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A Journey to a New Land

Boat and Bear
Secondary Level Resources

Reconstructing Ancient Environments

Geologists and other scientists can use evidence preserved in sites such as raised sea caves to reconstruct the ancient environment of a region.

Port Eliza Cave

Port Eliza Cave is a raised sea cave located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The plant and animal remains preserved in the cave have provided scientists with a unique window into the climate and environment of this coastal region between about 18,000 and 16,000 years ago.

The cave was formed at a time when relative sea levels were higher than present, and wave action eroded the cliff face and created the cave. When sea levels dropped, the cave became a dry inland shelter for animals living in the area. Sometime after 16,000 years ago, glacial ice covered the mouth of the cave, and fine-grained glacial sediments were deposited in the cave by melt water. These sediments buried and protected the animal and plant remains located on the cave floor.

Cape Ball

Research at a sea cliff at Cape Ball on eastern Graham Island, off the Pacific coast of British Columbia, has provided evidence that this coastal region remained ice-free throughout the Late Wisconsinan glaciation.

Graham Island is part of the Queen Charlotte Island group, and for many years researchers believed that the islands were completely buried under glacial ice during the Late Wisconsinan. However, the discovery of ancient plant fossils at Cape Ball confirmed that the environment was in fact habitable, and supported a diverse array of plant life.

Predicting Future Environments

Over the last several hundred years, and increasingly during the last century, the Earth's climate has warmed, and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarcticaare retreating. The melting ice is causing sea levels to rise and the impactof this will be felt in many coastal regions of the world.

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QuickTime videos:

Dr. Rolf Mathewes

Dr. Rolf Mathewes
Department of Biology
Simon Fraser University

Peter Locher

Peter Locher
Department of Archaeology
Simon Fraser University

Dr. John Clague

Dr. John Clague
Department of Earth Sciences
Simon Fraser University

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