So began my three day, three quarry adventure. On the first leg of the trip was a visit to my usual haunt, Arkona, but this time it would involve some great visiting friends and fossil comrades (Malcolm, Dave from Philadelphia, and Joe K.). Dave was more keen on plumping up his brachiopod supply, and was eager to get collecting in the south pit. Dave is no slouch on the trilobite front, though... He has gorgeous specimens that I would certainly like to have in my collection.
Malcolm made the long drive to my place and arrived around 7:30 am, and off we went to Arkona to meet up with Dave. But before we left, Malcolm showed me a Moroccan trilobite he had prepared for Dave:
Definitely big props to Malcolm's prep skills. This one has spines coming out in 3D, including a crazy trident protruding from the glabella. Just wow.
This picture was taken halfway through the day. While Dave was off in the south pit, Malcolm and I didn't really budge from our bench in the Widder. Malcolm was heading west, and I was heading east. We moved a heck of a lot of shale. I do not look forward to what will have to happen next once we run out of the left and right areas as that will mean cutting into the cliff, and that will mean chopping out a lot of overburden. I was already having to approach the Greenops-rich layer from the top, cutting out 4-6 feet of shale that only contains bits and brachs.
But the search was a success in many ways. I came away with three Greenops, and Malcolm with two. That's pretty stellar results when finding one full specimen is a trip-maker.
This one is a bit of a bummer given that some parts have flaked off. Still, not a bad piece that I can gift or trade.
I have a habit of picking up nautiloids from the Widder given how nicely they can pyritize. I did find a Tornoceras uniangulare, as can be found in this layer, but it is so pitted and in such bad shape that I'm not going to bother posting a picture of it here.
But the real trip-maker for me was a plate with two Greenops. It also had impressions of other full ones. This must have been quite the death assemblage, and it is a little disappointing that only two survived. But here is how I found it:
Nervous as I was in attempting to prep what would be a $1,000 plate, I just need to make the attempt.
After about an hour using the Dremel to carefully remove some bulk matrix, and a sewing needle to work carefully around the specimen to reveal more of it.
And this after another hour using more sewing needle and the Paasche air eraser using baking soda at 25-30 PSI. Not perfect as this pair has a few problems, but not a bad first try on a very tricky piece! I might do some fine touches on it later.
In all, a good first leg of the trip, and great to meet up again with Malcolm, and meet both Dave and Joe for the first time after only knowing them via the Fossil Forum.
My fossil forum friend, Jason, had sent me a great assortment of fossils which arrived on the first day of my three-day fossil trip. Have a look: these are mostly from Calvert Cliffs, and includes some great Miocene shells and plenty of teeth, plates, and... on the far right is the Cambrian exception: the tiny trilobite Perenopsis (actually: Itagnostus interstricta).
A fossil friend of mine on the Fossil Forum, Jason Rice, recently sent me a package of goodies in trade for some spare material I had on hand from Arkona.
The top row has some mouth plates and shells, while the bottom four rows are all fossil shark teeth. These are quite special for me as they represent the first shark teeth in my expanding collection. These are from the Miocene period, 6-20 million years ago.
The teeth are definitely worthy of a close up image.
This large fossil scallop is Chesapectens nefrens - a fairly popularly sought out one.
The trilobite Elrathia kingii from the Wheeler Formation in Utah. Middle Cambrian (~550 million years ago).
Another Asaphiscus wheeleri, with impression. It is fairly common that one finds these without their cheeks as they moulted their old carapaces and exited through their cephalons.
The most iconic of the Utah trilobites, and the one you see most commonly sold in rock shops, here we have Elrathia kingii with a tiny friend - a "mini-me" version, if you will.
All very exciting stuff! Not only does this boost my trilobite species count for the year, but particularly Cambrian trilobites (see my post on the ones I acquired from Marcus here). As there are no Cambrian exposures anywhere near me, these are a real treat.
Day 1 of 3: Craigleith Area
Deb was on vacation time, and so apart from a few beach days and staycation relaxation, we spent three days on the road. Our first stop was Craigleith near Collingwood, and we took the stunningly scenic route through Grey Highlands.
The Craigleith area is filled with Whitby Formation shale overlying the Lindsay Formation limestone. You cannot legally collect from the provincial park, but there are a few very tiny spots left outside of the park where one can split a few shales to find a lot of Pseudogygites moults.
At the park itself, there is a display area of fossils. Pictured above is a fairly large orthocone nautiloid - they got pretty big in the Ordovician.
A complete Pseudogygites latimarginatus. Full ones are exceptionally hard to find as it is more common to encounter enormous hash plates filled with moults.
A fairly representative hash plate of Pseudogygites latimarginatus trilobites and brachiopods. Pieces from over a dozen in this shot alone.
Another representative species of trilobite in the Whitby Formation is Triarthrus. I might be able to free up some of the overlying matrix on this one. It is partially pyritized, although it is tough to make out in this photo.
The pleura of an Isotelus sp. in the Lindsay Formation.
These small, feathery creatures are also common in this shale. These are graptolites.
This is indeed a complete Pseudogygites latimarginatus. A bit crushed and torn, but all the pieces seem to be there. Nice!
Day 2 of 3: Oro-Medonte to Gamebridge and beaverton
After staying in Oro-Medonte / horseshoe valley, we made our way to our B&B in preparation for the big quarry dig on the following day. Although not a fossil collecting day as much as simply a touring of small town Ontario, there were a few rocks around. Deb took lots of pictures of some living creatures like sand pipers, geese, monarch butterflies (so many!), and a cormorant. In Beaverton, we took a stroll along the pier where the sides were shored up by Verulam Formation riprap.
The Beaverton riprap: weathered gastropod hash.
Crinoid hash plate as part of the landscaping toward the old mill park in Beaverton.
We took a walk to Gamebridge's locks system, and then upriver where there were pockets of Verulam limestone. Pictured here as an appetizer to the main event for the next day in the quarry is a brachiopod hash with a piece of Prasopora on the right.
By the same river, a crinoid stalk terminating with half a calyx showing, plus the impression of arms flowing from it. A neat piece!
Last river piece: a hash of mostly brachiopods and bryozoans
Day 3 of 3 (The Main Event)
I was so excited to get into the quarry that I was up at 4 am and left the B&B at around 5:15 during nautical twilight to make the five minute walk to the quarry. I deposited the legal waiver forms, suited up with the hardhat and reflective vests, and poked around to look at the rocks the best I could until the sky lightened up a bit more.
Those who have read my previous post on Brechin's JD Quarry (here) already know the place is incredibly vast and overwhelming. Top left: a large cephalon and genal spine of an Isotelus (fragments abound here, while full ones are very hard to come by). Top right: more Isotelus bits with a Flexicalymene senaria cranidium in the centre. Bottom: typical busy hash plate of assorted crinoids, trilo-pieces, bryozoans, and brachs.
First blood is a prize find: a semi-prone Flexicalymene senaria in the scree at the top level of the quarry. I found it in two pieces and had to stabilize it with crazy glue. Unfortunately, the pin that functioned as the stopper for the nozzle had snapped off, so my glue bottle would be one use only. This piece is still, however, lovely and quite robust.
Eventually, I was joined by Malcolm, Kevin B., and Jabali. We split some new blast piles, and also worked on the new area hauling out tons of rock where Malcolm had found some exceptionally rare cystoids. Sadly, it looked like what he had found the weekend before was an isolated death pool, but it felt good to move enormous slabs of Bobcaygeon Formation limestone. Just to give you a sense of how serious we can be, one piece we moved had to weigh over 700 lbs, and I ended up snapping a steel pry bar. Groar!
I spent the rest of the day trying to cover ground, going through weathered piles of scree along the upper ledges and wandering the immensely mountainous crush piles.
We don't screw around. Jabali snapped Malcolm and me trying to pry this big rock into the pond. We needed to remove from the top down by a good six feet to see if the cystoid layer was going to continue.
Bottom of the quarry, new blast pile. Crinoid stalks can run forever here.
Close up of crinoid stalks.
In situ photograph of a full prone trilobite, Flexicalymene sp. Sadly, as I didn't have any glue left, I wasn't able to stabilize it. The tail piece of this one is now missing.
What survived transport. I might be able to very delicately tease out the left side.
The pustular glabella is poking out at a vertical angle on this piece. Not sure yet what species this is, but will update when I find out. Update: it is looking like I have myself a Calyptaulax callicephalus.
Trilo-pieces. Top right: impression of a pygidium with a margin (to be identified). Centre: Possible Flexicalymene cranidium (to be confirmed - actually no: see picture below). Bottom left: pygidium and some pleurae of an Isotelus.
Well, what do you know? I get to add another species to my collection. Thanks to Don C. from the Forum in planting the bug in my ear that this might be an Achatella achates, an uncommon phacopid trilobite. I just picked off some of the matrix here to reveal the telltale diagnostic features of this species.
Both plates contain partial Ceraurus.
Assortment of trilobite pieces: Flexicalymene, Isotelus.
The big Flexicalymene found at the beginning of the dig is joined by a Flexi roller I found in the afternoon.
This one in need of identification. I have some ideas, but it's just guesswork at the moment.
Some big honkin' pieces of orthocone nautiloid. The one on the lower right I make have to photograph independently as it is the very end of the taper, and with a brachiopod association. The middle one may be Geisonoceras.
A hash plate with a gastropod on the left, and some trilobite pieces throughout.
A close up of this hash. The cranidium belongs to Calyptaulax callicephalus.
Deb found this tiny pygidium. Species needs identification!
I love these high-spired gastropods! The majority of these are Fusispira sp., (and others like Hormotoma and possibly the thin one being Subulites) and the cluster on the lower right with the pinched spires is likely Lophospira sp.
I can't help but to pick up crinoid pieces.
Low-spired gastropods that weather out of the matrix. The one exception is the corkscrew-shaped high-spired gastropod I missed when I took the initial "family photo" of high-spired gastros earlier.
A collection of brachiopods. The bottom two levels are a very typical heart-shaped species - various types of Rhynchotrema.
Odds and sods: top two rows are sponges and bryozoans. Bottom two rows are trilo-pieces.
Before Malcolm left for the day, he gifted Deb and me some fossils. The trilobites I had found and given to him for prep, and I now get to see them in all their expertly prepared glory - my thanks, Malcolm!
This is one of the many pieces Malcolm gave us: segments from a eurypterid (a sea scorpion from the Silurian). The are likely from the quarry in Fort Erie, and so are very hard to come by these days.
Readers of the blog will already be familiar with this Greenops widderensis.
Some Eldredgeops rana I found at Penn Dixie, after Malcolm's masterly touch. The next three images are closeups to show the exquisite detail.
Stay tuned: on Monday I am receiving a gift of fossils from fellow fossil collector Jason Rice, from Utah!
One of my fossil forum chums, Ron from Montana, shipped to me a big bug in a box. This thing makes all my other trilobites look puny!
He also threw in a sweet little ammonite with some opalescent lustre:
And here are some pictures of the big trilobite. It is from Morocco, and it looks like a Drotops megalomanicus. As there is a thriving cottage industry in Morocco in producing fakes, I've inspected this carefully. No resin bubbles, and these trilobites have some black calcite. It doesn't look like an restoration work was done on this one, and some of the prep was a bit rough. It is mostly covered with pustular little nodules, some of which seem to have been abraded off by a bit of sloppy preparation. Still, a very large trilobite at about 5 1/2 inches (12.5 cm).
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 had a fantastic time yesterday collecting with Roger, who makes an annual visit to Canada from Germany to see his family. We spent the day at Arkona where I showed him my productive spots on the north side. Many neat things were found.
Rather than post the finds in this post, I wanted to dedicate this one to Roger's generousity in gifting me some fabulous ammonites he has collected from Germany, very nicely prepared and coated in beeswax. Enjoy!
The last two on the bottom row are interesting and fully inflated brachiopods.
Apart from the very nice colour and thick-ribbing, I had to show the fascinating and well-detailed keel side.
I just wanted to provide another update on Malcolm's continued and excellent progress on some of the stuff I handed over to his care. You might recall that I found a Ceraurus during my first trip to Brechin. It was pretty submerged in the matrix, but I've read that this is ideal since it hasn't had much exposure to weathering.
So the picture on the left is how I found it. Obviously, it is missing a bit of its tail piece here and is pretty encrusted in matrix.
A few days ago, Malcolm posted some pictures of what he was able to salvage from this one.
Take a look at the results below. Absolutely fantastic. This bug's a bit beat up and missing the tail, but in all a good and nearly complete specimen made all the better by Malcolm's preparation.
Anyhow, a brief post. I'll likely be posting another next week when I hunt Arkona with Roger.
UPDATE (Aug 30, 2017): This specimen is now featured on Mineralienatlas Lexicon)
As a supplement to my recent trip to Brechin, Ontario, Malcolm Thornley offered to prep out a complete Greenops widderensis I found last year. The frustrating thing about these trilobites in Arkona is that they tend to be very fragile and flaky, and most times you find just tail pieces or parts of the cephalon. They only very rarely come out nice and whole like this one. You can go through tons of rock for just one half-decent specimen.
Before this received its masterful prep, I gave it a go using my primitive tools - a Dremel engraver and a sewing needle under a magnifying lens. Here is what I ended up with - as far as I would dare with such a specimen:
Ok, so not bad - but far from museum quality. For that, you need the right tools and the expert touch only a seasoned prep-artist can provide.
Malcolm spent a good amount of time with this one, using a Comco abrasion unit at 7 PSI, with dolomite as the abrasion substance through a 320 mesh screen. He worked out all the scuff marks of my Dremel and removed some of the excess matrix. Using a .015 nozzle, Malcolm prepped this using his Nikon scope at a magnification of 14x. Here are some images he provided of the process:
And finally, below, is the finished masterpiece. He used a .010 nozzle, as small as they may come, to get out the grit between all the nooks and crannies. As Malcolm told me, there were no restorations or use of consolidants. The only imperfection is a bit of damage to the pleura on the mid-right side, but beyond that an exquisitely preserved - and now masterfully prepared museum quality trilobite! I am certainly in awe of his skill.
And, just to compare, the top image beside where this bug was before prep, and halfway through the process, just to show the big difference a good prep can make
Deb and I made the four hour drive up to the east side of Lake Simcoe to dig at a quarry in Brechin. This was my first time working an active quarry, and it was exciting (and potentially fairly dangerous if you don't properly observe some common sense and safety precautions). It was about a day and a half of rummaging through the rocks on mostly sunny and hot days. But we didn't come away empty-handed!
Deb and me ready on our first day. We arrived shortly after 2 pm. Francie from the Ohio Dry Dredgers and a few of their members were just finishing up. They had just come up from Penn Dixie, and we thank Francie for snapping our picture.
I cannot stress enough that this is an active quarry with regular blasting and areas that are not entirely safe, so there is no messing around here. Full safety equipment (steel-toed boots, hard-hats, and reflective vests are absolutely mandatory), and it requires signing a legal waiver before entering the site. On the right is the entrance.
On the left is just some of the mountainous crush piles. To the right, I'm hauling our wagon full of gear to the uppermost tier flanked by some gullies.
This is a view from the second level overlooking a part of the pit. For a sense of scale, a person standing at that back wall would look little bigger than a dot in this picture. The machines below are quite large. The stratigraphy is mostly Verulam Formation from the Ordovician, with some Bobcaygeon Formation now being dredged out from the base.
Again, a bit tough to make out scale, but the drop here is precipitous. That rock near the top could fall at any time, so it is generally a good idea not to be poking around directly at the base of any of the walls. The usual rule is to keep about no closer than a 45 degree angle from the top of the wall. A lot of loose stuff out there just waiting for any tremor to send it all down - and no hard hat is strong enough to save you from a few hundreds tons of limestone crashing down!
A typical hash plate rich in crinoid and other bits. I tend to either photograph or take home interesting hash plates, and particularly from places I don't get to collect from very often. It gives a sense of the marine bed.
Another hash plate. The Verulam limestone itself is mostly storm-tossed debris as opposed to just the quiet deposition of organisms and sediment over time. In some rocks, you can see the violent wave/ripple of mud having had churned everything.
Two more hash plate with some rich biota. If you look very carefully toward the upper right of the second one, you can pick out the tail piece of a tiny trilobite.
One of the hash plates I brought home of a storm depost of brachiopods and some trilo-bits.
Last hash plate pics, I promise! These are just a few I brought home. The one on the left that is brown fell from the uppermost part of the Verulam and has a good collection of gastropods and a few brachs.
A few members of our crew. From left to right: Roger, Malcolm (with the rock saw), and me. Deb took some video footage of Malcolm in action cutting out a nice multi-plate crinoid slab. Malcolm has been a regular at this quarry for several years, and there is very little he hasn't yet found in terms of the large faunal variety present here.
Malcolm's infamous no-fooling-around rock saw beside a multi-plate of crinoids (picture by Malcolm)
I've been tasked with turning the rock over so that Malcolm can continue his cut to free the crinoids (picture by Malcolm).
Some high-spired gastropods (Fusispira sp) and flatter ones. These weather right out of the rocks. New material depends on the quarry to be blasting out new stuff. Deb and I found that splitting the blocks was not getting us very far - most of the stuff to be found is either weathered out, or appears solely on the exposed parts of the rock. The rock itself alternates between thinly bedded mudstone/shale and very dense encrinal layers. Splitting the mudstone usually had traces or were just blank for us.
Malcolm found this cystoid (Pleurocystites?), and was kind enough to give it to us. I'll try to confirm the species when I update this post.
Crinoid stalk. Certainly not the longest you can find here!
Closeup of a branching bryozoan (Stictopicorella?).
Malcolm tells me that this is a bit of rare one at the site. I found this in the fallen materials on the second level. It is now been confirmed by veteran fossil collectors Kevin K. and Joe K. as the bryozoan, Constellaria - and this may be only third one ever found at this site.
Closeup of a trilobite I pulled from the bottom level. I was really coming for trilobites on this trip, and I was not disappointed. The first one I found in the upper level gullies was a Flexicalymene senaria roller, but this one is a prone and partially/maybe disarticulated one?
One of the most common trilobites in this formation is Isotelus, but full specimens are a bit tricky to find. Just about every rock has bits of them. On the left is a collection of tail pieces, with the one on the extreme left a fairly large (4 inches wide) example that Deb found. On the right are some other pieces, mostly of a genal spine, a hypostome (the mouthpiece, which looks a little like a wrench head) and some head pieces (cranidia).
This I found on the second level: a ventral view (underneath side) of an Isotelus - or what remains of it. You can see the hypostome.
This is a virtually complete Ceraurus missing only its pygidial spikes. It is currently with Malcolm who will be prepping it for me.
Trilobite rollers! I had very much wanted to find a complete Isotelus, and I was not disappointed. The "Kermit" looking one on the left is virtually complete and found lodged in the strata on the second level of the quarry. The one of the far right is a Flexicalymene that I had found minutes upon exploring the site, and the middle one is a Ceraurus sp.
A closeup of the middle one.
I still have a bucket of stuff to go through, and some IDs to put on the finds. In all, it was a fantastic and exciting trip. My thanks to Malcolm for being our gracious and knowledgeable host.
The site boasts a heck of a lot of variety for trilobites alone. Below is a table of identified and described species found in the Verulam Formation by B.A. Liberty (1969) Paleozoic Geology of the Lake Simcoe Area, Ontario. Geological Survey of Canada, Memoirs 355. Since then, Ludvigsen (1979) describes a few others, including Amphilichas (a pygidium of which Malcolm found just this weekend, and is considered a rarity - and never found whole).
Update: I just performed a bit of light cleaning of the rollers and snapped slightly better pictures of them here: