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article imageCanada gets new UNESCO site — Mistaken Point, Newfoundland

By Karen Graham     Jul 18, 2016 in Environment
Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, a small Canadian headland on the Avalon Peninsula in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Sunday.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which designates sites of physical and cultural significance as World Heritage sites, made the announcement in Istanbul, Turkey.
The 565-million-year-old sea floor embedded in the face of the rocky coastline has been slowly exposed over time by the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean, revealing some of the oldest recognizable forms of life on Earth, according to CBC.
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University of California - Berekley
The rich fossil site has repeatedly been covered in a protective coating of volcanic ash, preserving the inhabitants for millennia. The fossils span the early Ediacaran Period, the last geological period of the Neoproterozoic Era and of the Proterozoic Eon.
The Ediacaren period was a time when multicellular life was making the transition into macrocellular life. While bacteria and algae were common in the seas at that time, this period also marks the first appearance of a group of large fossils collectively known as the "Ediacara biota," a time "when life got big.''
Mistaken Point geologist Richard Thomas says the UNESCO designation is the most prestigious recognition a fossil site can receive, and will have a great impact on the geological reserve.
"There's going to be a big influx of visitors," said Thomas. "We're expecting visitation to increase greatly." Thomas cited Nova Scotia's Joggins Fossil Cliffs, which received its UNESCO designation in 2008, saying, "as soon as they were inscribed, their visitation went up 150 percent and stayed at that level."
Thomas said that a crowd had gathered at the Edge of Avalon interpretive centre early Sunday morning to watch the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s proceedings via a live broadcast. The Globe and Mail reports that when the announcement was made, the room erupted in cheers.
Ediacaran fossils Mistaken Point Newfoundland.
Ediacaran fossils Mistaken Point Newfoundland.
University of California. Berkeley
While much has been made about how fast the committee made its decision, suggesting it was a "hurried" review, there is a very good reason behind this. The planned 10 days of reviews in Istanbul were cut short by an attempt to overthrow Turkey’s government on Friday night.
Mistaken Point gets it name from Canada's seafaring history. Sailors often mistook the rocky crag sticking out at the end of the point for Cape Race in the fogs that often enshroud the area. The ships would turn to the North, thinking they had reached Cape Race Harbour and immediately run into treacherous rocks. Sadly, the remains of at least 50 ships are now resting on the ocean floor.
More about unesco world heritage site, mistaken point, earliest life on earth, geological record, Newfoundland
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