The self-guided tour of historic Dartmouth Commons glacial geology has been designed to start at the Alderney Ferry Terminal.

The tour begins in the parking lot and scenic boardwalk with views looking down the Halifax Habour. The Halifax Dartmouth ferry route dates back to the late 1800s – with a busy shoreline of commercial wharves extending into the water.

The goal of this urban geology walking tour is to explore the evidence of glacial geology, with linkages to brief stops into Halifax Harbour by Charles Lyell in 1841 and Louis Aggasiz in 1846.

Louis Aggasiz described his visit to Halifax in an article he published in the Atlantic Monthly (v 14, p 86).


In the autumn of 1846, six years after my visit to Great Britain in search of glaciers, I sailed for America. When the steamer stopped in Halifax, eager to set foot on the new continent so full of promise for me, I sprang on shore and started at a brisk pace for the heights above the landing. On the first undisturbed ground, after leaving the town, I was met by the familiar signs, the polished surfaces, the furrows and scratches, the line-engraving of the glacier, so well known in the Old World; …

Large glacial erratics are still perched on the striated shale bedrock, and people have been sitting on them, looking at this historic view – since the early history of modern geology.

This geotour will take us to the spot of that was this picturesque “View of Halifax from Dartmouth” engraving published by Buckingham 1843.

View of Halifax from Dartmouth. Buckingham 1843 – Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the other British provinces in North America : with a plan of national colonization. (from McGill Archives on Archive.org)

During the walking tour will see glacial erratics that closely resemble the same rock depicted in 1843. The mass reproduction of images like this in the 1840s was state of the art publication for the time.

Today – the same boulder depicted in the 1843 engraving can now be provided online as a 3d digital model.

During the walking tour we will also see small outcrops of glacial striations on the Halifax Formation bedrock, and other historical features in the Leighton Dillman Park, Darmouth Common.

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