AN ANCIENT FOREST UNDER OUR FEET (August 6/04)

Out on the mudflats between Evangeline Beach and Boot Island, near that treacherous channel called “the guzzle,” are remnants of an ancient forest of pines and hemlocks.

Some three to four thousand years ago the ancient forest was destroyed by rising sea levels; today the remains of the forest, stumps and fallen logs, can only be seen at low tide.

Recently marine biologist Sherman Bleakney told me about the guzzle when I spent a morning with him examining the remains of an old forest. Unlike the trees in the guzzle, these are located about 8 miles from the sea at Upper Dyke. Like the guzzle stand, however, these trees also were destroyed by rising sea levels and were eventually covered by silt.

The old trees at Upper Dyke lie under some 12 feet of dykeland and their presence was suspected but never confirmed. They were discovered recently when major renovations were made to a sewage treatment plant situated on the south bank of the Canard River several miles from Kentville. Leon Barron happened to be driving by the excavation site when he noticed what appeared to be a large tree trunk sticking up out of a pile of debris. If he hadn’t stopped to check it out, we may never have known that the old forest had been uncovered.

As mentioned, the old trees at Upper Dyke are part of the forest that’s visible at the guzzle. Sherman Bleakney estimates that the trees in Upper Dyke were killed by rising sea levels at least 500 and perhaps as long ago as 700 years ago. The guzzle area trees were killed by rising sea levels much earlier due to the sea bottom being lower there. From Upper Dyke, which is 19 feet above sea level, the land gradually drops off into a deep hole that’s the Minas Basin

Several years ago a waterline was being laid between Kentville and Camp Aldershot. To run the waterline under the Cornwallis River a tunnel had to be bored some 10 to 12 feet under the riverbed. During the tunnelling, workmen dug up segments of tree trunks and brush. This was reported at the time but the news that trees, the remnants of an old forest, had once existed in Kentville didn’t cause much of a stir at the time.

We can assume that the trees discovered under the Cornwallis River were part of a ubiquitous ancient forest. In fact, Sherman Bleakney says that wherever there’s dykeland in Kings County, an ancient forest can be found under it.

If you think this is unusual, the picture painted by naturalist Merritt Gibson is even more interesting. Mr. Gibson tells me that under the dykeland are vast lakes and streams. Gibson says that much of the dykelands is literally floating on these lakes. He also told me about the discovery of ancient trees under the soil when a highway bridge just outside Canning was being replaced. When these trees were killed by rising sea levels they were 200 years old. Carbon dating of a long-buried tree uncovered out on the Canard dykes indicate it had been destroyed by the sea some 800 years ago.

 

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