New Brunswick

Ancient rock formation uncovered in N.B.

Saint John construction workers are altering a nursing home's renovation plans after discovering a rock formation that is estimated to be 500 million years old.

Geologist estimates 4.5-metre rock formation is 500 million years old

Saint John construction workers are altering a nursing home's renovation plans after discovering a rock formation that is estimated to be 500 million years old.

Construction crews had been excavating for the expansion to the Loch Lomond Villa Nursing Home since mid September.

A unique 4.5-metre rock formation was found jutting through the shale and that forced the workers to change their construction plans. Geologists are now debating over what could be done with the discovery.

Terry Moore, the facilities manager at the nursing home, said the ancient rock formation appears to resemble a tree.

"It actually looks like the side of the tree, the formation of bark all along here … it's just so unique," Moore said.

Once the geological surprise was found, the nursing home staff called in experts from the New Brunswick Museum to investigate the rock formation.

Randy Miller, the provincial paleontologist at the New Brunswick Museum, said the age of the formation makes it impossible for the discovery to be a tree.

"I knew right away it wasn't going to be a fossil tree because it's about 500 million years old," Miller said.

"We know trees don't appear in the geological record until about 360 million years ago, so it's much too old to be a tree."

Miller said the log is actually a hinge, which happens when layers of rock are folded on top of each other when heated up deep within the earth.

Preserving the discovery

The provincial paleontologist said the hinge is worth preserving right where it is situated.

Miller said other examples of the rock formations have been unearthed around Saint John and he hopes this latest discovery can help the city's push toward geo-tourism.

"Some people think about the geo-park being fossils and that part of the story. But there are other really important parts of the story, about plate tectonics, how the big processes of geology work," Miller said.

"So all these little sites are kind of interesting because we use them for teaching.… It may be a place that you could take the public to, if it's accessible, and say, 'Look, how rocks are folded and this is how it happens.'"

While Miller and other experts decide how to accomplish that, construction crews at the Saint John nursing home have reworked their plans to avoid disturbing the rock any further.

The geological discovery at the nursing home comes about two weeks after highway construction was halted in southwestern New Brunswick after First Nations artifacts were found.

The discovery of what are believed to be First Nations artifacts happened in Charlotte County after torrential rains during post-tropical storm Earl in mid-September exposed the objects.