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Joggins Fossil Cliffs World Heritage Site

Falaises fossilifères de Joggins, Canada

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Description

Joggins is a Canadian rural community located in western Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. On July 7, 2008 a 15 km length of the coast constituting the Joggins Fossil Cliffs was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The area was known to the Mi'kmaq as "Chegoggins" meaning place of the large fish weir, a name modified by French and English settlers to Joggins. Situated on the Cumberland Basin, a sub-basin of the Bay of Fundy, Joggins was a long established coal mining area. Its coal seams which are exposed along the shore of the Cumberland Basin were exploited as early as 1686 by local Acadian settlers and by the British garrison at Annapolis Royal in 1715.

The first commercial mine was set up by Major Henry Cope in 1731, but was destroyed by the Mi'kmaq in November 1732. Samuel McCully opened a mine in 1819 with much of his production being shipped by sea to Saint John, New Brunswick and other markets, but went out of business in 1821 having mined less than 600 tons.

Large-scale industrialization came to Cumberland County under the General Mining Association, which held the rights to the area's coal fields. Commencing at Joggins in 1847, production increased after the construction of the Intercolonial Railway in the 1870s, followed by the 1887 opening of the Joggins Railway, a 12-mile rail line from mines at Joggins to the Intercolonial mainline at Maccan, through River Hebert.

Old coal mine working are eroding out of the sea-cliffs at Joggins. Recently dendrochronology had been employed to date the timber pit props. A late nineteenth century age has been inferred, with most props dating from the 1860s and 1870s.

The coal mines attracted a diverse number of workers, some as young as 12-years-old. French-speaking Acadians returned from New Brunswick, and were joined by Irish and Scottish immigrants. Joggins Mines expanded rapidly to include three churches, two cemeteries, a hotel, a roller ring, movie theater, fire department, general store, post office, railway station and school. Coal mining grew in such importance that the community was incorporated as a town in 1919, a status that it maintained until 1949, when the decline of local coal mines resulted in out migration and economic decline.

Coal mined at Joggins during the first decades of the 20th century primarily fed two electrical generating stations near Maccan, however these plants were outdated by the 1950s and the mines closed shortly after the Springhill Mining Disaster in 1958. Rail service was abandoned to the community in the early 1960s.

The Joggins area was well known in the 19th and early 20th century for the quarrying of limestone grinding wheels, lumber, fishing and dairy production. The Bay of Fundy also boosts a rich tradition of shipbuilding. In the 1800s, wooden coastal schooners were built on the shore to carry coal and mill stones to the United States. Several of the older homes in the Jogggins area display the sturdy, practical, yet handsome woodworking of craftsmen trained in shipbuilding. Many of the beaches along the Bay of Fundy are still littered with stone ballast from the hulls of old ships. Today in addition to tourism, the area is known for the commercial cultivation of wild blueberries and agricultural food processing.

The roads and bridges to Joggins were improved in the 1980s and 1990s and area has become popular for tourism, summer homes and retirees. Joggins is a destination on the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Glooscap Trail, a spectacular twisting drive of soaring cliffs and deep valleys along the Bay of Fundy. Mi'kmaq legend tells of the a mythical transformer, Glooscap, who created Nova Scotia and controlled the great tides with his magical powers. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world. Visitors can walk on the ocean floor at low tide, or go rafting on the tidal bore. The high tides have shaped the landscape into one of singular beauty; pristine beaches, dramatic rock outcrops, sea cliffs, waterfalls, and rugged forests. The Joggins area is ecologically diverse and rich in wildlife. Eagles, osprey, and moose are common sights. In the fall the area is popular with birdwatchers; the rich marshes, originally diked by the Acadians in the 1600s, attract hundreds of thousands of migrating birds.

Joggins has been known for its fossils since the early 19th century. The fossils are found in the exposed Pennsylvanian coal seams in the cliffs that overlook the shore. The fossils consist mainly of ferns, prehistoric trees and early sea life. The daily high tide erodes the cliff, the stone fossils fall out of the coal and are left on the shore when the tide recedes. Fossils have also been found in the area deep shaft mines and in drilling core samples hundreds of feet down. Joggins is one of the easiest places in the world to find early Pennsylvanian coal fossils. In 2008, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs were designated as a UNESCO natural heritage site. A fossil centre museum was built on the fossil cliff to display the fossils.

Joggins is famous for its record of fossils dating to the Pennsylvanian "Coal Age" of earth history, approximately 310 million years ago.

The dramatic coastal exposure of the Coal Age rocks, known as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, are continually hewn and freshly exposed by the actions of the tides in the Cumberland Basin. Geologists were first attracted to this locality in the late 1820s with Abraham Gesner, Richard Brown, Thomas Jackson and Francis Alger all making important observations. A little later, a party from Williams College, Massachusetts became the first student party to study Joggins for educational reasons in 1835. However, the true fame of Joggins dates to the mid-nineteenth century and the visits in 1842 and 1852 by Charles Lyell, the founder of modern geology and author of Principles of Geology. In his Elements of Geology (1871), Lyell proclaimed the Joggins exposure of Coal Age rocks and fossils to be "the finest example in the world".

The fossil record at Joggins figures in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and played a role in the Great Oxford Debate of 1860 between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley.

Much of the early work to document the fossil record at Joggins was by Nova Scotian geologist Sir William Dawson (1820–1899), who had a close personal and working relationship with his friend and mentor Charles Lyell. Much of Dawson's collection resides at the Redpath Museum of McGill University. Other notable nineteenth century geologists who worked at Joggins include Abraham Gesner, inventor of kerosene, and William Logan, who measured the cliffs bed by bed for the Geological Survey of Canada.

In 1852 Lyell and Dawson made a celebrated discovery of tetrapod fossils entombed within an upright tree at Coal Mine Point. Subsequent investigations by Dawson led to the discovery of one of the most important fossils in the history of science, Hylonomus lyelli, which remains the earliest known sauropsid (reptile) in the history of life, but not oldest known amniote, the group that includes all vertebrates that can reproduce out of water. In 2002, Hylonomus lyelli was named the provincial fossil of Nova Scotia. Another vital early tetrapod fossil has been found here, the earliest synapsid, Protoclepsydrops, which is actually earlier than Hylonomus.p39

Trackways are preserved at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. The tree-like lycopodiophyte Sigillaria is preserved in situ.

There has been a surge in interest in Joggins over the past two decades. Recent geologic work has been primarily coordinated by Martin Gibling, Professor of Sedimentology at Dalhousie University. During this interval, Gibling supervised and mentored a number of PhD students and postdocs including John Calder, Howard Falcon-Lang, Sarah Davies, and Mike Rygel.

Amateur fossil collectors have also made major contributions to our knowledge. For example, Don Reid, a long-time resident of Joggins, donated his entire collection of Joggins fossils to the Joggins Fossil Institute. Many of his specimens are on display in the Joggins Fossil Centre.

In 2009, palaeontologist Melissa Grey was hired as the first scientific curator for the Joggins Fossil Institute (JFI). The Joggins Fossil Institute continues to conduct and foster research at the site and hosts international paleontologists and geologists and conference field-trips. JFI also has a Science Advisory Committee comprising scientists from Maritime universities and government departments. This is a volunteer committee whose mission is to: provide expert and comprehensive advice and support to the JFI on scientific matters respecting the development, conservation and management of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs property, the content of the Joggins Fossil Centre's programs, scientific research related to the fossil cliffs, and scientific issues arising from the site's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Committee also assists in reporting on the status of monitoring programs and state of conservation of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs property.

In 2007, a 14.7 km length of the coast constituting the Joggins Fossil Cliffs was nominated by Canada to UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site. It was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List in on July 7, 2008.

Coordinates: 45°41′30.78″N 64°26′36.85″W / 45.6918833°N 64.4435694°W / 45.6918833; -64.4435694

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Official Record

  • WDPA ID903133
  • NameJoggins Fossil Cliffs
  • Original NameFalaises fossilifères de Joggins
  • Country / TerritoryCAN
  • Sub locationCA-NS
  • IUCN CategoryNot ApplicableWhat is this?
  • English DesignationWorld Heritage Site
  • Designation TypeInternational
  • StatusInscribed
  • Status Year2008
  • Reported Area km26.89
  • Marinefalse
  • Governance TypeNot Reported
  • International Criteria(viii)
  • Management AuthorityNot Reported
  • Management Plan URLNot Reported

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Official Data Provider

IUCN (2011)

Citation:
IUCN\UNEP-WCMC (2011) Updates to World Heritage Sites. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK.

The boundaries and names shown, and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

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