On the Glacial Erratic Trail

The glaciers descended on Deer Isle, as they did across most of the northern United States.  With their immense force and grinding power, they reshaped the landscape, scooping out harbors and inlets and coves and beveling the shoreline.  When the glaciers finally receded, after staying for millennia, they left behind the craggy Maine coastline we now know and love, as well as colossal, non-native rocks that the glaciers had brought with their initial inexorable advance.

Yesterday, on a foggy Labor Day morning, Russell and Betty and I explored some of the glaciers’ handiwork through a hike on the glacial erratic trail at the Old Settlement Quarry Island Heritage Trust site.  It’s a beautiful trail that winds through the woods and lets you see some of the glacial debris up close — like the enormous metamorphic rock pictured above that the glaciers brought with them on their visit and then left in place, deposited on top of the native Maine granite — as well as an alpine meadow, with its “snow in summer” plant life, pictured to the right. 

The Island Heritage Trust has done a fabulous job with all of the trails and hiking sites on Deer Isle, and the glacial erratic trail, and the rest of the Old Settlement Quarry site, is one of the best trails they have developed.  Thanks to the Island Heritage Trust, the people of Stonington will never have to worry about having a good place for a stimulating pre-breakfast hike on a Labor Day morning.

The glacial erratic trial ends at the old quarry itself, which also offers a lot of interesting viewing.  For decades, the granite-cutting business was a key part of the economy in this area, and the old quarry site gives you a glimpse of how the work was done — and just how tough that work was.  In the photo at left you can see the holes the granite workers drilled to place explosive charges to try to take advantage of fissures and split the rock into the desired shapes and sizes, and some of the precision work that was done, like the huge “box cut” pictured below that blasted out a massive square of granite.  It must have been an incredibly noisy and dangerous place to work.

The Old Settlement Quarry site sits atop a dome of granite that usually offers a commanding view of some of the islands and inlets of Deer Isle.  Thanks to a thick blanket of fog, we didn’t get the expected view, but we did see lots of rock — both the erratic rock dropped off by the glaciers, and the immense piles of granite “grout” left behind from the quarry operations.  If you like rock, the glacial erratic trail at the Old Settlement Quarry site is the hike for you.

Living Near The Terminal Moraine

I was interested in UJ’s recent post that linked to a photo that showed that a particular Canadian glacier has retreated in the 90 years since 1919.  UJ’s question was whether the photographic evidence of the glacier’s retreat was “bothersome.”

Being a lawyer, my answer to that question is (of course!) it depends.  Glaciers advance and retreat as weather conditions change.  We in Ohio should be acutely aware of that fact because the impact of glaciers can be seen all around us.  During the last Ice Age, advancing glaciers gouged out the Great Lakes, covered most of the State, and shoved enormous boulders hundreds of miles to the Terminal Moraine, which geologists place a few miles to the south of Columbus.  If glaciers were immutable, the location where I am typing these words would still be covered by a sheet of ice hundreds of feet thick and would be a likely playground for the woolly Mammoth and his Ice Age animal companions. 

The question is not whether it is good or bad that glaciers grow or shrink, but why that process occurs.  Is it part of the same natural processes — whatever they may be — that has produced the variable weather conditions, like the Ice Age, that have been found throughout the geological record?  Or, is it the result of human activity and greenhouse gas emissions?  The mere fact that temperatures have increased does not mean that a hypothesis about why temperatures have increased is correct.

This is why, in my view, it is so important to have a legitimate, vigorous scientific debate about climate change, complete with testing and experimentation that challenges the currently prevailing global warming hypothesis.  After all, scientists have been known to be wrong.  When was the last time anyone went to a doctor and asked if they had an imbalance of bodily humours?