Day 4 - September 23, 2011 - Havre St. Pierre, Canada

By Stefan Kredel, Geologist

Co-ordinates: 50° 14’ 12” N, 63° 36’ 31” W
Air Temperature: 10,5°C
Pressure: 1018 hPa

It is Equinox today; so worldwide the sun is 12 hours above the horizon wherever someone would be, anywhere between the North and South Pole! Here it is also the start of autumn. Back home today the spring starts, as I live in the southern hemisphere.

Today we were in Havre St. Pierre. The main attraction is the Mingan Archipelago National Park. Last week we had to cancel the afternoon tour due to strong winds, so I was pretty excited for today. The weather looked good, no wind at all, and this time we had both excursions in the morning. I was on the tour with the first group, and so I left with 32 guests and 3 colleagues at 07:30 on a local boat to the “Ile Quarry”.

The main attraction in the National Park is the geology. There are some so-called monoliths, and if you fantasize a lot (or maybe have some of the local drinks …) you can see different figures in them. But it was not only about geology, I have to admit.

So after a 45-minute drive we arrived at “Ile Quarry”. We started a 2,5 km walk on a nicely prepared boardwalk. Our local ranger explained the different kind of habitats we were walking through and talked about all the plants we saw. But the main attraction was still the geology. The rocks of the island were limestone, which had an age of just less than 500 million years, so, Ordovician period. In those limestones many fossils could be seen, like ammonites and trilobites.

After the last ice age, during the isostatic rebound and the erosion through all the rivers caused by the melt water, the monoliths were “produced”. And still in our days this process is ongoing. Those monoliths are the leftovers of the former limestone plateau, which was affected by erosion. Those leftovers are columns, and with quite some imagination you can see sculptures in them.

For me, personally, it was less about these monoliths and more about the limestone and its fossils. The whole rock formation shows the remains of a former warm shallow sea, which existed something like nearly 500 million years ago. In those days there was still no life outside of the oceans!

After a two-hour walk we had a small snack. And as we were eating the sandwiches, a fox showed up. Obviously we didn’t feed him; however, he seemed not too happy about this decision …

We visited one more island, “Ile Niapiskau”. Beside some funny sculptures amongst the monoliths, there was a display of different fossils. So we saw the evidence of life forms, which were nearly 500 million years old! Who knows who will see remains of us just 1,000 years from now … always and still impressive to me!

After the visit we went back to the settlement, which mainly lives from mining. They mine Ilmenite (FeTiO3) to get Titanium. The mine is about 45 km out of town and employs about 300 people. Havre St. Pierre has only about 3,000 inhabitants. Next to the ship there were big piles of Ilmenite, ready to be loaded on ships.

The Recap was rather short, as we had organized a small cocktail party with local music ashore. My job was to be with my Austrian colleague Hans-Peter, the bartender. Funny decision, but we liked it. And we could offer, beside red and white wine and water, six different kinds of beers. I didn’t even try to test them all …