Saturday, October 18, 2008

Down in the Pit

The Falls of the Ohio are famed for having Devonian fossil beds exposed and easily visible. The volunteers, or Naturalists-at-Heart, work hard learning about fossils while training, and for years after. No one is allowed to collect rocks or fossils within the park. It's not too surprising, then, that one of our favorite activities is going fossil hunting at nearby Hanson Quarry, with our resident geologist Alan Greenberg to help make identifications.

Living on the surface of the earth, most people give little thought to what lies beneath their feet. This rock quarry has a pit that must be 200 feet deep--wish I could judge distances better. It's enough to make my stomach drop. I'm very careful not to get close to the edge. In fact, Alan warned us sternly not to get within a car's length of the high wall today, since they were actually working with big rock moving equipment right above our heads. He didn't want one of us to get squashed if a piece of equipment tipped over the edge! I can't really comprehend the amount of time it took for mud and debris and dead animals to fall to the bottom of the ocean, get covered by more mud and debris and dead animals, over and over, to make rock this deep. I know it goes deeper than what we see here, but this is quite enough to blow me away, thank you.

When it rains, you cake mud on your boots about six inches deep. Today was dry and cool, perfect weather for fossil hunting. The best fossils are usually found in rocks that weigh over 40 pounds, too big to carry home. We find enough corals, brachiopods and crinoids to make for a good day. Every year some lucky Heart finds a really cool trilobite. Again, I was not that lucky person this year, but that's why I keep going back! Alan says there is a "bone yard" area which has small fish bones and scales in it. You would not recognize them as bones at all, they look more like small flecks of black rock.

Leaving the quarry, I spotted a large Red Tailed Hawk perched in a dead tree. Hey, do we know how to have fun or what?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think of the stories the hawk could tell! I hope I can join you the next time at the quarry.