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Found 9 results

  1. Daring to Hunt Centralia Ferns

    I read @rachelgardner01 's trip report* recently on the fossil forum telling about St. Clair-style white fern fossils and how the ghost town was once again being visited by more than just the most reckless of thrill seekers. Not long ago, extremely few people dared to go beyond the new bypass for fear of falling into flaming sink holes. The place has become unregulated like the Wild West, with tourists coming from all over to see the “Highway to Hell” and ride their ATVs. The fire was reported to have burned out in town and moved down the coal vein. Clearly, no one is worried about sink holes. After a couple hours enjoying every ride with no lines at Knoebels Amusement Park on a very foggy, soggy day, we drove to Centralia for a little fun. What could be cooler than a ghost town on a foggy October day? And, by the way, after enjoying the romantic setting, maybe we could find the quarry. Rachel's trip report included a handy aerial map with the slope marked in red. It was a short walk from on of three cemeteries that are still maintained in town. All we had to do was follow the ATV tracks. We met a microbiologist while we walked. She was looking at the bacteria, comparing soil samples from places where the fire was out with samples from some hot spots above a fire that still exists deep below town (with surface soil temps around 80F). The bacteria present in the hot spots are out of balance. There is an overabundance of the wrong sort. However, in the spots that have cooled down, the balance has returned surprisingly quickly. And, by the way, she had a permit to be there. The town is still considered too unsafe for the general public, but it isn’t patrolled. Two lessons should be learned from this: 1. Nature always finds a way. 2. If the rocks I’m examining seem kind of warm, find someplace else to prospect! We found the quarry about an hour before sunset. We found ourselves at the top of steeply sloping walls covered in scree over smooth, slick, carbon shale. I watched my step, kept my center of gravity close to the ground, and tread carefully. I like sliding down scree-covered slopes, but not when I do it unintentionally. The fossils were plentiful! I saw calamites and lepidodendron all over the place. Some were bright white while others were gleaming gray on matte gray shale. Some had a single fern frond and others were a riot of plant textures. A few were coated pale yellow. The hard part was picking out the nicest ones to take home. I have been to this formation before. I made several trips to Carbondale, to the NE, over the last couple years. I missed my chance to go prospecting at St Clair ( a few miles to the SE ) as they closed the site to all but school groups a few years ago, but I do have some pieces that others collected before they closed. St Clair and Centralia both have the white ferns. Carbondale has the most detailed preservation. The ones there that are colored are yellow to deep red with a few that have iridescent spots. Centralia’s stone is the most crumbly and delicate, especially when damp. Although Centralia, St. Clair and Carbondale are all part of the Lewellen Formation and reasonably close to one another, there is a distinct difference in the stone at each locale. St Clair and Carbondale have firmer shales. I wanted to find things that I did not already have represented from Carbondale. That proved tricky in the short time I had, but I did find some nice white ferns to take home. Plus, I have a plan for another trip at some point with more time – maybe with some simple rappelling gear? Coincidentally, this month’s speaker for the Delaware Mineralogical Society was a geologist who participated in a study of the mineralization of St Clair plants. Here, then, are some of the highlights after I thought to take notes. Time period: Pennsylvanian Sub-period, 320-290 million years old The environment was a swampy area where the sediments settled slowly. The plants were minimally compressed during preservation, so the impressions are more or less the same size as the original biomatter. The silvery-gray material coating some of the plant impressions is graphite while the white is a combination of pyrophyllite and kaolinite after pyrite. When the swamp was buried, the thicker parts of the plants pyritized. Heat and pressure then transformed the pyrite into the white minerals, which settled to the bottom. The upper surfaces retained the carbon and became coated in glossy graphite. So, what one sees loose on the ground are a mix of upper and lower surfaces. *
  2. St Clair PA Fern Hunting

    I was interested in driving up to Pottsville, PA to look for some fern fossils around St Clair. From reading: and then: It seems that the sites around St Clair are now owned by Reading Anthracite a coal company and that digging or collecting of the ground is strictly prohibited. I also found this: http://readinganthracite.com/access-permits/ That implies a $125 permit for going onto their property to do things such as ATV and bike. Nowhere on there do I see anything that mentions digging or collecting fossils but from the previous post I gather that such activities are prohibited. My question is two-fold: 1. There has to be somewhere close to St Clair that is full of fern fossils. Would someone mind sharing the location? I would be willing to mail this individual some of the finds and some of these finds would be going to a university. None of them would be for sale. 2. Would anyone be willing to make the trip with me? I could even pick you up and cover gas as I do have a Prius. My current location is Washington DC. Thanks everyone. I know there has to be some ferns still out there.
  3. Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp.). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. For me, fossils are all about stress relief; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on. -Zach
  4. Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp.). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. For me, fossils are all about stress relief; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on. In order to illustrate the detail of these ferns, I found it was critical to get the lighting right. I experimented with many different positions/intensities of flash in order to get the desired effect. If light is coming from directly above, it can easily "flatten" out the fine texture of the piece, and I discovered that angling the flashes to the sides of the piece worked much better. -Zach
  5. Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp.). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. For me, fossils are all about stress relief; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on. -Zach
  6. Family vacations include just my wife and I now that the "kids" are grown and married, and these days the two of us are happy to plan our trips around fossil sites. A couple of weeks ago we drove down to New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, stopping at Big Brook, coastal New Jersey, Calvert Cliffs, St. Clair, Beltzville Park region and Carbondale. It was a great trip. We didn't make any startling discoveries, and the scientific community won't have to rethink any evolutionary theories after our expedition, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. On our drive south we stopped for only an hour at Big Brook. We'd been there several times before and we always look forward to it. We didn't have time to stray too far from the parking area but we did a little sifting with quarter-inch screens and made a few small finds. The mammal tooth is modern, not fossilized. I think it's deer. We found a few small shark teeth, the usual belemnite pieces and concretions of all shapes and sizes. We tend to pick up anything that looks like something, but we weren't there long enough collect very much. Our malibu barely noticed the weight. ................ We drove to the shore and enjoyed a few days just walking the beaches and marshes of Brigantine, New Jersey, not searching for fossils, just enjoying the sea and the migrating birds. I did come across what I think is a bit of fossil coral. I could be wrong. It seemed out of place there but just about anything can wash up on an ocean beach. ..... After a few days of R&R in NJ we drove down to Solomons, Maryland, where we stayed a couple of nights and toured the friendly and informative Calvert Marine Museum. It's small but bigger on the inside, with some excellent displays of fossils. Very kid - friendly and also very professional. We had planned on visiting Flag Ponds the next day but ended up at Matoaka instead. It was a cold and damp and I was glad we didn't book space in one of the old wooden cabins. They reminded me of places I stayed with the Scouts as a kid. It was a blast back then but I'm afraid my aching bones are too old for them now. We met the 95-year-old owner who was helpful and friendly. The young woman in the office was equally friendly, let us use the "facilities" in one of the cabins, and showed us the way to the beach. The strand lines along the narrow beach were full of broken shells, most of them eroded from the cliffs. We collected some miocene scallop shells, along with smaller molluscs and some good-looking barnacles (if you can say that about barnacles), but we didn't see any shark teeth on the surface. We screened along the water line for awhile, and found a few small teeth and quite a few nice pieces of coral. I filled my backpack with chunks of clay that had fallen out of the cliffs, to check for any small shells or micros, someday. The car bounced along the dirt road without any real problems. ... On our way to Pennsylvania the next day, we first stopped at Brownies Beach, a little further north along the Calvert Cliffs. We arrived at a very low tide and the beach was beautiful. We mostly scanned along the shoreline as we walked the beach, and occasionally stopped to sift a little. My wife found one nice shark tooth, maybe Carcharias sp?, but I didn't have much luck just scanning the surface. We were happy just walking along the beach and admiring the cliffs and the scenery, and occasionally stopped to pick up a few fossil shells. I brought back some more clay to look through later. (To be continued ... )
  7. As I learn more and more about this hobby of fossil collecting and study I'm unfortunately also finding out more about those once great fossil collecting sites that have been destroyed or we no longer have access to; ones like Swatara Gap, Linton, Ohio, Eighteen Mile Creek, Centerfield, just to name a few. There are also others like Inversand, NJ and St Clair, PA which are threatened with closure. I would like to invite the membership to share their thoughts and (feelings) about what could possibly be done to possibly reopen some of the closed sites and to keep those that are endangered open. Maybe share some stories about places that are no longer accessible and of course photos of fossils from places where they can no longer be collected. Those fossils I'm showing are Mucrospirifers from Eighteen Mile Creek near Buffalo, NY., a site that just closed last Spring. Thank you and happy posting.
  8. I went to St. Clair PA today for the first time to look around and look for some of the white fern fossils. When I got there I met a fellow member, Hitekmastr and his wife Nancy. They were getting their equipment out of their SUV when I pulled up and parked. I asked if this spot was the right place to hunt for fern fossils. He said yes and then we made introductions and realized we all are members here. It's always great to meet fellow fossil hunters out on the trail. I'll post my trip and pics tomorrow when I have more time.
  9. Plant Fossil Consolidation

    Hey everyone. After collecting at St clair this week I was wondering what methods people use to preserve the mineralization of the specimens after they have brought them home. I'm looking for some sort of good solution to keep them from oxidizing. Elmers in water?
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