Prof’s new rock doc shakes geology scene

After filming documentaries in more than 20 countries, geologist Nick Eyles still appreciates Ontario’s landscapes the most.

“I have a peculiar fondness for the Canadian Shield,” Eyles said. “As good as Ethiopia was, it’s not as good as Georgian Bay.”

The University of Toronto Scarborough professor recently finished a five-part documentary, Geologic Journey II, for CBC’s The Nature of Things. His first series, which focused on Canada, is now part of the curriculum for 45 per cent of Canadian schools.

The film shows scenes from around the world such as active volcanoes, majestic mountains and societies that deal with tectonic movements resulting in earthquakes and eruptions.

The image of geology as boring comes from teaching that emphasizes textbook work and underemphasizes field work, Eyles said.

“It’s taught totally inappropriately in many schools and universities,” he said. ”It bores people and puts them right off.”

Professor Nick Eyles talks about what he learned while making Geologic Journey II.


But learning about the earth and experiencing something like a volcano can be humbling, executive producer Michael Allder said.

“You realize you are a part in this big opera that goes on every day,” Allder said. “Every single place we went to had something about it that really attracted my curiosity.”

The series started as an idea for a film about the Bruce Trail along the Niagara Escarpment, where he often walks his dog, Allder said.

Geologic Journey II producer Michael Allder talks about Earth’s immense geological force and how mankind has little power over it.


After the success of the first series, the second was finished this year and runs until Nov. 25. Eyles said he considers the second one to be more effective scientifically because he was able to work together with CBC to research it prior to shooting.

Geologic Journey II was also the best part of his teaching career, Eyles said.

“In an average year, I might teach 500 students. The first episode of this series was seen by 660,000 people,” he said. “All those people had a lesson in geology — and they liked it.”