In 2000, the global stratotype for the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician systems (circa 500 million years ago) was designated at Green Point, Newfoundland by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
In June, we went to see it.
The layers of rock look like a giant grey mille feuille pastry flipped on its side. They used to lay flat. Each layer was mud and debris that gathered and settled on the floor of an ancient ocean and tectonic forces caused the shift over millions of years, tilting the rocks. In this photo, the older layers (Cambrian) are to the right and the younger layers (Ordovician) are to the left.
It's kind of unbelievable.
The rock layers run in straight lines out into the North Atlantic.
They're different colours and shades of grey, white, orange, black. There are even some small rogue bushy plants growing in the formations. Little yellow flowers peeking through the green sticking out from a wall of rock.
While tramping around like six year olds, marveling at the natural history, thin plates of shale crunching beneath our shoes, my husband and I encountered only one other couple.
"Makes you want to redo your kitchen counters doesn't it?" the woman said.
I guess different people see different things.
I received a variety of responses when telling people about Gros Morne. From "Where?" to "Oh, I've always wanted to go there" to "What an amazing place"
The rocks in the Tablelands are the colour of peanut butter because it is chock full of iron and actually oxidizing with the oxygen in the air. If you smash a rock apart, like I did, it's a dark green black on the inside.
The excellent CBC radio documentary, Bones of the Earth, explains the tectonic stuff with real geologists and goes into detail about the Tablelands.
A few more things about Gros Morne:
If you go to Gros Morne, stay at Seaside Suites in Woody Point. Superb hospitality and accommodation. Waterfront. The best cinnamon buns I've ever eaten. Fishing rods come with the room.
Originally the Sea Breeze Lounge, the place is also a literary landmark featured in Project Bookmark in a poem by Al Pittman.
Also of literary note, the Writers at Woody Point festival finished its 10th anniversary last week that included authors like Cathy Marie Buchanan and Will Ferguson.
The gift shop/cafe/reception at Seaside Suites offers everything from starfish pendants to books by local authors to plaid pyjama pants with Newfoundland stitched on the bum.
Fun fact: Two days in, we learned the owner of the suites was also the mayor of Woody Point.
Getting there. West Jet has seasonal direct flights to Deer Lake. On our return trip everyone seemed to know each other. A few people were going to the same wedding in Toronto, a young family was en route to Disneyland for the first time. Or, go to Cornerbrook and drive north.
Greens are a little hard to come by. Foraging aplenty though, so do some research on edible wild plants if you want to go that route. And eat at Seaside Restaurant. The place boasts excellence seafood and service and features in The National Geographic Traveler's Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Where to Eat in Canada and the New York Times.
We did three hikes in four days. It would probably take a couple of weeks to get through them all. And to do the boat tour through Western Brook Pond.
Note: icebergs, in addition to the stellar Quidi Vidi beer, can been seen (a record year this year for sightings apparently) from St. Anthony, a five hour drive from Woody Point.
It's slow and relaxing and everyone says hello to each other.
There are moose. Rick Mercer did a segment about tagging moose. The woman at the tourist info desk warned us about moose. The rental car guy said, "Watch for moose." We watched, scanned the hills and trees and never saw one.
Maybe next time.