Joggins Fossil Cliffs World Heritage Site
Falaises fossilifères de Joggins, Canada
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Joggins is a Canadian rural community located in western Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. On July 7, 2008 a 15 km length of the coast comprising 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 large fish weir, a named 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.
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first decades of the 20th century primarily fed 2 electrical generating stations near Maccan, however these plants were outdated by the 1950s and the mines closed shortly after the Springhill Mining Disaster in 1958.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.
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 reptile in the history of life, and thus the oldest known amniote, the group that includes all vertebrates that have the capacity to reproduce free of water, comprising all reptiles, the extinct dinosaurs and their kin, the birds, as well as mammals. In 2002, Hylonomus lyelli was named the provincial fossil of Nova Scotia.
Trackways are preserved at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. The tree-like lycopodiophyte Sigillaria is preserved in situ.
In 2007, a 15 km length of the coast comprising 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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