David Claerr: Fossil Hunting

This post is by researcher and author, David Claerr.

This specimen was in a loose, crumbly grey limestone matrix and was exposed by recent high floods. It was about to be washed into the creek. Although it was heavy, it could be just picked up since it was pretty much detached from the matrix it was half-nestled in.

I went on a pre-dawn foray, still dark at 4:00 AM, equipped with rope I made from chain-braided "mule tape," an army surplus canvas tote bag, and our old jogging-style baby stroller. I go early so no one bothers me and I don't alarm anyone when they see me scrambling up and down cliffs and mucking around with weird-looking gear.

First I let the tote bag and rope down the sheer drop and tied the rope to a sapling. Then I went upstream where there was a large tree on the precipice with roots hanging downward and crosswise enough to clamber down the cliffside. I bagged the pieces with some packing, scrambled back up the cliff and hauled it up by the rope. Then, into the baby stroller and back a couple miles to the car.

( While I was making my way back to the trail, I saw some eyes in the dark deep woods-reflecting a greenish light. Probably a few deer, based on the height, but sort of spooky none-the less)

This fossil is about two feet wide and probably weighs 60 lbs. A very interesting element about this specimen was that it was already cracked on a fairly regular series of segments along a fractal progression and the joints were like three-dimensional puzzle pieces. On the inside, the fossil rock is a different color, type and texture with a fluted pattern. I think this might be the fossilized remnants of the creature in the shell. The fluted pattern might be the recesses where the individual tentacles are housed.

Another feature was the way the interior of the spiral was progressively thinner as well as smaller, as it was from earlier, younger development of the ammonite. Although a bit eroded, the thickest parts have a pronounced surface of patterned ripples.

At some point I may donate this fossil to a museum or natural history exhibit, which is something I have done in the past as well.