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How Dangerous Can The Cliffs Be? (Aquia Formation)


AmazoniteJosh

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My favorite collecting spot is the aquia formation. The best and most pristine teeth are found on/near/in the cliffs. This means that I like searching near the cliffs there often, so should I be concerned about cliff collapses there? Someone at the site called them ''Non-collapsable cliffs'' which cannot be completely true. I've heard that when the cliffs are soft and wet they are dangerous, but what if they're dry and it's a calm day? So overall, should I be concerned about the cliffs when they're dry and when there hasn't been a storm recently?

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Josh, I've been collecting those Aquia exposure cliffs for many many years. All you have to see is one large pile of dirt up against the cliff face and you quickly realize that hey, these cliffs can collapse! It's a naturally occurring process because the cliff face is exposed to the elements, and as the face gets wet, and water from above seeps into the ground, the face expands and contracts during freezing and thawing, and eventually chunks break loose thereby creating more unstable sections. It becomes sort of like a domino effect, so it seems there are always less than stable areas of the cliff face just waiting for the right conditions to cause them to crumble and break away. I used to think that it was "safe" to be near the cliffs as long as it wasn't raining, or during some sort of storm, but I quickly learned that was wrong when a friend of mine was struck by a relatively small piece of cliff, about the size of a softball. He was about 10 feet away from the cliff face and a chunk fell without any sound or warning, striking him in the side of the ehad and shoulder. It broke his collarbone/shoulder, a few ribs, multiple lacerations, and he woke up in the hospital. Another collector found him and prevented him from drowning.

I have learned that the cliffs along the Potomac River and Calvert Cliffs are never completely safe, regardless of weather, sunny, calm tides, etc. In fact I was just down at these cliffs over the past weekend (both places) with my 18 yr old son, and every time we had to get close in order to avoid deeper water, I told him to hurry on up and get past those areas so we could be as far away as possible. It's real tempting to stop in those areas where the "gravel looks good", eventhough they are real close to the cliff face, or near an area of the cliff that is severely undercut, so I usually take a quick look and keep on moving. A few weeks ago I had a bunch of loose dirt "rain" down across my back while I was over 10 feet away from the cliff face. It hurt, but fortunately there weren't any large pieces or chunks. It was a fairly sunny day about 60 degrees, with little or no wind. I never heard it coming, but I had been hearing the slight trickling of dirt coming off the cliffs as they warmed up from the Sun hitting them.

There's no fossil worth risking your life over, so be careful, collect with a friend/relative when possible, and carry a cellphone for emergencies.

Daryl.

Edited by cowsharks
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One piece of advice I'd have for anyone working near a cliff (any cliff, I'm not familiar with these): Get a hardhat! Just be aware that it isn't a magic shield--a fist sized rock from 40 feet up will go right through both it and your skull. The helmet will protect against the same rock from 10 feet up, and spare you the concussion.

I'll echo cowsharks: there's no fossil worth risking your life over. And falling rocks only make noise when they hit something--hopefully not you! You'll hear a slide coming, but not a straight drop from overhead.

Good luck, have fun, and stay safe!

And thanks for posting the question here.

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Josh,

I second everything Daryl said in his post. l was hunting the Aquia and walking along the cliffs one day when the fall in the photo occurred. This happened literallly seconds after I passed that exact spot. Had I lingered for even a few seconds It could have turned into a very bad day for me. So just as Daryl mentioned be careful and hunt with a buddy.

post-281-0-49086000-1397077659_thumb.jpg

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One more point, any cliff that is 100% stable is no good for collecting, you need fresh falls to get new material. Take all reasonable precautions, helmet, phone, never collect alone, never hammer/dig at the face etc. and minimise the risk.

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Yes, let this be said. There is no absolutely safe cliff face. I live in California and they have parts of Yosemite falling off all the time...that's solid granite! Any where that a small amount of moisture or the like can seep down into a crack and allow erosion to take place can create a potential hazard. Even hillsides that aren't completely vertical can slide, (and you don't want to be on it when this happens). Not meaning to scare you, but one can never be too safe. Just take care and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

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One other quick note about a hardhat: Once it's served its purpose and absorbed the shock of an impact, it cannot be assumed to still be intact, even if it doesn't show any visible damage. So, buy one, wear it until it gets a hard hit, and then replace it.

The same is true for bicycle helmets and most other safety helmets. Football helmets are a possible exception, at least within the game context.

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If you do want to get scared, go to youtube and ask it for cliff collapse videos. Some of them are impressive, but from mostly bigger cliffs than on Chesapeake bay. Still, obsessed1's photo should say all you need to know.

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Sometimes, Mr. Gravity is not your friend.

"There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about." - Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” - Thomas Henry Huxley

>Paleontology is an evolving science.

>May your wonders never cease!

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I agree with what everyone above said and will add that even a small tree landing on your head will ruin your day.

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Daryl and Obsessed1 nailed this. The cliffs are NEVER "safe". Some of my closest calls have come on calm days with no wind and no rain in days. In fact I think right now (spring) is the worst time of the year imo. All the freeze thaws are loosened up now and the rain we get in the spring can penetrate the cracks and cause massive slides/tree falls etc... I've seen more new huge slides 100 tons plus in the past 1.5 months than all winter long. Every time out it seems I notice a new one from what I would have thought a stable spot.

As for the Aquia formation that place scares me more than the Calvert formation cliffs because you are in such close proximity to the cliff faces and the number of overhanging cliff faces/trees/roots. So easy there to bump a root which is all it takes to start a slide or set a 40 pound clay ball onto your head.

Bottom line... if you do this long enough (I'm at around 150+ trips) you will A.) see a big slide in person and B.) get hit with debris. The only question is will you be injured. Best way to minimize though is be smart. Stay away from the cliffs when you have high/offshore winds, heavy rain, stay as far away from the faces, and NEVER EVER dig into the cliffs or even in a slump or crawl/walk up a slump.

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