We just got back from ten lovely days in Montego Bay, and although the trip was not about fossils as much as it was about indulging in a lot of sun, sand, and recovering from a hectic semester, there were a few accidental fossil moments.
Much of the rock in Montego Bay is limestone dating from between the Mesozoic to Cenozoic, and is dominated by corals - just as coral reefs dominate there today. After I went snorkelling in a living coral reef, our boat docked at Margaritaville where, just outside the club, there was a large shelf of limestone filled with fossilized coral colonies as pictured here.
The corallites on this one are very finely detailed. So I did manage, with the aid of a hand-sized rock, to hammer out a few specimens as souvenirs.
Due to the abundance of the local limestone, it is commonly used as a building material.
A gastropod fossil.
An oyster shell fossil.
UPDATE: Upon my return home, there was a package waiting for me from the UK. My Forum friend John sent me a lovely little gift with a card, some whiskey, and this Silurian trilobite piece from Wren's Nest in Dudley.
On Sunday, I had an opportunity to dig in the south pit for about 6 hours. The going wasn't easy: it was cold, for one. And it was very mucky. My goal was to locate full specimens of the two trilobites Crassiproetus canadensis and Basidechenella arkonensis. I have only found fragments in the past, and they occur in the Hungry Hollow Member of the Widder Formation along with Eldredgeops rana and a zillion corals in the coral biostrome. In some cases, there is more coral than matrix! Finding a full one in that layer is not easy as they usually occur as disarticulated fragments.
Arkona's south pit in the morning. There were patches of ice about.
It's early in the trip because I can actually see my boots. By the end of the day, they will be covered in gloopy mud. By my boot is a medium sized coral "pie." I don't really pick up corals anymore.
This is the bench where I've set up for the day. The goal will be to dig into it rather than widen it. It looks quite nice and clean here, but after about an hour the underground water was seeping out and turning the whole bench into orange-grey-brown sucking mud. There were a few mudslides and a rock slide.
It's hard to tell because of all the mud obscuring this rock, but there is a trilobite fragment in here (the darker brown bit in the upper centre). Whenever I encountered a fragment, I put it in the bucket for closer investigation at home. I also brought a spray bottle so that I can see what was under the mud.
So this is what I was dealing with. The rock at the top eventually gave way. The matrix itself is either concrete hard coral cement, or comes out mushy and flaky, but not a lot in between. It is, however, easy to work with on the prep bench. By this time, I'm covered in mud. My gloves are just floppy mud mitts, and my tools are caked. I had to go to the river and wash them off halfway through the day.
Another early win, of a sorts. This is a piece of Eldredgeops rana cephalon.
Thorax and pygidium of a Basidechenella peeking out of the matrix. Into the bucket it goes in the hopes I can discern if it will be a complete specimen.
The cephalon of another Basidechenella. As before, into the bucket for closer inspection at home.
Sometimes one has to chop through a lot of coral. This one just kept going and going. It was about well over two feet in circumference. Here I am chopping out chunks of it to free up the layer.
A chunk of that tabulate coral. Overall, it was a frustrating, cold, muddy day where I didn't have too much to show for it - this being likely my last trip of the year, and thus not ending on a high note. I collected a lot of the usual Arkona stuff like crinoid ossicles, etc., but even scanning the Arkona mud-shale was not being generous as it was all swollen with moisture.
I always collect these when I find them. This is the gastropod Platyceras conicum, which can be easily distinguished from the more snail-like Platyceras arkonense by virtue of its cone-like shape. This one is of a fairly good size and condition.
The sad news is that none of the trilobites turned out to be complete. The ones on the top and the left are Basidechenella, while the one on the right is Crassiproetus.
Using some tools to expose the trilobite a bit more, a closeup of the most complete Basidechenella I found that day.
A closeup on the other side of one of these rocks reveals the pygidium of a Crassiproetus.
So no big wow specimens pulled out this trip, but as my friend Tim says, "a bad day fossil hunting is better than a good day at work."
Until next time.
With the appearance of yellow in the trees, reminders from the dean to submit the syllabi for the Fall semester, it all points to the end of summer. It also means getting in as much rock-breaking time before school duties resume.
A trip to Arkona - my nth one this year - did not yield up many wow specimens. My goal of finding a full Greenops widderensis has not borne much fruit this year for some odd reason. But I did come close on a few occasions.
This time, I crossed the river to the south bank for the first time (not to be confused with the south pit).
While on the south side of the river, there were some mighty large corals. I left them there since I already have enough coral, and I didn't fancy hauling all that around with me for the rest of the day!
This one is a real heartbreaker. Two nearly complete Greenops (one of which is just an impression), with a third one showing. As readers of my blog already know, the trilobites in the Widder Formation are quite delicate and flaky. Not only does the Widder shale not commonly follow regular bedding planes, breaking anyway they like, but any exposure to rain will cause them to fracture and crumble into little chips. Finding these bad boys intact, and not just endless moults, is rare.
After about two hours on the south bank, there really wasn't much to find. The cliffs were too vertical to risk chopping out benches, and all the fallen slabs had been split and picked over. And so I defaulted to my usual location on the north side of the river, attempting to continue some benches and find some trilobites. While splitting for a few hours, this oddball showed itself. No, not a fossil snowflake, but a hederellid - a kind of branching colonial animal that usually affixes itself to brachiopods and corals (thanks to Don C. on The Fossil Forum for the ID).
Some of the orthocone nautiloids that come out of the Widder can be very impressive as they are usually pyritized. However, they are also very delicate in that unforgiving shale. The pieces below all belong together, but it will be a matter of Humpty Dumpty to put them into their proper shape as some of the pieces crumbled into nothingness when I attempted to clean them. Derp.
The grey shale pieces here all come from a very thin layer I was working where it seemed the Greenops were coming out relatively whole. Following it horizontally, and spot-checking vertically at various parts of the strata, ended up in the trail going cold - just butts, bits, and pieces. Notice the squished one at the top middle...
...So I gave it a quick and careful application of the engraver to pop off some of the matrix. I might risk doing a bit more to see if the cephalon is still there. One has to be very careful in using vibration tools as the trilobite itself is liable to flake off. I might apply some quick crazy glue before trying again.
It was getting close to departure time, so I made my way out of the river and woods back to the north pit, and then scanned the Hungry Hollow Member for little bits. This fairly decently sized Platyceras was only showing a tiny bit of spine from the dirt. Digging it out, here it is in its large glory. Spines on this coprophagous species usually only appear on the juveniles, which can be very tiny (0.5 cm or less!), so it was surprising to see them on such a large one. Here are two other pictures of the same specimen from different angles:
That's about it for this time. Next weekend I hope to be making a trip back in time to the Ordovician - stay tuned!
I was able to spend a solid two hours in the south pit at Arkona this past weekend. The rain went from drizzle to downpour, and as mucky and unpleasant as it might make a sustained outing, the weather this season has been so erratic and rain-soaked that it is nigh impossible to plan collecting trips around (unreliable) forecasts.
Still, I made it fairly well in what was mostly a surface collecting operation. The rain brought out the colours of the weathered out fossils very well, making their browns and blacks "pop" for easier spotting.
Weathering out of the Arkona clay, I spotted quite a few of these goniatites. On sunny days, at the right angle, the sunlight makes their pyritized surfaces shine and become easily found; in rain, they show up as dark brown against the Arkona shale's light grey. But these are all full specimens. I've arranged these in ascending order of size, and I was quite impressed to find such large ones when a lot of them tend to be hardly larger than the head of a pin.
Finding full Eldredgeops rana rollers is not unheard of here, but the place does get picked over so thoroughly that they certainly are tougher to find. This roller (pictured at the bottom) had its pygidium sticking up and my eye was immediately drawn to it. As finding disarticulated pieces are the norm, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out this one was complete. Pictured above it is a small piece of fish plate.
This bumpy piece is a bryozoan. I don't find many of this particular type, and its constellatory arrangement reminded me of when I found that very rare bryozoan at the JD Quarry in June.
The amount of coral one has to sift through can be exasperating, but from time to time one encounters a nice piece worthy of putting in the collecting kit. In this case, a multi-cup example where the calyxes are very nicely articulated.
A collection of Platyceras spinosum. The one on the far left has still retained some of its stubby spines, while the one in the middle is a juvenile. One little fact about these gastropods is that they were coprophagous (they ate poop!), and so it is common to see them fossilized as being a symbiotic attachment to various creatures, particularly crinoids (although I do have one that affixed itself to a coral).
I always manage to pick up little goodies, even if I already have plenty of examples of these already. This assortment is heavily dominated by crinoid ossicles, some with cirra, but if you look closely you will find some tiny nautiloids, brachiopods, and the "button coral" Microcyclus on the upper left hand side.
And, finally, below is a short slideshow of some of the above finds under digital microscope at x75 magnification. In all, not a bad haul for two hours collecting in lashing rain!
Nothing too remarkable about the finds from two trips to Hungry Hollow, the first with Roger, and the second with my Deb. But I may as well post some finds.
On the Tuesday trip with Roger, we did scour the north pit, hacked out some slabs from the north river exposure, and ended by doing some surface collecting in the south pit. On the Sunday trip with Deb, we focused on the south pit since the north is filled with deer flies in the dense bush.
I looked in vain for the other half. This was worked out of the coral layer of the Hungry Hollow member.
Deb splits a coral to get a look at the structure inside.
A typical hash plate from the Hungry Hollow member, the layers without as many corals. You can see some trilobite cephalons in there.
Brach-encrusted shell pavement from the Arkona Formation. Found with Roger on the north pit part of the trip.
Not entirely sure what this is yet (to be updated). Could it be a Basidechenella trilobite glabella? About an inch long.
A pelecypod from the coral layer.
Lots of stuff going on here. Trilo-bits, a possible fish plate, tons of crinoid bits, a Platyceras conicum (lower left), brachs, etc.
Next up are a few of Roger's pictures and finds after he cleaned them up:
Roger snaps a picture of me up in the bench.
We were finding a few of these pyritized orthocones in the Widder shale. Not in itself a rare thing, but this one is intriguing.
These Tornoceras arkonense really clean up well! You can pick them out of the Arkona shale, but they also come out a bit bigger in the Widder shale. One must just be on the lookout for a bit of metallic glint, suggestive of something pyritized - and it could be one of these.
This one is a bit of a mystery. It is about 7 mm, but has some strange suture patterns. We're not sure which of us found this in the Arkona Fm, but that is immaterial. It is not a Tornoceras, and neither of us can find this ammonoid described in the usual places (such as the Stumm and Wright checklist or on the UMMP database). Could this be a new and undescribed species?
I spent the entire morning on Saturday at the hill & pit just beyond my backyard. My expectations were fairly low given how much I had picked the place clean over the years, so it was my goal instead to take pictures and record some of the fossil fauna there for posterity. How plans can get upended - sometimes in unforeseen yet lovely ways.
This picture is not exciting, nor was it meant to be! I began on the southwest portion of the hill (which is now pretty weedy with burdocks and spiky plants, by the way!). I had not spent a lot of time in that lower quadrant as I always seemed pulled to the upper southwest and southeast areas. Pictured here is a typical brachiopod assemblage - some spirifers, an atrypa-type, a Leptaena, and other assorted kinds. As I said, the purpose was to photo-document the typical stuff of the Bois Blanc Formation.
Another very typical assemblage from another distinct layer of the Bois Blanc. This tiny brachiopods can be quite numerous (I forget their name at the moment). So numerous, in fact, that some of the rocks bearing them actually are more shells than matrix, and just crumble. There are several examples of this type of assemblage in the area where the brachiopods are stained a kind of vermillion.
A similar assemblage to the first picture - some atrypas, a leptaena, and a large ?Strophodonta. Bored yet?
Performed a brief scan of the upper south quadrants and assembled a few of the specimens I had set aside from previous visits. If you zoom in for detail, you'll see, left to right, a rather chunky brach assemblage (name escapes me at the moment!), a lingulid pelecypod, a horn coral, and a typical (for particular layers in the Bois Blanc as a signature feature) cherty rock with a few corals showing cross-section. By this time, I had enough of the hill and was ready to give the adjoining pit another try.
Oh, but wait - I was distracted by a rock I had split and left behind some weeks ago. I decided to break it down to pluck two bryozoan specimens. The first pictured above is a typical fenestellate bryozoan. The next is a bit more peculiar...
Now what the heck is this? I made inquiries on The Fossil Forum, but at best we might describe it as Sulcoretepora. As described by a single specimen in the Amherstburg Formation by J.A. Fagerstrom:
"This specimen is a short bifoliate stem with three rows of apertures on each flattened side and none on the edges. Slightly raised longitudinal ridges separate adjacent rows of apertures. Apparently no mesopores are present between apertures but they may have been destroyed by recrystallization" (17).
Fagerstrom, J.A. (1961). The fauna of the Middle Devonian Formosa Reef Limestone of southwestern Ontario. Journal of Paleontology 35(1):1-48.
There are some interesting branching, radiating patterns in this one, with two zooecial apertures near the upper left and upper right corner (the dimply stuff). Colony form here is likely remnant of bryozoan encrusting substrate (with thanks for our experts on the forum). But why are we even talking about Amherstburg Formation? Let's keep this flagged for the time being.
I was not expecting to find any trilo-butts, but I managed to find about six. So now I am in the pit and can confirm that it contains Bois Blanc formation rocks. I dug this rock out of the wall of the pit, and pictured above is the pygidium of the dalmanitid trilobite Anchiopsis anchiops (which only appears in the Bois Blanc), but missing its full trademark pygidial spike.
Some in situ photos from the pit as I work the same rock. The top picture shows some typical assemblages, while the two lower pictures are closeups of the most frequent brachiopods.
Trilobite impressions (Anchiopsis anchiops). I took the positives home.
After I patrolled the rest of the pit and did not find much more to my liking, it was time to go home and take stock of the finds. Pictured above is a gastropod steinkern (the inner whorl occurs on the reverse side). Beneath that is a nicely inflated clam, and on the right is another spike-deprived Anchiopsis anchiops.
This specimen, found on the hill, is the real "meat" of this post. This is not a trilobite that appears in the Bois Blanc, but solely in the Amherstburg formation. The Amherstberg is a younger formation, contiguous with the Bois Blanc if there is no Sylvania formation intervening. Note the nodules on the fringe of the pygidium.
Consulting Ludvigsen's 1979 text, Fossils of Ontario. Part 1: The Trilobites, there is a specimen reported that looks nearly identical to this one, but it is simply called Dechenella halli. The name was updated by Ludvigsen in 1986 and recognized as a new genus: Mannopyge halli.
Here is a plate from the Ludvigsen 1986 text on the left, compared to my find on the right:
Quite exciting, as this makes the 19th species of trilobite in my expanding collection (I've more than doubled it since March of this year alone). Let's learn more about it:
"A warburgelline with pear-shaped glabella, deep sigmoid 1s furrow, narrow (tr.) and faint 2s and 3s furrows; no preglabellar field, tropidium, or tropidial ridges. Large eyes located anterior of cephalic midlength; genal spines short. Semicircular pygidium iacks a flat border,-axis with 9 - 10 node-bearing rings, eight faint pleural furrows and incised interpleural furrows, each pygidial rib terminates abaxially as a rounded node isolated by moderately deep paradoublural furrow. [...] No other warburgelline has a semicircular pygidium, and none possesses a conspicuous row of fringing nodes such as that of Mannopyge. The pygidial pleural ribs of M. halli, however, are of the flat-topped warburgelline-type (Owens 1973, Fig. 2), and there is no reason to doubt that Mannopyge is a late member of the subfamily Warburgellinae." (Ludvigsen 1986, 683).
Ludvigsen, Rolf (1986). Reef trilobites from the Formosa Limestone (Lower Devonian) of southern Ontario. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (24): 676-88.
Two remarks: First, this tells me that there are some Amherstberg formation rocks in the mix at this site. Second, trilobites in the Formosa reef limestone are not particularly common, dominated as it is by coral and stromatoporoids. Of the uncommonly found trilobites in that limestone, it is mostly dominated by Crassiproetus, followed by frequency occurrence Mannopyge halli, followed - in descending order of frequency - by Mystrocephla, Acanthopyge, and Harpidella.
I'll leave off today with a few more pictures, mostly to underscore that my picture-taking ability has seen a little boost in quality on account of having acquired the third-party app, Camera+, so that I can take proper macros. Using an iPad to take closeup images can be a bit unsatisfactory, but the app I purchased allows me to get in much closer and increase the resolution (which is probably why those of you with slower bandwidth are cursing me right now). As a test, pictured above are two sides of the same piece of crinoidal limestone found at Penn Dixie.
And this is a closeup of a coral piece from Arkona. I'm pleased with the detail.
Ok, enough from me until next weekend, when I'll be headed to a quarry east of Lake Simcoe for some serious Ordovician collecting. Until then, thanks for reading!
As temperatures slide into spring, the semester drawing to a close, I am back out in the field ending my cabin fever. Pictured here are a few finds from one of my nearby honey holes, some of which I've found in the past but did not post pictures of.
Pictured above and in the next two pictures, are pieces of a coral. It has been identified as likely Triassic or Jurassic in origin. How it came to be in a largely Devonian area is a mystery to me!
Here is a bigger chunk of the same coral. The shell type at the top is likely oyster.
This one was found along the Thames River at the university. Initially I thought this might be a transversely placed Megastrophia sp. brachiopod showing only the hinge, but it just doesn't seem to fit. Could it be a worm tube? Seems a bit too straight to be one. A mystery!
Above: a picture of the "riprap hill". Below: typical littoral.
Simple brach hash.
Nothing wow here: a chunk of tabulate coral, two brachs, a worn piece of Aulopora, and a general marine hash.
Worn gastropods. Hormotoma type on the left.
Leptaena sp. brachiopod, red on brown-grey matrix.
Hash plate with trilobite pygidia.
Fragments of two new species of trilobite for me. On the left is a piece of pygidium from Trypaulites calypso, found along the Thames River. According to Ludvigsen (1979), no specimen of this species has been collected in Ontario, although the equivalent strata elsewhere would suggest it should appear. This * might * be the first confirmed find of this species in the Dundee Formation in London (very exciting!). On the right is a partial cephalon impression of Basidechenella sp. to go along with a few of the pygidia that I sometimes pull from this area.
This now brings my trilobite tally to 10: Eldredgeops rana, Greenops widderensis, Greenops boothi, Basidechenella sp., Trypaulites calypso, Flexicalymene ouzregui, Pseudogygites latimarginatus, Triarthrus eatoni, Proetus sp.
This year, if time and travel permit, I hope to add a few more - particularly from the Ordovician. Stay tuned, for I'm returning to Penn Dixie this week for a multi-day dig. For now, here is a pic of me and the missus from last October that the PD folks put up on their website:
This past year has been precedent-setting for fossil collecting as it has also meant a staggering number of new and fascinating specimens added to a collection that seems to have colonized a lot of space in the house. No fewer than 8 trips to Hungry Hollow, countless trips to my nearby “honey hole,” some visits to the Ottawa and Rideau rivers, and 2 fabulous multi-day adventures at Penn Dixie. Deb and I have found numerous trilobites, including several full prone Greenops widderensis, well over a hundred Eldredgeops rana rollers and prone specimens (this in itself a major change from a few years back when I hadn’t bagged even one full specimen), and some fairly large and nearly complete Pseudogygites latimarginatus. And that’s just the trilobites. Several new types of corals, gastropods, brachiopods, crinoids, and cephalopods were also added - and even a fish plate. So many were gathered, in fact, that I was glad to be able to sell off some excess in support of the United Way campaign at work.
The above trilobite, Flexicalymene ouzregui, was my first fossil purchase, a gift to Deb for all her great work and finds this past year. It is Ordovician in age and from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Coral of the Year prize is tied with this specimen and one acquired from a trail. Both are Devonian
A lot of contenders for Assemblage of the Year, but the usual stuff from Arkona can take a backseat this time. It is a tie between this gravestone-sized block of black shale from Ottawa with plenty of Pseudogygites latimarginatus trilobites (and nautiloids), and an assemblage of Eldredgeops rana from Penn Dixie
Among a lot of brassy-coloured Goniatites and sundry other Devonian goodies, this slightly pyritized nautiloid from the Widder shale weathered out whole and not in its usual crushed state in the shale, earning it Cephalopod of the Year.
It was a bit of a challenge to settle on Gastropod of the Year, what with some neat high-spired specimens, but let's give the honour to my specimen Naticonema lineata from the encrinal layer of the Arkona Fm.
Although I did find a crinoid "bulb," I'm giving this pyritized beauty from the Arkona mud-shale Crinoid of the Year even if it is just a stem.
Amidst hundreds upon hundreds of brachiopods collected this year, including giant spirifers and the like, I could have copped out and said all of them are deserving of the honour of Gastropod of the Year, but let's opt for this specimen that preserved the umbilicus.
And the only fish fossil contender of the year, a confirmed fish plate from the Widder Fm
Contenders for Trilobite of the Year are legion. Instead of simply picking the biggest or most "perfect" specimen, this year is a tie between a Greenops widderensis that Deb found in the brittle Widder shale of Arkona, and an Eldredgeops rana that had been twisted and wrenched into an odd configuration, found at the Hungry Hollow Mbr of the Widder.
What follows are some odds and sods I hadn't got around to posting. Until the 2017 collecting season!
Keeping closer to home, I've managed to pull some interesting if not typical specimens from the Dundee Formation along the Thames River. I even found a pitifully small trilobite pygidium (really not worth showing). The more visually interesting specimens happen to be coral, a few brachiopods, and bivalves. Unless otherwise indicated, these are all from the Dundee Formation, of the Devonian age, Eifelian stage. Not shown in these images were the plentiful and more robustly ribbed Brevispirifer lucasensis. So, let's show rather than tell:
A fairly well-preserved chunk of colonial coral (?Favosites sp.). I don't usually go in for coral, but this one was a must-have.
Another busy hash-plate containing some rugose corals (?Zaphrentis sp.), a brachiopod (Rhipodomella sp.) and a bryozoan (Fenestella sp.).
Now that I'm back on campus teaching again, I took a few more pictures of the fossils in the wall of the Visual Arts Centre. The picture above already appears in my pre-blog entry, and I had misidentified it as a coral rather than a sponge (although it is nicknamed a "sunflower coral" due to its resemblance to a sunflower). It is a Fisherites ?occidentalis (formerly Receptaculites occidentalis, Blainville 1830, genus changed in 1979, Finney & Nitecki). The building's composition is Tyndall Stone (trademark of Gillis Quarries), Ordovician in age (Maysvillian stage), in the Selkirk Member of the Red River Formation quarried in Manitoba - incidentally the same material used in the Parliament Building. It is a dolomitic limestone mottled by many corals and thalassinoides.
Another image of the same limestone sporting two fairly large nautiloids side by side, siphuncle showing in the specimen on the right. There are also several large gastropods if you take the time to scan the exterior of the building.
And here is one such gastropod, Hormotoma sp.
The mottling of this limestone was a bit of a puzzle for some while. The mottling is something of enormous interest for the ichnologist (study of fossil burrows and traces). Here are some helpful papers on the subject:
Kendall, A.C., 1977. Origin of dolomite mottling in Ordovician limestones from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology, v. 25, p. 480-504.
Myrow, P.M., 1995. Thalassinoides and the enigma of early Paleozoic open-framework burrow systems. Palaios, v. 10, p. 58-74. (PDF)
Sheehan, P.M. and Schiefelbein, D.R.J., 1984. The trace fossil Thalassinoides from the Upper Ordovician of the eastern Great Basin: deep burrowing in the early Paleozoic. Journal of Paleontology, v. 58, p. 440-447.
And that is all from me for now. I'll be heading back to the Penn Dixie site in early October, now as a new and proud member of the Hamburg Natural History Society, for a two day dig.
The first step is admitting one has a problem!
When Deb and I went to the Home Depot to pick up some foam to seal an area around the pipe, I found myself "wandering" over to the hammer section where I pondered whether to buy a 3' wrecking bar to supplement my smaller pry bar, a new cold chisel with a longer head, and a 4lb blacksmith sledge to go with my regular 4lb sledge. Deb played enabler by telling me I should get them. So I did. But that obliged me to try them out since we are planning to return to Penn Dixie in early October.
So we went to Arkona's Hungry Hollow. And let me tell you that lugging that many pounds of tools and supplies around through a lot of brush and tough terrain ain't always easy!
Unless one wants to be contented with surface collecting of whatever stuff may weather out of the cliff through the process of erosion, the only real and serious way to get at some very nice specimens is to carve slabs out of the wall for splitting. To do that, one has to create a "bench," which is like a long notch in the wall where one can sit and lever out slabs to the left, right, and down.
So we were ready to get started on continuing a bench in the cliff face we found some months back, that we've been steadily extending. I worked a bit on an upper bench that I eventually connected to the lower bench, and created another even lower bench than the one Deb was working on. Having the 3' wrecking bar was making this a lot more efficient (but still back breaking work!). It isn't easy making benches, or even sometimes extending them - there can be a crazy amount of overburden clumped together and slumped over. I've had to go through several feet of the stuff in depth before hitting the actual wall. The other problem can be natural underground springs that leak through the shale, making it wet, muddy, and crumbly. There are plenty of fossils in those, but they just crumble or turn to mud. One has to go deeper into the wall to find dry shale.
Once we were able to cut deep into the cliff face, we found that some of the more trilobite-filled layers were within about a 4 inch area. This picture hardly does any justice to how much rock and overburden was removed. This multi-level bench is aboout 3-4' deep, 7-8' high, and about 15' wide. At a few points I was able to exploit a major crack or fissure to send a few hundred pounds of debris and shale chips tumbling down. There are layers that are just choked with large spirifers. I found a few that had some nautiloids more commonly spread throughout.
Here you can see the bench-build from two different angles. Again, it's difficult to really convey the amount of work we did.
What does five hours of breaking rock get you? Well, for Deb, a full Greenops widderensis. Given the gazillions of moult pieces we keep finding in the Widder Formation, a full specimen is not common. And they are very delicate, so we took several precautions in transport back to the car. But, just to put the spotlight on Deb - this was her fantastic fossil find.
And I'll end his post with just some recent pics as I try to organize some of the recent and past finds. The first is a tray with bays - on the left mostly complete prone and semi-prone Eldredgeops rana; in the centre my accumulation of crinoid stems and sections; on the right a hodge-podge of mostly complete rollers with one Crassiproetus marginatus(?) pygidium since I haven't found a home for it. The final image below is my fully prepped out double roller from Penn Dixie.