Monthly Archives: December 2013

Photo Essay: The Southern Coast of Labrador

Posted by on December 30, 2013

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is politically one region, but in reality is two distinct places. 95% of the visitors to the province only visit the island of Newfoundland. Most people never bother to take the 15km trek across the Strait of Belle Isle to visit the other half of the province. Earlier in 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting the southern coast of Labrador, which is perhaps the most accessible part of Labrador. The purpose of my trip was to visit Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, but I discovered much more.

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Gary’s Global Hangout #1 – Elisa Detrez

Posted by on December 27, 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, I’m introducing a new feature: Gary’s Global Hangout. I will be using Google+ Hangouts to talk with interesting people from all around the world. The format will be an extremely informal interview style lasting around 30-60 minutes.

My first guest is Elisa Detrez, who won the recent Best Job in the World contest with Queensland Tourism. She’s been working as a park ranger in Queensland, Australia since last August, visiting and working in various parts of the state. We talk about her experience winning the Best Job in the World and about visiting Queensland.

If you want to be sure to catch all the episodes of Gary’s Global Hangout when they are released, just follow me on Google+ or on YouTube.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #263 – Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

Posted by on December 24, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #263 - Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Site #263 – Australian Fossil Mammal Sites

From the World Heritage inscription:

Australia is regarded as the most biologically distinctive continent in the world, an outcome of its almost total isolation for 35 million years following separation from Antarctica. Only two of its seven orders of singularly distinctive marsupial mammals have ever been recorded elsewhere. Two of the world’s most important fossil sites, Riversleigh and Naracoorte, located in the north and south of Australia respectively, provide a superb fossil record of the evolution of this exceptional mammal fauna. This serial property provides outstanding, and in many cases unique, examples of mammal assemblages during the last 30 million years.

The older fossils occur at Riversleigh, which boasts an outstanding collection from the Oligocene to Miocene, some 10-30 million years ago. The more recent story then moves to Naracoorte, where one of the richest deposits of vertebrate fossils from the glacial periods of the mid-Pleistocene to the current day (from 530,000 years ago to the present) is conserved. This globally significant fossil record provides a picture of the key stages of evolution of Australia’s mammals, illustrating their response to climate change and to human impacts.

This site is a serial site divided between Naracoorte Caves National Park in South Australia and the Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland. I visited the Naracoorte site, which is the more accessible of the two. It is located roughly between Adelaide and Melbourne in rural South Australia.

I have been to several paleontology/archeology sites during my travels and they usually share one thing in common: there isn’t much to see. The sites are significant because of what they found in the ground, but those things have long since been dug up and placed in museums. Some sites like the Sangiran Early Man site in Indonesia were very disappointing. Others, like the Messel Pit Fossil Site in Germany, at least provide a decent visitor center where you can learn about the discoveries which took place at the location.

Naracoorte is the only fossil site I have ever visited where you can still clearly see in situ fossils in the ground! The Naracoorte caves basically served as a giant pit trap for animals for hundreds of thousands of years. Over that time animal bones piled up in such numbers that researchers haven’t found it necessary to dig up everything.

The visitor center in Naracoorte is also very good with recreations of the animals they found in the caves. If you ever wanted to know what a giant, meat eating koala looked like, then you need to pay a visit.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.