Book

Dad, a few friends of his, and I are writing a book about the local mountains. It’s going to be a guide to all 68 peaks between Howe Sound, Indian Arm, Furry Creek, and Burrard Inlet. It will also include several essays on the history of the mountains and mountaineering in BC, the wildlife of the mountains, First Nations people, and the geology of the area.

Here’s an excerpt from the geology chapter of the book:

Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world – many would say the most beautiful. Stately mountains meet the wild Pacific Ocean. It owes this beauty to various geologic horses that have shaped it into what it is today.

 

These horses operate on a timescale so vast as to be beyond our comprehension. An interesting way to visualize geologic time is to imagine Earth’s history as a year, with the planet forming on January 1st and the present-day being December 31st. On this scale, the average Canadian lifespan (80 years) lasts less than a quarter of a second. A week on this scale represents about 80 million years, and a day roughly 12 million years.

 

Earth is formed on January 1st (4.6 billion years ago) For the first two months, it was a molten ball of fire. It started to cool in early March, and the oldest surviving rocks (located in Australia and the Canadian Shield) date from the second week of March. Oceans form soon after, and the earliest life appears in late April (according to scientists’s best guesses: some sources say April 1st).

 

It takes life 8 months to evolve beyond bacteria. Around November 19th, an explosion of life called the Cambrian explosion occurs in the oceans. Life diversifies. By the first of December, life has spread to the land. The first dinosaurs appear on December 13th and are rendered extinct by an asteroid on the 27th. The oldest common rocks in the Vancouver area, the Gambier Group (found on northern Gambier Island and the peak of Brunswick), formed sometime around December 23rd.

 

All of human history is a mere blip in this timescale. Humans first evolved in East Africa at 8pm on December 31st. An hour and a half later, the Ice Age starts, covering almost all of Canada with glaciers. The ice sheets reach their greatest extent at 11:56:30 and have left the Vancouver area by 11:58:36. Around this time, Mt Garibaldi erupts for the last time.

 

The first settlers of Vancouver reach Vancouver at 11:59:01, as part of a larger migration from Siberia to Chile enabled by the vanishing of the ice sheets. Around 11:59:22, the climate warms and enough plants arrive for Vancouver’s climate to become the temperate rainforest it is today. The first large civilizations and the invention of writing also arise around this time in Egypt and Mesopotamia. All of recorded history, therefore, falls within the last 30 seconds of this timescale.

 

At 11:59:58 (specifically, 9 pm, 26 January 1700), the latest of many massive earthquakes (and the first of many massive earthquakes to come) strikes the British Columbia coast, devastating Aboriginal villages on the coast. Vancouver is shielded from the full horse of the earthquake by Vancouver Island, but great damage is still done.

 

Captain James Cook becomes the first European to visit the British Columbia coast at 11:59:59 (specifically, 1778).

 

 

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