Sunday, October 29, 2006

stalking the wily fossil

Turns out that hidden away in the northeast corner of Washington State is a chunk of a former lake. A former ancient lake. 50 million years ago ancient. And with some tectonic plate rearrangement, continents running into each other, and so on, the lakebed got pushed up and out where it could be viewed by some descendents of the scampering mammals that were just figuring things out about then. Plus, if you give the locals some paper with pictures and writing on it, they let you dig there and even take some of the fossils home with you. So natually, I had to go.

First, you have to get there. These mountains are a recent addition. The Cascade range did not exist when the lake did.

The Stonerose Fossil Center is located just on the outskirts of Republic, Wa. It's an old mining and logging town, small and isolated, so sometimes businesses combine services not usually seen together.

Here's a view of the fossil strata with a bit of bustling downtown Republic in the corner.

The lakebed compressed over the millenia to a nice, fine-grained shale that is easy to split in layers like a cake. The trick to fossil-hunting is to chisel out a good-sized hunk of rock from the side of the cliff, then taking your hammer and chisel and very, very carefully tapping it until it decides to flake open. And if you are lucky, you will find something interesting pressed in between the flakes of stone. Mostly you find nothing. Now and then you get generic lakebottom crud, or the ever-present worm tracks (I noted, with suspicion, that while wormtracks were everywhere nobody ever found a fossilized worm. Theories vary, mine is there was only one worm that lived for a long, long time.)

My fossils are below (you are allowed to keep 3 per day of digging, as long as they aren't of scientific signifigance). I was given the signal honor of having one of my fossils confiscated for further research. They promised to send me the results once they figure out what it is.


Blogger Kermit said...

Love it!

In another life, Kermit was a geologist and spent a fair amount of time collecting wonderful Jurassic stuff in West Central Wyoming.

Glad to hear that there are other real antique freaks out there!


2:30 PM, November 08, 2006  

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