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.

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

Thanks again for the visit.

Chazy Reef – Part 2

It turns out that I came away from Chazy Reef with much more material than I had even hoped for. So, for today I’d like to focus on the Goodsell Preserve. Part 3 will wrap up with a focus on the Fisk Quarry Preserve. These two preserves comprise the land protected by the Isle La Motte Preservation Trust (ILMPT), an organization founded by local citizens in 1998. And, thanks to their efforts, in 2009 the Chazy Fossil Reef was awarded the designation of National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

The Goodsell Preserve

Fresh mown paths met us at Goodsell, allowing for an easy, relaxing walk through lush fields. The breeze off Lake Champlain and a warm early Summer sun made it ideal timing for our visit. The 81 acres are interlaced with paths connecting various reef mounds.

And it’s these mounds that contain some of the oldest fossils I have ever seen. Ordovician Period fossils such as gastropods, bryozoa, crinoids, cephalopods, etal. are present, sometimes only as faint outlines. No matter that they might sometimes be faint, given their age (approximately 450 million years old).

The Visitors Center on site is a converted and restored farmhouse (see last week’s blog for image). It contains, among other things, an instructive video about the two sites, and a collection of local fossils. The next five images are from that collection.

I should take a moment to stress, as I often do, that I am an artist and not a scientist. While I try my best to accurately identify that which I photograph, and I try my best to get good identification from those who know, I recognize that I often fall short where proper identification is concerned. So anyone out there who knows such things is most welcome to comment on any of the images. These next three are fine examples. Stromatoporoids? Algae? Sponges? Or just cool marbleized rock? Either way, the patterns are compelling.

I’ll leave you with one final image for this segment – the old barn at Goodsell, right behind the Visitors Center. The hope, according to Ms Fitch, founder and president of the Trust, is that it become an education center. Like everything else, that will take support. This is a national treasure, saved and protected by ordinary citizens, and united by common goal. They would love your support. Visit if Summer vacation brings you anywhere near. You will be glad you did.

Next week I’ll be writing about current news surrounding Gilboa and the world’s oldest forest. Then the following week back to the world’s oldest fossil reef in Part 3 – the Fisk Quarry Preserve.

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

Gilboa Meets WAAM

I am happy to report that the above image, entitled Gilboa Tree Fossil, has won an award at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s upcoming show “Earth, Air, Water.” The opening is Saturday, June 16, 4-6 PM and will run for a month.

The proper name of the fossil is Eospermatopteris and it comes from the floor of the world’s oldest forest in nearby Gilboa. I’ll have much more on the topic of Gilboa in the next few weeks. In the meantime, let me tell you a few things about WAAM.

Since its establishment in 1920 it has served as a hub for art and artists throughout the wider Woodstock area. In its earlier days membership included such luminaries as George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Robert Henri, and many others. An article about Woodstock,  appearing in Life Magazine (August 22, 1938), referred to WAAM: “The ‘Local Louvre’ houses many a violent art controversy during its annual summer exhibits.” And referring to an aerial photo of the town, it went on: “In midsummer, little of Woodstock surmounts the trees except steeple of church which few artists attend. Nearly every barn is a studio.” I wonder how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

These days it’s a great place to show one’s work, and a great place to view interesting and stimulating work. While it might appear to sometimes vacillate from “venerable and creaky” to “interesting and thought provoking” (depending on one’s perspective at any given moment) it is always well worth a visit.

Summer is just about here and that means visits to other local gems. This one is the Indian Ladder Trail at Thatcher Park. The park is located on the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the best fossil-bearing formations in the entire country.

Cold ice cream. fresh local fruits and vegetables. And, thanks to my friend and neighbor, Bo, a garden that always puts on stunning displays. So, for a change, instead of fossils, I’ll end with images from that beautiful garden.

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

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