One hundred million years ago, the province of British Columbia did not exist. Instead, the ocean lapped upon the shores of the province next door, Alberta. Then as the continental shelf slipped, broke, and crashed upon the oceanic crust, the landscape was thrust upwards, downwards, sideways, folded, melted in volcanic heat, crystalized, rising, and tumbled down the throes of geologic activity that saw the creation of majestic valleys, deep canyons, jagged cliffs, floodplains, and the many natural wonders that this province is known for.
Watching the rolling waves, the mountains, the countless rivers and lakes, one sees a peaceful idyllic world. As if time has stood still. Geologically speaking, however, this land has been a conveyor belt of activity, ground and pressured by different forces above and below the earth.
Deep in the ocean, fissures bubbled and steamed as molten rock (magma) flowed to the surface where it cooled and became part of the oceanic crust. Pulled apart by convection currents, the ocean floor was pushed against the continental plates, forming structures that were as magnificent as they were unstable.
Broken by mountain ranges that split the province into different climactic zones, we see a world of jagged peaks that were once smooth. When the Juan de Fuca plate and the Explorers plate collided, the continental crust warmed up, and the Coastal mountains rose from the titanic collision and the intense volcanic activity that ensued.
In the Pleistocene era, the age of glaciers altered the landscape creating rivers, floodplains, waterfalls, canyons, and sharpening the once smooth terrain. A layer of 2-kilometer thick ice covered the region, then melted as the ice age came to an end 10-12 thousand years ago, reshaping the landscape as it retreated.
Beneath the ocean of this tumultuous land, life stirs with rich complexity. Along the shore, in the region between the high and low tides, lies the intertidal zone, where life thrives thanks to the nutrients and light available. More than 600 species of seaweed can be found along the coast, 34 of which can only be found in the waters of BC.
In the high tide region of the intertidal zone, one can find the sturdy denizens of the ocean. Algal blooms. Multicellular marine forests that rival the beauty of any forest on land. Although smaller in size than their landlocked counterparts, marine plants have adapted to the awesome tidal forces that advance and retreat.
Cannings R, Cannings S. British Columbia: A Natural History. Vancouver: Greystone Books; 2004. 352 p.
Images by @litguru