A Whiter Shade of Pale

While hunting for “flowers” suitable for Wildflowers in Winter this past weekend, we pulled to the side of the road in a small community just outside town. These lovely boulders of gypsum had been placed near the road to keep the curious away from areas that are currently being mined.

In Walton, Nova Scotia, where I lived most of my life, gypsum was mined extensively for many years, so these rocks were like old friends. Once gypsum mining was abandoned in Walton, the shallow quarries filled with water and became well-loved, turquoise “swimming holes”. Because the quarries were large, but not deep, the water would warm to the temperature of bath water.

All three of these beautiful patterns came from different sides of the same boulder.




This photo shows part of the gypsum plant in Walton many years ago. It was crushed into small rocks and fine powders before being shipped. The structure in the left of the photo is part of the wharf and conveyor system where ships docked.

Gypsum is still mined extensively here in the Windsor area. Its main use is in the production of stucco and wall board and plaster of Paris. Minor uses include dental plaster, modelling casts, surgical casts, and drilling muds.

It became so commonplace to find fossils in the old quarry rocks that we became bored with them — fern-like plants, small insects, flowers, tree parts were all easily found.

While my older daughter was in university, she found the fossil pictured above while walking along the beach in Walton, not far from where the old gypsum plant used to be. She wasn’t looking for fossils, but rather stumbled upon it by accident. She took it to one of her university professors who excitedly informed her a short time later, after conferring with geologists and colleagues worldwide, that the rock contains a fossil of a previously undiscovered species of fish…some 360 million years old. Once the fossil has been extensively examined, my daughter’s name will be part of the creature’s scientific label. :)

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5 thoughts on “A Whiter Shade of Pale

  1. I love the pictures of the rock, and the story of your daughter finding the fossil!

    But you know what I thought of when I saw the pictures of the rock? That would make a great white on white fabric! :-)

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