Flowers Cove, NFLD, Easy,
Marjorie Bridge Walking trail. Easy. 2 km total out and back, flat trail. 1 hour
To paraphrase my travel guide, a thrombolite is a fossillized, bun-shaped, primitive, unicellular critter. They are very rare, I have been to Joggins fossil cliffs-, and Miguasha-UNESCO heritage site in Quebec and the Burgess Shale in Alberta, and I can’t recall ever hearing or reading about thrombolites. In my mind’s eye I am a still a little unclear what a thrombolite should look like. Guess I will find out. I flip up the hood of my jacket, pull the lever on the truck door and push it open, stepping out into the foggy morning. Across the road from the parking lot, I can see the sign for the Marjorie Bridge walking trail. Visibility is poor but I am confident I will able to make my way without incident.
The path is gravel, wide enough for two people to walk side by side should I come across someone out walking this early. There is an unremarkable hay field on either side and I squint through the gray haze towards a structure of some sort. As I get closer, I can make out a wooden bridge over a river. I stop to read the sign and description.
Apparently, this was the main thoroughfare if you wanted to get from one community to another in the 1900’s before the road system was developed. The bridge is dedicated to Marjorie Burke, a local resident.
I am keen to get to the show as I pass a sign on the trail with a measurement of distance to the thrombolites. I imagine on a sunny day this would be quite a beautiful place. There is supposed to be a lighthouse not far but I can’t see anything farther than a couple of hundred meters ahead so I stay focused on the goal of finding out what a thrombolite is.
My glasses are wet and I remove them, stuffing them in my pocket until I can give them a wipe off. The gravel is crunchy underfoot and I notice some purplish-blue flowers of the wild beach pea growing along the trail but my senses are taking a backseat right now because, my eyes are trained on the fog line wondering what exactly I am going to see in 535 feet. There is an outline of a dark object up ahead, a tower maybe, what is it?
My walking stride is so quick I should just break into a jog already. I just want to get there: 100 feet 75 feet. The mystery tower is a large sign and as I get closer I read the title; THROMBOLITES OR LIVING ROCKS.
These are critically endangered microbial structures. Thrombolites-building micro-organisms resemble the earliest form of life on earth. These organisms were the only known form of life from 3.5 billion to 650 million years ago. These are some of the earth most primitive life forms. Thrombolites (meaning clotted structures), are large bun-shaped Cambrian mounds weathering out of flat lying dolostones. They were the growth form of millions of tiny algea and bacteria. These structures are not exactly fossils but they are evidence of biological activity. These unicelluar critters have left a good size trace of their existence in the fossil record. Thrombo, meaning clotted, indicates an internal structure without lamination. The darker coloured more round boulder is a glacial erractic brought here during the Pleistocene glaciation. The furrows that contain mud-cracked material and radiate from the center and down the sides may be drainage channels. These organisms are thought to have thrived in the tidal and subtidal zones of a warm very salty sea, some being exposed at low tide and covered at high tide, thus explaining the mud cracks. The larger once maybe several communities that amalgamated as they grew. When you look across the bay to the south, you can see another large colony of thrombolites on the shore. You can walk out to the small point where there is a fish hut built on a collection of mounds. Here the thrombolites are not standing as high but they are more numerous. These structures are very very rare. One other place they grow is Hamlin pond Shark Bay, Western Australia.-Interpretation Plaque, Community of Flowers Cove, NFLD
I hop down the shore bank and head towards the globular mounds, blown away with fascination. My mouth hangs open and my hands are stretched out ready to touch them. I feel like I am in a sci-fi movie walking into the abyss.
They are big hip-height and many feet across, some joined together to create mass thrombolites.From afar they look like ordinary rocks but when I look closely they have a print or pattern all over them like a leopards spots unique to each. Here is one of the patterns.
I climb up on one and take some photos, I have a bit of guilt wondering are they alive? am I hurting them? I am not of course but I get down and decided to do my selfie beside one instead. This was an incredible unexpected surprise find. I will return on my way back home and hope I catch a sunny day to see them in a different light. Leaning on one of the buns my dewy eye lashes flutter as I try to see through the fog to the south where the sign says there are more of them but my vision only extends about 40 feet at best. My mind switches to my drive up the coast towards St Anthony, I will have stay alert for moose on the road. I remove my hands from the structrures and stand upright. “Good bye thrombolites,” I say, then pivot and walk back up the trail.
Please join me again at the fantastic L’Anse aux Meadows-Viking settlement. NLFD.
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