Tom Thomson’s Spirit of Algonquin
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In order to do this EarthCache you will need a canoe, or you wait until winter and then you might come by with snow shoes, a dog sled or a horse sled. However we very much recommend you rent yourself a canoe and embark on this expedition only in summer. The Cache is approx. 2.7 km away from the Canoe Rental Station and it will take you 30-45 minutes one way to paddle there.
The dock for landing is at N 45 33.513 W 078 42.957.
Algonquin has a very colourful geological history that created a unique place on earth. Tectonic plates lifted the area, turned layers of rocks to the surface, created mountain ranges followed by oceans submerging Algonquin and finally a total of 4 ice ages shaped the habitat as we see it today. This habitat not only fascinates thousands of tourists every year but has also inspired famous Canadian Artists like Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.
The rocks found in Algonquin Park generally fall into one of three categories:
Sedimentary Rocks - sandstones, mudstones, and conglomerates. Sedimentary rocks were formed from layers of sediments deposited under water when Algonquin was covered by oceans.
Metamorphic Rocks (e.g. Gneiss)- are formed when sedimentary rocks are subjected to enough heat and pressure to recrystallize some or all mineral components. This can also occur locally when rocks are crushed as a result of faulting.
Igneous rocks – solidified directly from molten magma.
Most of the stones in Algonquin began their lives as igneous rocks deep inside the mountains formed near the coast of the ancient continent called Nena. This was approx. 1450 million years ago. By now Nena has become the core of what we now consider North America. Over the next 300 million years the mountains eroded away. Nena’s collision with the tectonic plate Atlantica caused extensive shearing and layering of rocks. Big blocks of the crust piled up and the Grenville Mountain range was created. Magma entered into cracks and cooled into veins of granite and smilar rocks.
The landscape we see today in Algonquin was originally depressed to depths of 25-30km. With the progress of erosion over millions of years the continent was slowly unburdened from the heavy weight of the mountains and slowly but surely the Algonquin area rose and exposed rocks that were buried deep inside the Earth. The stones and rock formations at the earth cache coordinates are telling us about this colourful geological history of Algonquin.
It was here where Tom Thomson (1877-1917) completed numerous artworks and studies, worked as a fire ranger and simply tuned in with the nature of Ontario.
Thomson initially travelled to Algonquin in 1912. From 1914 to 1917 Thomson spent spring through fall sketching, and acted as a guide and fire Ranger during the summer in Algonquin Park. He became an expert canoeist and woodsman. Thomson found beauty in the most uncommon scenes – muskeg, burnt and drowned land, log chutes, beaver dams, creeks, wild rivers and placid lakes, wild flowers, northern lights, the flight of wild geese and the changing seasons from spring to summer to autumn.
The bold immediacy of Thomson’s sketches was to define a new style of painting that would be attributed as uniquely Canadian and would shape how generations of people think about the Canadian landscape.
Some of the most famous works of Thomson were sketched in Algonquin. The location where he painted the Jack Pine was identified at the shore of Grand Lake in the eastern part of Algonquin and can be visited today.
Tom Thomson found his spiritual spring in Algonquin. The solitude of the Park became his home, it was here where he became himself.
Tragically it was also here where Tom Thomson died on July 8th, 1917. Thomson went out for a fishing trip on Canoe Lake and did not return. His body was later discovered floating on the lake and accidental drowning was named the official cause of death.
In September of 1917, J.E.H. MacDonald Dr. MacCullum and J.W. Beatty built the stone cairn on Hayhurst Point at the Cache Location, overlooking Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, close to one of Tom Thomson’s favourite camp sites across from the bay from Mowat.
The cairn is a memorial to Thomson, marking the date and the place where he had died. Thomson’s death was a tragedy for his fellow artists – they lost an inspiring colleague, a great friend and their guide to the north woods. This untimely loss prompted a clarification of his artist friends’ vision for Canadian art; it strengthened their resolve and gave rise to the formation of The Group of Seven.
The cairn’s inscription was composed by Thomson's friend, painter and later Group of Seven member J. E. H. MacDonald.
To log the earth cache:
a. Examine the stones used for building the cairn. What kind of rocks do you see?
b. Measure the height of the cairn. How many years will it take for the cairn to erode (assume 10 mm per 100 years).
c. This earth cache is #4 of a series of earth caches that highlight the beauty and geological history of Algonquin Park. Please add a picture of a landscape, an animal, an action shot from your kajak trip, a nice bbq gathering, a friendly park ranger from the west entrance (KEVIN!) or anything else that you think contributes to the special flair of Algonquin.
d. Consider posting a picture of you AT THE DOCK. (I believe in privacy and confidentiality - so you can pick if you want to show us your foot with sandals, your head with a stylish moskito net, your hand with blisters from canoeing, your belly that has a dimension similar to the Grenville Mountains or if you want to take this picture at all) .
(No hints available.)
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum