Joggins, Nova Scotia
Joggins is a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 rural community located in western Cumberland County
Cumberland County, Nova Scotia
Cumberland County is a county in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.-History:The name Cumberland was applied by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Monckton to the captured Fort Beauséjour on June 18, 1755 in honour of the third son of King George II, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, victor at...

, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

. On July 7, 2008 a 15 km length of the coast constituting the Joggins Fossil Cliffs was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List.


The area was known to the Mi'kmaq as "Chegoggins" meaning place of the large fish weir, a named modified by French and English settlers to Joggins.
Situated on the Cumberland Basin, a sub-basin of the Bay of Fundy
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is a bay on the Atlantic coast of North America, on the northeast end of the Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with a small portion touching the U.S. state of Maine...

, Joggins was a long established coal mining
Coal mining
The goal of coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and since the 1880s has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States,...

 area. Its coal seams which are exposed along the shore of the Cumberland Basin were exploited as early as 1686 by local Acadian
The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia . Acadia was a colony of New France...

 settlers and by the British garrison at Annapolis Royal in 1715.

The first commercial mine was set up by Major Henry Cope in 1731, but was destroyed by the Mi'kmaq in November 1732. Samuel McCully opened a mine in 1819 with much of his production being shipped by sea to Saint John
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

, New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

 and other markets, but went out of business in 1821 having mined less than 600 tons.

Large scale industrialization came to Cumberland County under the General Mining Association, which held the rights to the area's coal fields. Commencing at Joggins in 1847, production increased after the construction of the Intercolonial Railway in the 1870s, followed by the 1887 opening of the Joggins Railway, a 12 mile rail line from mines at Joggins to the Intercolonial mainline at Maccan
Maccan, Nova Scotia
Maccan is a community in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, located in Cumberland County .-References:*...

, through River Hebert
River Hebert, Nova Scotia
River Hebert is a village on the River Hebert in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, Canada.It is approximately 25 kilometres southwest of Amherst...


Old coal mine working are eroding out of the sea-cliffs at Joggins. Recently dendrochronology had been employed to date the timber pit props. A late nineteenth century age has been inferred, with most props dating from the 1860s and 1870s.

Coal mining grew in such importance that the community was incorporated as a town in 1919, a status that it maintained until 1949, when the decline of local coal mines resulted in out migration and economic decline.
Coal mined at Joggins during the first decades of the 20th century primarily fed 2 electrical generating stations near Maccan, however these plants were outdated by the 1950s and the mines closed shortly after the Springhill Mining Disaster
Springhill mining disaster
The term Springhill mining disaster can refer to any of three separate Canadian mining disasters which occurred in 1891, 1956, and 1958 in different mines within the Springhill coalfield, near the town of Springhill in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia....

 in 1958. Rail service was abandoned to the community in the early 1960s.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Joggins is famous for its record of fossils dating to the Pennsylvanian
The Pennsylvanian is, in the ICS geologic timescale, the younger of two subperiods of the Carboniferous Period. It lasted from roughly . As with most other geochronologic units, the rock beds that define the Pennsylvanian are well identified, but the exact date of the start and end are uncertain...

 "Coal Age" of earth history, approximately 310 million years ago.

The dramatic coastal exposure of the Coal Age rocks, known as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, are continually hewn and freshly exposed by the actions of the tides in the Cumberland Basin. Geologists were first attracted to this locality in the late 1820s with Abraham Gesner, Richard Brown
Richard Brown
Richard Brown or Browne may refer to:* Dick Brown , rugby player* Dick Brown , catcher in American Major League Baseball during the 1950s and 1960s...

, Thomas Jackson
Thomas Jackson
Thomas Jackson, Tom Jackson, or Tommy Jackson may refer to:* Thomas Jackson , English theologian, and President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford...

 and Francis Alger all making important observations. A little later, a party from Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

, Massachusetts became the first student party to study Joggins for educational reasons in 1835. However, the true fame of Joggins dates to the mid-nineteenth century and the visits in 1842 and 1852 by Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, Kt FRS was a British lawyer and the foremost geologist of his day. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which popularised James Hutton's concepts of uniformitarianism – the idea that the earth was shaped by slow-moving forces still in operation...

, the founder of modern geology and author of Principles of Geology
Principles of Geology
Principles of Geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the Earth's surface, by reference to causes now in operation, is a book by the Scottish geologist Charles Lyell....

. In his Elements of Geology (1871), Lyell proclaimed the Joggins exposure of Coal Age rocks and fossils to be "the finest example in the world".

The fossil record at Joggins figures in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and played a role in the Great Oxford Debate of 1860
1860 Oxford evolution debate
The 1860 Oxford evolution debate took place at the Oxford University Museum on 30 June 1860, seven months after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Several prominent British scientists and philosophers participated, including Thomas Henry Huxley, Bishop Samuel...

 between Bishop Wilberforce
Samuel Wilberforce
Samuel Wilberforce was an English bishop in the Church of England, third son of William Wilberforce. Known as "Soapy Sam", Wilberforce was one of the greatest public speakers of his time and place...

 and Thomas Huxley
Thomas Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley PC FRS was an English biologist, known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution....


Much of the early work to document the fossil record at Joggins was by Nova Scotian geologist Sir William Dawson
John William Dawson
Sir John William Dawson, CMG, FRS, FRSC , was a Canadian geologist and university administrator.- Life and work :...

 (1820–1899), who had a close personal and working relationship with his friend and mentor Charles Lyell. Much of Dawson's collection resides at the Redpath Museum
Redpath Museum
The Redpath Museum is a museum of natural history belonging to McGill University and located on the university's campus at 859 Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was built in 1882 as a gift from the sugar baron Peter Redpath. It houses collections of interest to ethnology,...

 of McGill University. Other notable nineteenth century geologists who worked at Joggins include Abraham Gesner, inventor of kerosene, and William Logan
William Edmond Logan
Sir William Edmond Logan was a Scottish-Canadian geologist.Logan was born in Montreal, Quebec, and educated at the High School in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh . He started teaching himself geology in 1831, when he took over the running of a copper works in Swansea. He produced a...

, who measured the cliffs bed by bed for the Geological Survey of Canada.

In 1852 Lyell and Dawson made a celebrated discovery of tetrapod
Tetrapods are vertebrate animals having four limbs. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are all tetrapods; even snakes and other limbless reptiles and amphibians are tetrapods by descent. The earliest tetrapods evolved from the lobe-finned fishes in the Devonian...

 fossils entombed within an upright tree at Coal Mine Point. Subsequent investigations by Dawson led to the discovery of one of the most important fossils in the history of science, Hylonomus lyelli
Hylonomus was a very early reptile. It lived 312 million years ago during the Late Carboniferous period.It is the earliest unquestionable reptile ....

, which remains the earliest known sauropsid (reptile) in the history of life, but not oldest known amniote
The amniotes are a group of tetrapods that have a terrestrially adapted egg. They include synapsids and sauropsids , as well as their fossil ancestors. Amniote embryos, whether laid as eggs or carried by the female, are protected and aided by several extensive membranes...

, the group that includes all vertebrates that can reproduce out of water. In 2002, Hylonomus lyelli was named the provincial fossil of Nova Scotia. Another vital early tetrapod fossil has been found here, the earliest synapsid
Synapsids are a group of animals that includes mammals and everything more closely related to mammals than to other living amniotes. They are easily separated from other amniotes by having an opening low in the skull roof behind each eye, leaving a bony arch beneath each, accounting for their name...

, Protoclepsydrops
Protoclepsydrops was an early amniote, and its skeletal remains indicate that it may have been more closely related to synapsids than to sauropsids, making it a possible synapsid member. If so, it is the oldest synapsid known, though its status is unconfirmed because its remains were fragmentary....

, which is actually earlier than Hylonomus
Hylonomus was a very early reptile. It lived 312 million years ago during the Late Carboniferous period.It is the earliest unquestionable reptile ....


A trackway is an ancient route of travel for people or animals. In biology, a trackway can be a set of impressions in the soft earth, usually a set of footprints, left by an animal. A fossil trackway is the fossilized imprint of a trackway. Trackways have been found all over the world...

s are preserved at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. The tree-like lycopodiophyte Sigillaria
Sigillaria is a genus of extinct, spore-bearing, arborescent plants which flourished in the Late Carboniferous period but dwindled to extinction in the early Permian period. It was a lycopodiophyte, and is related to the lycopsids, or club-mosses, but even more closely to quillworts, as was its...

is preserved in situ
In situ
In situ is a Latin phrase which translated literally as 'In position'. It is used in many different contexts.-Aerospace:In the aerospace industry, equipment on board aircraft must be tested in situ, or in place, to confirm everything functions properly as a system. Individually, each piece may...


Recent geologic and paleontologic work

There has been a surge in interest in Joggins over the past two decades. Recent geologic work has been primarily coordinated by Martin Gibling, Professor of Sedimentology at Dalhousie University. During this interval, Gibling supervised and mentored a number of PhD students and postdocs including John Calder, Howard Falcon-Lang, Sarah Davies, and Mike Rygel.

Amateur fossil collectors have also made major contributions to our knowledge. For example, Don Reid, a long-time resident of Joggins, donated his entire collection of Joggins fossils to the Joggins Fossil Institute. Many of his specimens are on display in the Joggins Fossil Centre.

In 2009, palaeontologist Melissa Grey was hired as the first scientific curator for the Joggins Fossil Institute (JFI). The Joggins Fossil Institute continues to conduct and foster research at the site and hosts international paleontologists and geologists and conference field-trips. JFI also has a Science Advisory Committee comprised of scientists from Maritime universities and government departments. This is a volunteer committee whose mission is to: provide expert and comprehensive advice and support to the JFI on scientific matters respecting the development, conservation and management of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs property, the content of the Joggins Fossil Centre’s programs, scientific research related to the fossil cliffs, and scientific issues arising from the site’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Committee also assists in reporting on the status of monitoring programs and state of conservation of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs property.

World Heritage Site

In 2007, a 14.7 km length of the coast constituting the Joggins Fossil Cliffs was nominated by Canada to UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 as a natural World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

. It was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List in on July 7, 2008.

External links

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