As you walk east along the shore at Seatown in Dorset, you reach Ridge Cliff from which numerous boulders have fallen over the years, and accumulated across the beach and into the water. What is most interesting is the great variety of shapes, colours, textures, and compositions. They represent all the different strata that make up the 80 metre high cliffs.
Part 4 of a series of photographs taken at Fourchu Head on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, showing details of rocky outcrops and boulders composed of very ancient Neoproterozoic volcanic rock. They are all made from volcanic ash that was spewed from the volcanoes together with shattered pieces of rock that broke away from the bedrock with the explosive force of the explosion.
Volcanic rocks belonging to the Fourchu and Main-à-Dieu Sequences can easily be seen on the coastline to the north and south of Louisbourg in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. They are around 570 million years old and are part of a complex of Late Precambrian to Early Ordovician rocks largely resulting from the activities of a series of volcanoes that erupted on the Avalonia terrane at the margin of Gondwana.
The volcanic rocks at Fourchu Head are similar in age and type to those at Kennington Cove and Rochefort Point, including pyroclastic rocks composed of fine fragments and particles like ash and crystal tuffs. Additionally, the tuffs contain some very large pyroclastic blocks violently ejected from vents during one of the eruptions. The pebbles derived from the rocks at this site demonstrate an amazing range of colours in every shade of purple, red and green which are particularly evident on wet days.
This is the first of several posts featuring the fascinating array of colours, patterns, and textures in these rocky outcrops, boulders, and pebbles at Fourchu Head.
[We stayed at the most excellent Louisbourg Harbour Inn while we explored this part of Cape Breton Island.]
Atlantic Geoscience Society (2001) The Last Billion Years – A Geological History of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, Nova Scotia, ISBN 1-55109-351-0.
Barr, S. M. (1993) Geochemistry and tectonic setting of late Precambrian volcanic and plutonic rocks in southeastern Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 30, 1147-1154.
Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (2014) Four Billion Years and Counting – Canada’s Geological Heritage, Nimbus Publishing and Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, ISBN 978-1-55109-996-5.
Donohoe, H. V. Jnr, White, C. E., Raeside, R. P. and Fisher, B. E, (2005) Geological Highway Map of Nova Scotia, 3rd Edition, Atlantic Geoscience Society Special Publication #1.
Hickman Hild, M. and Barr, S. M. (2015) Geology of Nova Scotia, A Field Guide, Touring through time at 48 scenic sites, Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. ISBN978-1-927099-43-8
Keppie, J. D., Dostal, J., and Murphy, J. B. (1979) Petrology of the Late Precambrian Fourchu Group in the Louisbourg Area, Cape Breton Island, Paper 79-1, Nova Scotia Department of Mines & Energy.
There were no other visitors on the dull day that we turned off the Cabot Trail to look at the Corney Brook shore in the western Cape Breton Highlands. There was very low cloud cover, and it began to rain after a while, but there were treasures to be found – at least if you are like me and are fascinated by beach stones. Three main rock types are found at Corney Brook. The oldest are Neoproterozoic-Ordovician granitic pluton rocks of the Bras D’Or Terrane. Ordovician-Silurian metasedimentary rocks of the Aspy Terrane are slightly younger. And red sandstones and conglomerates belonging to the Horton Group come from the Devonian to Carboniferous Period.
The stones on the beach include all three types and probably a lot more due to the glaciation of the area. I wish I could identify and tell you the exact composition of each photographed pebble, stone or boulder – but that is tough for an amateur to determine. There is a great variety of colour, pattern, and texture to the stones which look dull when dry but amazing when wet. They include igneous and metamorphosed rocks like granite, gneiss, schist as well as sedimentary rocks like sandstone. It is possible to see just how difficult it is to not only understand the texts but also to convert into straight forward language for the non-specialist reader from the following detailed description that I discovered about the Corney Brook schist by Jamieson et al. (1987).
Comey Brook schist (unit 3d)
Medium- to high-grade pelitic and semi-pelitic schists, with minor marble and psammite, occurring on the Cheticamp River, Corney Brook, the northeastern end of Jumping Brook, and the central highlands near Calumruadh and Coinneach brooks, are referred to here as the Corney Brook schist. This unit is equivalent to the “medium grade belt” of Craw (1984). Pelitic and semi-pelitic members of the unit characteristically contain coarse staurolite, biotite, and garnet porphyroblasts, with kyanite at the highest grade, in a phyllitic to schistose matrix. Medium- to high-grade marbles, quartzites, albite schists and hornblendite recognized in the Corney Brook area (Plint et al., 1986) have not yet been identified south of the Cheticamp River. Centimetre- to metre-scale compositional layering, folded by tight to isoclinal folds, is interpreted as transposed bedding. Based on bulk compositions and rare relict primary textures, the Corney Brook schist is interpreted to have formed as a suite of clastic sediments interlayerd with felsic tuffs and minor basic flows – that is, it appears to represent the higher grade equivalents of units 3a-3c.
The softer sandstone cliffs are being eroded back by the sea. This has implications for the ground higher up and the roadway further back from the shore. For this reason a sea defence structure has been emplaced to protect the base of the cliffs. This is a gabion made of wire cages full of large beach stones and boulders that are stacked up into a wall, positioned at the most vulnerable part of the shore.
More pictures of the beach at Clarke Head showing the multiplicity of rock colours, patterns, and textures of the boulders, broken rocks, and small shards derived from the jagged cliffs of the fault zone. Looking at these photographs now, I am transported right back to the great time I had exploring this location – one of many that I visited on my rock hounding tour of Nova Scotia earlier this year.
Here are some more pictures of the boulders at the eastern end of Charmouth Beach in Dorset, England, all exhibiting natural fracture patterns in sedimentary rock belonging to the Jurassic Charmouth Mudstone Formation. I’m not sure which particular layer they come from but it could be the Black Ven Marl Member. Perhaps someone can help me out with the identification? These images show the boulders at the foot of the cliff adjacent to the landslip or mud slide. In contrast to the dark boulders at the water’s edge shown in the previous post, these are dry and therefore lighter in colour.
I wonder if these boulders could have been the inspiration for an artwork in the sculpture park in Tout Quarry on the Isle of Portland featured in an earlier post.
The shoreline at Charmouth looked particularly dramatic on this April visit as storm clouds periodically burst and blue skies were only intermittent. Charmouth Beach lies on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England. The rocks are mainly Jurassic Period Charmouth Mudstone Formation. The character of the cliffs changes as you walk from west to east because the sedimentary rock layers gently slope and disappear beneath the beach surface level while new rock strata are freshly revealed at eye level. The predominance of softer rocks has led to a great deal of cliff slippage, and this means that the chronological sequence of the layers is frequently obscured by fallen debris; it makes it difficult to distinguish which rocks are which. The numerous rockfalls regularly contribute to the boulders on the beach and in this post I feature some boulders that exhibit some interesting fracture patterns. Of course these are not the only rock type on the beach, and I will post some more photographs of other patterns and textures in boulders and in the cliff face on the eastern half of Charmouth Beach in due course.
The cliffs are eroding in many places along the Dorset coast, particularly where the rocks are soft. This results in land slips and mud slides. It has always been going on but in recent years the erosional processes seem to have accelerated along with changing weather conditions. At Seatown on the coast near Chideock in Dorset, large boulders have been imported to protect the shore from the sea adjacent to the Anchor Inn that sits at the mouth of the River Char. I cannot name the rock types represented in the rip-rap for certain since they are not local to the area and have been chosen specifically because they are harder and more resistant than the cliffs on this beach. I am not even sure that they were quarried in Britain. However, some of them remind me a lot of Carboniferous limestone with fossils, calcite and haematite inclusions. Anyway, they are really interesting and well worth a closer look. The patterns, colours, and textures are amazing. I would like to visit again when the rocks are wet and the more subtle colour variations would be highlighted.