Joggins, Nova Scotia

Joggins is a Canadian rural community located in western Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.


Situated on the Cumberland Basin, a sub-basin of the Bay of Fundy, Joggins is a former coal mining area. Its coal seams which are exposed along the shore of the Cumberland Basin were exploited as early as the 17th century by local Acadian settlers, however the first commercial mining dates to 1819 with much of the early production being shipped by sea to Saint John, New Brunswick and other markets.

Large scale industrialization came to Cumberland County under the General Mining Association, which held the rights to the area's coal fields. Production increased after the construction of the Intercolonial Railway in the 1870s, followed by the 1887 opening of the Joggins Railway, a 12 mile rail line from mines at Joggins to the Intercolonial mainline at Maccan, via River Hebert.

Coal mining grew in such importance that the community was incorporated as a town in 1919, a status that it maintained until 1949, when the decline of local coal mines resulted in out migration and economic decline.

Coal mined at Joggins during the first decades of the 20th century primarily fed 2 electrical generating stations near Maccan, however these plants were outdated by the 1950s and the mines closed shortly after the Springhill Mining Disaster in 1958. Rail service was abandoned to the community in the early 1960s.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

Joggins is famous for its record of fossils dating to the Pennsylvanian "Coal Age" of earth history, approximately 310 million years ago.

The dramatic coastal exposure of the Coal Age rocks, known as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, are continually hewn and freshly exposed by the actions of the tides in the Cumberland Basin. The fame of Joggins dates to the mid-nineteenth century, and the visits in 1842 and 1852 by Sir Charles Lyell, the founder of modern geology and author of Principles of Geology. In his Students' Elements of Geology (1871), Lyell proclaimed the Joggins exposure of Coal Age rocks and fossils to be "the finest example in the world".

The fossil record at Joggins figures in Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and played a role in the Great Oxford Debate of 1860 between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley.

Much of the fossil record at Joggins was discovered by Nova Scotian geologist Sir William Dawson (1820-1899), who had a close personal and working relationship with his friend and mentor Sir Charles Lyell. Much of Dawson's collection resides at the Redpath Museum of McGill University.

In 1852 Lyell and Dawson made a celebrated discovery of tetrapod fossils entombed within an upright tree at Coal Mine Point. Subsequent investigations by Dawson led to the discovery of one of the most important fossils in the history of science, Hylonomus lyelli, which remains the earliest known reptile in the history of life, and thus the oldest known amniote, the group that includes all vertebrates that have the capacity to reproduce free of water, comprising all reptiles, the extinct dinosaurs and their kin, the birds, as well as mammals. In 2002, Hylonomus lyelli was named the provincial fossil of Nova Scotia.

Trackways are preserved at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. The tree-like lycopodiophyte Sigillaria is preserved in situ.

Other notable nineteenth century geologists who worked at Joggins include Abraham Gesner, inventor of kerosene, and Sir William Logan, who measured the cliffs bed by bed for the Geological Survey of Canada.

In 2007, a 15 km length of the coast comprising the Joggins Fossil Cliffs was nominated by Canada to UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site. It was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List in on July 7, 2008


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