Spent Shells and Saved Plants
As the temperatures these days creep up to the 90’s mark, it
seemed just yesterday that I unloaded the gear from my car, in mid
December. I realized in my rush to pack,
I forgot my winter jacket. Luckily I had
a hat, was wearing layers and the pre-collecting adrenaline was kicking in.
The trip was an East Coast Fossil Club expedition to the
Hanson Brick / Boren Clay Products Quarry / Gulf Mine No. 1 site. This now-abandoned quarry near Gulf, North Carolina still produces carbonaceous plant
impressions / compressions in the yellow siltstone strata of the Late Triassic
Pekin Formation of the Deep
River basin. The common plant fossils include a variety of
ferns, cycads, cycadeoids and conifers.
My eldest daughter and I arrived tardy because the kitchen
pass took extra time to get validated. Luckily
the trip leader was lagging around the parked vehicles as a result of
misinformed directions to the site. She
led us down a meandering path, past a “local” shooting range as evidence of
numerous spend shell casings on the ground.
I chuckled and wondered if there was a correlation with shooting ranges
for the locals and fern collecting sites.
I observed a similar setup at the infamous St. Clair, Pennsylvania
fern site I was fortunate to collect at last year.
It was cold, but definitely the right time of the season to
collect at this Triassic site. Other
members who have previously christened their rock hammers in this formation spoke
of under growth / poison ivy so thick in the summertime that it would swallow
you whole if not armed with a machete.
And once you found a location to collect and set up camp, you’ll most
likely have your ankles devoured by fire ants.
After introductions to other members and brief conversations,
I picked out a spot to collect my first Triassic specimens. Members from the left and right were giving
out “yelps” once they found something.
Some impressions were notable enough to warrant a group investigation of
My area was mute, and after realizing how labor intensive
the clay was, my daughter took more interest in exploring the top soil layer
looking for hibernating insects / grubs or nuts buried by the area
squirrels. Finally after what seemed
like a half hour, I had my first specimen, with more finds to follow.
The trip leader later found a very fruitful vein which she
graciously shared with others including myself.
After about 3 hours of collecting, I decided to make my way back home to
my youngest daughter then pregnant wife, who was due in a couple of weeks. She was gracious enough to give my eldest daughter
and I that kitchen pass after several hours of bartering, begging, pleading and
crying by both of us…… pretty much in that order.
Some of the literature / references I used didn’t have the
greatest quality of illustrations. As a
result, I hope I didn’t butcher the ID’s.
Any corrections / verifications are welcome.