islands formed when magma flooded to the earth’s surface when the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. The magma (called the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province) covered a huge area 5000 km x 2500 km. The extrusion of this large amount of magma 200 million years ago caused a global mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period.

There were also massive earthquakes in the Bay of Fundy at this time as the supercontinent continued to separate. The cooled magma (basalt) all along the Parrsboro Shore of the Bay of Fundy was cut by earthquake faults, forming weak zones in the basalt rock. The earthquakes 200 million years ago caused a weak-zone in the rocks at Long Island, and also cut through the bones of the dinosaur bones found in the area.

Before and After with Runners – North Side of Long Island

The above two images are taken from a slightly different vantage point (low tide and high tide). Although the left and right edges of the image are not lined up, it is possible to line up the rock surface near the arch. The view of the arch with the runners was found on Google Earth, the photo of the arch after the collapse was taken October 22 (Fundy Geological Museum).

Before and After Collapse – South Side of Long Island

The above slider images show the collapse from the south side of the island. Most of the rock has fallen on south side of the island. The photo taken after the collapse shows a large fault slikenside surface on the left edge of the collapse.

NOTE: The island is private property and remains dangerous due to ongoing erosion of the cliff until it stabilizes.

LIKE the Fundy Geological Museum Facebook Page to learn more.


Coastal Erosion and Drawing

Coastal Erosion and Drawing

The Wasson Bluff site is designated under the Special Places Protection Act (1989) as a protected place that prohibits any collection of fossils or minerals without obtaining a Heritage Research Permit. The following work was carried out under an approved Heritage Research Permit (2015).

Status of the Cliff Exposures

The erosion of the coastal cliffs at Wasson Bluff provide an opportunity for discovery of new fossils, including new bones from Canada’s oldest dinosaurs.  The site is monitored regularly by researchers at the Fundy Geological Museum. The monitoring and collecting of fossil material is justified due to the extreme richness of the site and importance for representing the time immediately after the global mass extinction that occurred at the end of the Triassic Period.

  • Careful collecting of small vertebrate fossils provides an opportunity to establish a rich stratigraphic record of the animal diversity following the mass extinction event at the end of the Triassic Period.
  • The ongoing erosion of the sandstone cliffs exposes a rich fossil record, including bones of dinosaurs, lizards (Clevosaurus), mammal-like reptiles (tritylodont and trithelodont), as well as semionotid (fresh water) fish and hybodont shark teeth and fin spines.

Drawing and Mapping Fieldwork

To document the location (stratigraphic layer) of the fossils, researchers create drawings, maps and take photographs of the cliff. The location is then determined by measuring the height in meters from a base layer, such as the contact with the underlying basalt.

Recent field work has begun to establish a new map of fossil bearing layers. Future work will also establish a high-resolution digital archive of the surface exposures and ongoing erosional processes. The information will be of value for studies of fossil material as well as identification of features related to coastal erosion during a period of climate change and rising sea level.

Scientists that do fieldwork often draw research sketches when conducting research. Researchers also use sophisticated photography and 3D scanning technology to document and study the coastal cliffs, but drawing is an activity that helps researchers observe important details. Below is an example of a recent field sketch done to document the piles of erosional debris at the dinosaur research site.

Field Sketch and Photo

Move slider across the image to see a field sketch and comparable photograph of the dinosaur bone bed strata and erosion debris visible July 2015.

Caution Around Cliffs

The coastal cliffs in Nova Scotia are actively eroding and caution should be used when walking near cliffs. Large scale collapse of cliffs can occur, but injury can occur from even a small rock falling from the cliff. Learn how to practice coastal cliff safety. Stay away from debris piles at the base of a cliff, as these signal increased danger due to active erosion.