Date & Time: Mon. Oct. 3 2011, 1535 hrs (UTC-7)
Location: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Co-ordinates: (62°26′27″N 114°23′23″W)
Weather: Overcast 8/8, Wind SE 19km/h, Temp 9°C
Departed Edmonton yesterday on an Air Canada flight. Arrived in Yellowknife to low scudding clouds, the bare rolling granite and spruce trees grey in and wet in the light drizzle. Around 5°C. Settled in to the Explorer Hotel with a great view across Frame Lake and the city and after half a bottle of wine in the restaurant last night everything is good. Robbie Bennett and Bob Murphy from the Geological Survey of Canada (chief scientist and coring expert respectively) arrived last night too and are with us in the Explorer.
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The extra day in Yellowknife before the charter flight to Kugluktuk to meet the ship tomorrow was intentional. Lost bags can mean no research cruise participation if all your essential clothing and equipment is in them. Luckily for us we didn’t loose anything, though Bob Murphy’s bag was delayed. Thankfully that arrived this morning, proving the wisdom of the 24hr lay-over in Yellowknife.
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First settled in 1935 with the discovery of gold, Yellowknife, on the shore of Great Slave Lake is built on the granites and gneiss of the Canadian Shield. The granitoid rocks of the Yellowknife area are Archean in age, belonging to the Slave Craton, one of around 35 similar preserved cratons around the world. Also present are Archean turbidites and basalt dyke intrusions. These are old rocks – around 2.5 to 2.6 billion years in age (Bleeker et al 1999). The oldest known intact crustal fragment on Earth, the Acasta Gneiss, occurs some 300km to the north of Yellowknife and dates between 4.031 and 3.58 billion years old! Old indeed.
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Plenty of evidence for former glaciation here too, with multiple Pleistocene glaciations resulting in the advance of the Laurentide Ice Sheet through the area. The Laurentide last occupied the area during the Wisconsinan Glaciation, with a maximum around 20,000 years ago, the ice retreating out of the Yellowknife region around 11,000 years ago (Dyke 2004). The landscape is an erosional one with very little sediment present. Areal scour has produced a low-lying undulating plain of ice-sculpted crystalline bedrock. Small, often lake or muskeg-filled, hollows alternate with bedrock knolls. All show ample evidence of warm-based glacial erosion with striations and glacial polish. Roches moutoneés abound, with their smoothed, polished and striated stoss (up-ice) and rugged and plucked lee (down-ice) surfaces. The Explorer Hotel is actually built on one!
Well, off for another walk round Yellowknife and perhaps a sneaky pint in the Black Knight Pub! More tomorrow from on board the Amundsen!
Mark Furze, Yellowknife, NWT, October 3rd, 2011