On a grey February Saturday threatening rain, 36 (or maybe more than 40!) Gabriolans joined Nick Doe and Jenni Gehlbach for a guided walk along False Narrows from Brickyard Beach to the Cemetery. Jenni started things off with a geographic orientation and a brief history of the area, Nick talked about tides and explained the geological story told in the exposed banks. Vicky Scott was on hand with her super scope camera and binoculars to help us identify the birds. Here are some of the things we learned:

  • Sheltered water with a wide, shallow beach, fresh water seasonal stream, good fishing, and rich clam beds nearby provided a perfect location for a Snuneymuxw village site. The shell midden is visible all along the exposed bank.
  • Winter is a great time to see the waterfowl gathered in this sheltered area to breed. We got multiple bird ID tips: e.g., the red breasted mergansers are the ones with bad hair days.
  • Settlers established the Brickyard in the 1890s when they couldn’t find coal but found shales suitable for bricks. For over 50 years scows brought coal to fire the kiln and took away millions of bricks, leaving flawed discards on the beach.
  • Poor scheduling? At low tide, the beach was unusually narrow because we are at the extreme point of the 19-year lunar cycle (with the full moon very high overhead).
  • Most of our island rock lived somewhere else if you look back far enough. Gabriola’s bedrock is sandstone but the ice age brought boulders from elsewhere.
  • Mystery: midden soil at False Narrows sits directly on top of the glacial till. Why?
  • Smooth nacreous surfaces on the dark beach rock are fossilized shells of ancient giant clams; the brownish lumps nearby may be their petrified bodies.
  • That great racket near the cemetery is from the recently arrived colony of sea lions between Mudge and Link Islands.
Several people stand with a spotting scope, looking at seabirds on the ocean and on land at the edge. There is an island in the background.
A large group of people stand on an ocean beach looking out to sea.

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