Student Blog — Big Island Adventures

Here’s Brooke’s account of our whirlwind interlude on Big Island. — Kate
Brooke and cairn. Photo: Brooke Driscoll
Brooke and cairn. Photo: Brooke Driscoll

This last week our field school took a trip down to Pigeon Lake to work at Big Island for a couple of days. Big Island, also known as Boyd or Chiminis island is the largest undeveloped  island in southern Ontario. The island has been used by Indigenous people for thousands of years, and is still of cultural value to the Curve Lake First Nations. The ecologically diverse island contains a variety of unique wildlife and ecosystems, such as coniferous forests, alvars, open fields, wetlands, and open maple forests. Big Island was originally in Curve Lake’s possession, before being sold by an Indian agent to the Boyd family in the late 19th century. Boyd used the island first for its lumber and later farmed. Since then, its ownership has been transferred to various private owners, before being donated to the Kawartha Land Trust in 2015.

Loon skull Katie found. Photo: Brooke Driscoll
Loon skull Katie found. Photo: Brooke Driscoll
We worked at Big Island for two days, heading there by boat, covered in bug spray and sunscreen. Our first day was spent attempting to find areas of archaeological potential by transecting the island to start a cultural landscape survey. It was a lot harder than we thought it would be to walk in a straight line across the island! The hiking was amazing, though, and the different ecological areas kept us distracted from how tired we were from hiking through the bush. Some of us even managed to reach the other end of the island and dip our feet into the water before heading back.

The open maple forest with Sarah, Steph, James, Jodie and Brianne. Photo: Brooke Driscoll
The open maple forest with Sarah, Steph, James, Jodie and Brianne. Photo: Brooke Driscoll
Our second day was a bit more successful. We split into three groups with one continuing the transects from the day before and the other two getting coordinates for the cairns (rock piles) and white pine stumps in the alvar at the centre of the island. We used total stations and theodolites to measure the distances from the datum points to the cairns, then measured their diameters and heights. We later used this data to map these cairns as points on a map of the island.
Mapping the cairns with the total station with Charlotte in the background. Photo: Brooke Driscoll
Mapping the cairns with the total station with Charlotte in the background. Photo: Brooke Driscoll

Going to Big Island was a nice break from our usual site at the Trent campus, and it was a great experience, highlighting some of the lesser known aspects of archaeology that precede excavations. Although it was crazy hot, and there was a lot of poison ivy, it was fun working at and exploring the island, and there were lots of great instagrammable moments!

— Brooke Driscoll

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