0130: More Design

IMG_7549_01a_LR_10Museum of Comparative Anatomy, Paris


I continue to pour through my libraries, finding new and interesting ways to group various images. One topic that I simply cannot ignore is the amazing opportunity provided by fossils and rocks – capturing the designs in Nature never cease to amaze me. I have put together this selection of images that, I think, is a good example of this thought.


IMG_0303_01a_LR_10Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven


IMG_2306_01c_LR_10Crinoid Ossicles, Chazy Reef, Vermont


This next group of five images are plant fossils from Schoharie Creek, ranging from one to three feet across.








These last four are representative of the places I find myself in – fossils or not, these are the wonders I often find myself amongst.


Schoharie Creek, Gilboa, NY


Kaaterskill Creek, Catskill, NY


Trace Fossils, Catskill, NY

IMG_2772_01a_LR_10Ausable Chasm, NY


Two personal comments on the way out.


It was exactly fours years ago when I first exhibited my fossil images at the GCCA Gallery in Catskill. Unsure how the work would be regarded, I was ultimately gratified by the response. And I remain especially thankful to my good friend, Fawn Potash, for having faith and giving me that opportunity. Much has happened since that show!


Much of the upside of being a working photographer, to me, was always the notion that the camera was a ticket (or a pass) that allowed one into a world of experiences that few other occupations could ever match. I have many fine memories of unique and special encounters.

seegerv3_lr_12A number of years ago I had the good fortune of spending a day photographing Pete Seeger at his hilltop home overlooking the Hudson River. I was shooting for Bill Moyers’ production company. Bill was there to conduct an extended interview. As we strolled through the neighboring woods Pete spoke about everything from the Spanish Civil War to the blacklists of the 1950s. But it was talk about the Vietnam protests and their respective individual roles that produced one of the most amazing conversations I have been privy to. While Pete was one of the major figures protesting, Mr. Moyers was President Johnson’s Press Secretary. What each side knew and did not know about the other at that time was fascinating.

Mr. Seeger was a true giant who very few could ever match. You could feel his presence. It was palpable. And it was truly special. Rest in Peace.

Thank you for visiting.

Ausable Chasm

Driving down the west side of Lake Champlain we ran across a place called “Ausable Chasm.” I had spotted their brochure in  a local diner, on the rack that advertises the nearest Putt-Putt, Zoom Flume, and all other attractions designed to entertain the American Family on Summer vacation. Usually, I drive right past such places, more than happy to avoid the lines, the bored kids wishing they were home with their xbox, the deep fried objects vaguely resembling food, the… you get the picture, I’m sure.

But I learned a long time ago that “tourist sites” exist for a variety of reasons (commercial opportunities often high on that list). Most important among them is the idea that there is often something very cool there to witness or experience. Well, Ausable Chasm , it turns out, is that very place. We did have some things in our favor. It was a beautiful day for a hike. Schools had not yet let out for the Summer. Best of all, Ausable Chasm tells a fascinating story of geologic history.

Thankfully, stepping on to the first trail erased any notions of “tourist hell!”  In fact, the next two plus hours were filled with wonder and amazement. First discovered in 1765, this sandstone gorge was formed nearly 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Period and claims to be one of the oldest attractions in the country. Walkways rim the Chasm, dropping down to various levels throughout its length, offering views experienced by visitors for the past one hundred forty years.

“Seneca Ray” Stoddard (whose stereoscopic views of Ausable Chasm I present here) photographed the Adirondacks during the latter part of the 1800s. While his work exposed the Adirondacks to a post – Civil War audience eager to travel, he is perhaps best remembered for his documentation of unregulated mining and logging devastation. That work led to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution. Two exhibits of his work are currently on view at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY. and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls, NY.

I discovered “Seneca Ray” after our trip, and only then did I begin to match the images. In my follow up research I also discovered an 1888 catalog Stoddard shot for the Ausable folks – an interesting travelog from another time. It is downloadable as a PDF here.

Equal to the spectacle of a carved out canyon are the wonderful patterns that the rock creates. Between the layers of sediment, chemical reactions in the sandstone from age and leaching, and the strange fracturing, you’d think that someone took paint and a broad brush to the chasm walls! I’ll end this week with images from the “painted” walls interspersed with a few more views of the Chasm.

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Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.

Chazy Reef – Part 3

The Fisk Quarry Preserve

Pre-dawn light pulled me to the quarry. I had seen it briefly the day before so I knew the payoff would be worth the effort. I knew that strange and interesting sights awaited. I was not disappointed.

The long dormant quarry, at that hour of the day, had a captivating feel to it – beautiful yet slightly post apocalyptic. Maybe it had something to do with the uncovered remains of 450 million year old life. Maybe it had something to do with the two hundred years worth of human effort engaged in cutting and carting off, piece by piece, as much of this ancient reef as they could carry. Or maybe in the end it had something to do with the way in which the earth reclaims it – now as a wetlands.

A word about the Fisk Quarry. The site, first quarried by the French in 1666, was one of a handful of quarries active throughout the Nineteenth Century on Isle La Motte. Its unique and highly regarded stone found its way into sites such as Radio City, the National Gallery and Vermont’s State House. All this quarried stone, part of the bedrock, “…was actually the fossil remnants of an ancient reef. A Harvard geologist in 1924 called it ‘the oldest coral reef in the world.'”

Gastropods in the bedrock are, at least to me, endlessly fascinating. Set against the other markings on the face of the bedrock, they constantly reminded me of spiral galaxies. Squint a little as you view some of these gastropod images and you might think you are looking at images from the Hubble Telescope!

Perhaps the most amazing fossils to be found at the Fisk Quarry are stromatoporoids. An extinct ancestor of the sponge, it was one of the builders of the Chazy Reef.

Looking like an ever expanding cabbage, the stromatoporoids seen in the quarry walls are at least several feet in diameter. One has to wonder what else might be hidden in those walls!

The close-up below, coupled with the gastropods, shows the strangeness and diversity of life 450 million years ago. And given what we now know about the atmospheric conditions that existed at the time, one could only assume a landscape worthy of an Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury treatment!

The wetlands, created by time and abandonment, seem to be a fine place to end this final installment of the Chazy Reef story – for now. I look forward to many more visits in the future – if not for the unforgettable fossils to be found then most certainly for the sweeping beauty and the soulful caress of tranquility found there as well.

One last note – The Isle La Motte Preservation Trust (ILMPT), founded and organized by local citizens concerned about local heritage and the world around them, were able to save sites of worldwide significance through determination and hard work. They deserve your support. I’d bet that if you look a little closer to home you might very well find similarly well intentioned groups who could use a little of your help.

Visit Chazy Reef and Isle La Motte – a fine destination any time if year.

Next week – Ausable Chasm!

Subscribe at my homepage https://artandfossils.wordpress.com

Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.

Gilboa Revisited

Recent Gilboa discoveries have been much in the news. Articles in Nature Magazine, the Albany Times Union, and numerous online science news sites tell of the discovery of the floor of the world’s oldest forest. It’s a fascinating story that most recently unfolded thanks to the need for repairs on the ninety year old Gilboa Dam in Schoharie County (about an hour and a half away from my home in Catskill).

The general area around Gilboa had long been known for the “Gilboa stumps,” tree fossils dating back 385 million years.  It was in 2004 when Ms Linda Hernick and Mr. Frank Mannolini, both from the New York State Museum, discovered, not more stumps, but rather fossils of the tree’s intact crown and portions of trunk.The following is a close up image of that crown (The full crown and trunk image led the blog a few weeks ago – Gilboa Meets WAAM).

It was this find that allowed scientists to see finally, for the first time, what these trees (Eospermatopteris) looked like. There’s much more to the story. Dr. Bob Titus, Professor at Hartwick College, wrote about it much better and more fully in his latest newspaper column. He also writes about the small but delightful (and informative) Gilboa Museum.

This Sunday, in fact, (July 8) the Gilboa Museum will be holding an Open House from 1 – 3 PM. According to Ms Kristen Wyckoff  the Museum will be displaying several new permanent displays (the display space has been doubled). The Open House (which I attended last year) is a wonderful piece of Americana replete with local music, homemade cookies and cakes, and generous small town goodness. So after the breakfast dishes are done and the newspapers are read on Sunday get in the car and drive out to Gilboa (directions here) – a fine way to spend the afternoon.

As for the images displayed today, a number of them can be found in the current issue (Summer, 2012) of Kaatskill Life Magazine.

All of the above images are various tree fossils from Gilboa. Those below are plant fossils from the Gilboa area. All of the fossils displayed in this post come from the collection of the New York State Museum in Albany – a world class institution and a world class collection in upstate New York.

My great thanks, as always, to Ms Linda Hernick for allowing me the time and access to the Museum’s collection. As Paleobotany Collections Manager she oversees a stunning collection that, unfortunately like so many others, is rarely seen. The research value of most collections of this type is incalculable. Hopefully, viewed through a more sympathetic and aesthetic lens, objects like these can see the light of day and find their way on to the exhibition floor.

Thanks for visiting today. I’m sure there will be pics from the Gilboa Open House coming some time soon. Next week, though, we’ll head back to Chazy Reef for a final installment featuring the Fisk Quarry Preserve. Believe it or not, the trip to Chazy Reef led us to another gem – Ausable Chasm. Plenty to tell about that in coming weeks.

Subscribe or sign up for email notification to see the final installment of the Chazy Reef story.

Subscribe at my homepage https://artandfossils.wordpress.com

Thank you as always for visiting. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Thanks again for the visit.