President's Report 2007

Memorial researchers profiled on national TV series

When CBC’s popular science television series The Nature of Things, wanted to learn about the geology of mountain building, they came knocking on Dr. Derek Wilton’s door.

“What a phenomenal opportunity, not only for me and my colleagues but for the university,” said Dr. Wilton, a professor in Memorial’s geology department whose work on the Labrador’s spectacular Torngat Mountains had caught their attention. “Having a film production crew follow you around with a camera in your face all the time was a real eye-opener but a lot of fun and a great adventure.”

Well-exposed to the elements and rising directly out of the ocean, The Torngat Mountains are one of the best places on the planet to see mountain building in action. Mountains are created by the cyclical movement of the earth’s crust, or so-called plate tetonics. When plates crash together, mountains are born.

The Nature of Things crew shot the segment as part of a five part series on how the earth works and the geology of the Canadian Shield. Along with Dr. Wilton and the film crew, the expedition team included fellow geologist Dr. Paul Sylvester from Earth Sciences and the Inco Innovation Lab, and Dr. Wilton’s good friend and colleague, renowned archeologist Stephen Lowring of the Smithsonian Institute.

“Stephen came along on the expedition to give the human perspective on the geology of the Torngats – to show the connection to the people who passed through the region,” said Dr. Wilton.”

Dr. Wilton and Dr. Loring have long been interested in the geology and archeology of the Torngat Mountains, an area with unique deposits of rock called Ramah chert that were used for stone tools by the Maritime Archaic Indians some 4,000 years ago. They’re now doing work on artifacts dating back 10,000 years to see if the tools also come from the Ramah. The show went to air in fall 2007 on the CBC main network. There are plans to air it on Radio Canada, The Discovery Channel in the US and NHK in Japan.