The ge­ol­ogy of Mad Rock

The Compass - - OPINION -

“Thick beds of tur­bidite tilt along the shore­line at Mad Rock near Bay Roberts.” Who would have ever known? Please don’t mis­un­der­stand me: I’m not a ge­ol­o­gist, nor the son of a ge­ol­o­gist. What I’m do­ing is quot­ing Martha Hick­man Hild, whose ge­o­log­i­cal ad­ven­tures have taken her to Europe, Africa, Green­land, and else­where, ob­vi­ously in­clud­ing Mad Rock.

In her re­cent book, “Ge­ol­ogy of New­found­land: Tour­ing Through Time at 48 Scenic Sites,” she takes read­ers on a cap­ti­vat­ing jour­ney through mil­lions of years of Earth his­tory. We visit lo­ca­tions both on and off the beaten path, trac­ing the is­land’s story of van­ished oceans, col­lid­ing con­ti­nents and an­cient life, cap­tured by the ap­peal and drama of the rocks at each site.

Some years ago, I found my own Shangri-La, a par­a­disi­a­cal utopia. In our oc­ca­sional need to es­cape life’s de­mands, my wife and I drive to the lo­cal haven known as Mad Rock. We ei­ther re­main in the car and “view the land­scape o’er” or me­an­der the Shore­line Her­itage Walk, to seek soli­tude, to com­mune with Na­ture and with God, to re­new our minds, to re­vamp our vi­sion, to re­vi­tal­ize our life, and to re­or­ga­nize our thoughts.

I must ad­mit, though, that on our for­ays into this idyl, I have never given se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to the ac­tual rocks that make up the site. That is, un­til I picked up Hild’s field guide.

“Mad Rock and the rest of the penin­sula at Bay Roberts,” she points out, “are part of a group of sed­i­ments called the Drook for­ma­tion that were de­posited in such a basin as tur­bidites. All this hap­pened fol­low­ing the abrupt end of the Gask­iers glacia­tion.” Time for a def­i­ni­tion. Tur­bidite is a sed­i­men­tary rock type de­posited in deep ocean water by tur­bu­lent, avalanche-like cur­rents of liqui­fied sed­i­ment flow­ing down the con­ti­nen­tal slope.

In her re­cent book,

“Ge­ol­ogy of New­found­land: Tour­ing Through Time at 48 Scenic Sites,” she takes read­ers on

a cap­ti­vat­ing jour­ney through mil­lions of years of

Earth his­tory.

The rea­son this site has been in­ten­sively stud­ied is be­cause, in Hild’s words, “it was part of the en­vi­ron­ment in which Edi­acaran life forms evolved and lived.”

In­deed, the Three Sis­ters nat­u­ral rock for­ma­tion, a well-known land­mark on the Shore­line Her­itage Walk, are the eroded rem­nants of a tur­bidite layer from the Edi­acaran pe­riod. Enough ge­ol­ogy for now. The ap­peal of Hi ld’s book is en­hanced by the in­clu­sion of such prac­ti­cal mat­ters as driv­ing di­rec­tions, where to park and walking di­rec­tions.

So, in or­der to reach Mad Rock, “From Route 70 in Bay Roberts, fol­low Water Street all the way along the penin­sula. Signs for Scenic Mad Rock point the way. The road emerges into an open land­scape near the park­ing lo­ca­tion.”

Hild even pin­points the park­ing lo­ca­tion: N47.61769, W53.21505. “There is,” she says, “a gravel park­ing area at the end of the paved road. (A gravel road con­tin­ues from there to ad­di­tional park­ing at the point.)

“From the park­ing area, fol­low the gravel track to the point and around to the right as it fol­lows the shore. Just be­fore the track crosses a stream, there is good ac­cess to the cob­ble beach. Walk left onto the beach and dou­ble back along it to the out­crop lo­ca­tion.

“The paths at Mad Rock are part of an ex­ten­sive sys­tem of trails in Bay Roberts, the Shore­line Her­itage Walk. Maps of the trail sys­tem are posted at ac­cess points along Water Street.”

I don’t re­gard my­self a greedy per­son, so I’m more than will­ing to share my Shangri-La – Mad Rock – with the gen­eral pub­lic.

Per­haps Mad Rock won’t ap­peal to you as it does to us. Then, why not plan a trip around an­other lo­ca­tion in this book? Per­haps the Hum­ber Zone will pique your in­ter­est. Hild calls Flower’s Cove a trop­i­cal par­adise. If you de­cide on Rocky Har­bour, you’re “ahead of the plow.”

The Dun­nage Zone re­veals such var­ied sites as More­ton’s Har­bour (the scene of erup­tions and in­tru­sions) and Goodyear’s Cove (a fiery caul­dron). The Gan­der Zone opens up Mar­ga­ree (tec­tonic taffy) and Green­spond (melts in mo­tion). Fi­nally, the Avalon Zone ex­poses Manuels River (in the base­ment) and Bell Is­land (Farewell, Gond­wana).

Which­ever site you choose, Hild is an in­dis­pens­able and re­li­able guide to the rocks that make up our is­land home.

“Ge­ol­ogy of New­found­land: Tour­ing Through Time at 48 Scenic Sites” is pub­lished by Boul­der Pub­li­ca­tions of Por­tu­gal Cove-St. Philip’s. Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at


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