SUMMER AMID THE ICE - RESEARCH IN LABRADOR
In July, Chris White and I began a new research project in Labrador, in collaboration with Nick Culshaw and Tyson Brown of Dalhousie University, and funded by the Lithoprobe ECSOOT (Eastern Canadian Shield Onshore-Offshore Transect) project. The project focuses on the Island Harbour Plutonic Suite (see map) in the Makkovik terrane. Although these granites are more than three times as old as the Appalachian granites that we are used to working on, they are much better exposed and in much more pristine condition. Unfortunately the weather conditions were much less ideal than the rocks during the month spent in the field (4 days were spent in Goose Bay waiting for the weather to improve enough so that Twin Otters could take off for Postville - a good opportunity to meet lots of other geologists waiting to get out to Voiseys Bay!), but because the rock exposures were so good along the coastal sections - even sea weed cannot grow in water that cold! - a lot could be accomplished in the days that were good.
Unusually thick ice conditions prevented the supply ships from bringing our field gear (including a Zodiac boat and stocks of food) in from Newfoundland, so the work was accomplished using not very seaworthy wooden and fibreglass boats rented from two of the 160 or so residents of Postville, and food purchased from the local "supermarket" (everything of which was past its "use by this date" date!). Nevertheless we survived.
The four of us stayed at Island Harbour, sharing a cabin with "Uncle Leonard", an elderly former resident of Island Harbour who was glad of the opportunity to spend a few weeks at his old home. His Scottish ancestors settled there in the 1840's, and his family resided there until the 1950's. They must have been tough people! He brought with him two huge husky dogs, Pony and Rover, whose presence added to the authenticity of the whole experience (fortunately the dogs, who had to be chained separately because they fought viciously when near each other, stayed outside the cabin, together with most of the mosquitoes, which were even bigger and more numerous than I had anticipated!).
At night we could hear the ice crashing and breaking up in the harbour, and some days we were not able to leave Island Harbour by boat because the ice had "come in" during the night. Fortunately, we could do some of our work by traversing from the cabin itself. Aside from the rocks, the ice was the most memorable aspect of the trip. The varied shades of blue and green displayed by the ice, and the awesome sound of it breaking apart are impossible to convey in words.
We are continuing to work through the 150 samples that we collected, and trying to unravel the age and origin of the Island Harbour Plutonic Suite. We hope to go back next summer to find out what happens to the Island Harbour granite when it gets caught up in the Kaipokok Bay shear zone - does it reappear on the other side as the rhyolite of the Upper Aillik Group?