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March-April 2018

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Media Reviews

The Fossils' Tale—A Gallery Guide by Torsten Bernhardt; edited by Linda Cooper. Redpath Museum, McGill University, 859 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 0C4, Canada. 96 pages; 2010; $15 (softbound).


This interesting book is a guide to the fossil displays in the Dawson Gallery of the Redpath Museum at McGill University, Montreal. The book begins with a preface by the museum's director followed by an introduction that includes a description of the book's layout and history of the specimens. Next is a brief chapter on the museum proper—its history, a short biography of John Wesley Dawson, and a photograph of the building's excellent Greek Revival architecture.

Interestingly, Chapter 1 is devoted to meteorites, presenting a brief look at these relics of the early solar system and a glimpse at time before the beginnings of preserved lifeforms. The following 26 chapters trace the development of life based on the fossil record starting with the earliest stromatolites, a discussion of the scientifically important Burgess Shale, those important moments in evolution, and ending with deglaciation only a few thousand years ago. The book closes with a page of conclusions. The facing inside back cover presents a useful timeline that places the important sections of the book into a temporal graph arranged chronologically on time before present and the geologic time scale.

One must appreciate that this book is actually just what the title says, a “Gallery Guide.” The inside front cover presents a floor plan for the gallery. Exhibits are numbered consistent with the book chapters, moving progressively in a clockwise fashion from the lower left around the gallery perimeter to the lower right, ending not far from the door through which one has entered. The center of the gallery contains large freestanding exhibits, many of which are dedicated to reptiles. They are given letters, and most can be found described individually in Chapter 23. Another interesting feature of the gallery and hence the book is the focus on Canadian localities, many of which are of world-class significance with respect to scientific importance and the preservation of their fossil assemblages. Scattered throughout the book are inset notes pointed specifically at displays and other features of the museum that tend to lead the visitor to points of special interest. Finally, the book is not long on text but rather is profusely illustrated with photographs of museum specimens and short descriptions of why they are of particular importance. So, as one visits the gallery, for a mere $15 (Canadian), one can have an illustrated guide clearly pointing out the things that one should learn during their too-brief travel through time.

This well-conceived and produced book is a must for all visitors to the Redpath Musuem's Dawson Gallery. It is educational and a memento that will certainly trigger important and pleasant memories for all who venture there. It is highly recommended.

Washington Rocks! A Guide to Geologic Sites in the Evergreen State by Eugene Kiver, Chad Pritchard, and Richard Orndorff. Mountain Press, Missoula, MT; 144 pages; 2016; $18 (softbound).

It is probably safe to say that nearly all of us who read Rocks & Minerals have an interest in the geology around us. When we drive the highways we take at least brief looks at the rock exposures in road cuts and gaze with wonder at mountains and rock outcrops near and far. Of course, when we are out in the field, we also spend time looking at the geology where the material we are collecting occurs.

Often our interest is piqued even more, and we really would like to know what the rocks are and how they got in those structures, layers, folds, and faults. Finding out may not be easy—most of us don't have the time to research every intriguing spot we see on the landscape.

The popular geology books, such as those on the roadside geology and those on the national parks, make it much easier to learn about the geology that we encounter. Washington Rocks! is one of those books. It teaches about the geology we see as we travel the highways in Washington State, camp in the forests, and break some rock or dig some holes at favorite mineral, gem, and rock localities.

The book is part of a state-by-state series published by Mountain Press. It was written by two geologists and a geotechnical engineer. One of the geologists is an emeritus professor of geology from Eastern Washington University; the other two are professors at that institution. Together they have many years of experience studying the state's geology.

Washington Rocks! begins with a brief history of the geology of Washington, followed by a descriptive section on the state's geologic regions with detailed descriptions of particular features, and ending with a glossary, references, and an index. The descriptive section is divided into seven sections: the Okanogan Highlands, Columbia Plateau, Cascade Range, Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, Olympic Mountains, and Willapa Hills.

Each section describes several specific geologic features, sites, formations, or structures and illustrates them with photos, maps, and drawings. If you want to learn about the great lava flows and features of the Columbia Plateau, the oldest rocks in the state that can be found in the Okanogan Highlands, the active volcanoes and volcanic rocks of the Cascade Range, or any of the other features of the many regions, you will find that information on these pages.

The book is easy reading and enjoyable as a reference—I enjoyed studying it and looking up several geological features in the state. Although I did not read every description, those that I did were interesting and factual. However, I did note one error. On page 16 the authors state that the Pend Oreille River is unusual in that it flows south out of Canada into Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho, and instead of continuing southward and flowing into the Columbia River, it turns back north in eastern Washington and flows back into Canada. This is not so. The Pend Oreille River does not originate in Canada; it starts at Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho and flows into Washington (and then into Canada to reach the Columbia, as stated). There is no river that flows from Canada into Lake Pend Orielle.


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