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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Thanks again for the visit.

Down at the Creek

Kaaterskill Creek passes within a couple of hundred yards of my studio. After dropping down from the eastern escarpment of the Catskill Mountains, it joins with Catskill Creek on its way to the Hudson River. Thanks to the omnipresent rock formations and outcroppings, indeed rock floor just about everywhere, there are nearby stretches that contain varying amounts of fossils. A great destination on a sunny early Spring day.

The opening image is that of “tentaculites“, conical, ribbed fossils that are poorly understood for a variety of reasons. This was my first find on Tuesday’s hike – not a bad way to begin. The image itself reminds me of some insignia patch that Tom Corbett or Tom Swift might have worn!

A funny thing happens every time I walk this one stretch of creek. It takes only a moment to find something to engage me visually. And once engaged, the opportunities cascade onward well past any original plans. So, on that particular afternoon I found more fossils, including a wonderful piece of ripple rock with a well placed trace fossil crown!

In such a beautiful location, it’s easy to be so focused on finding fossils that you can miss everything else – and there is always so much more. On that day I spent time with the “natural” assemblages still in place from Hurricane Irene.

And, last but not least, there are the rocks. They are so hard to ignore (even without any fossils attached). Let your mind wander with the thoughts they might evoke.
It was a very good day down on the creek.

One final note: Last week I mentioned the Interview and spread in the Spring, 2012 issue of Kaatskill Life Magazine. Many friends from outside the area wrote that they were unable to see the article, given the limited web presence of the magazine online. So I have posted the interview and selected images from the article, all of which can be found at Kaatskill Life Article.

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It was a busy week last week. A break in my son’s schedule allowed for a quick visit to Nashville, a rare treat given his endless touring. But before I get to all that I wanted everyone to know about the latest issue of Kaatskill Life Magazine. The Spring 2012 issue came out while I was away and featured an article entitled “Art Murphy Unearths Ageless Beauty in His Photography.” I’m very thankful to the folks at Kaatskill Life for the eight page spread and interview conducted by Bob Titus (aka the Catskills Geologist). It’s always a treat to see one’s work so nicely displayed. For those not familiar, Kaatskill Life is a quarterly glossy magazine always full of great articles and photography focusing on the Catskills region. Pick up a copy if you’re in the area or order it from Amazon.

And now back to Nashville. My son, Shaun Balin, fiddler extraordinaire, has been calling that town home now for almost five years. And most of that time he’s been on a tour bus or plane, playing venues from arenas to honky tonks. Here’s a pic he sent me from rehearsal the day I left:
Aside from hanging out and catching up, we did manage to find some “culture” – a great show on American Art at the Frist Center – courtesy of the Phillips Collection in D.C. (my favorite museum anywhere!). I got to hear Shaun perform at a local gig (of course he sounded great as always). And we even got in a bit of fossil hunting and hiking.

Some quick research online led me to lists of fossil sites in the Nashville area. The area in general shows evidence of the Ordovician Period (earlier than the Devonian by approximately 50 million years.) We chose to look for a quarry said to be rich in fossils. Directions consisted of nothing more than a street intersection. Sounded like a fine opportunity to explore.

One of the interesting aspects of the web is that time may advance, but web pages can sit out there forever, making outdated pages (and lists) seem as valid as something posted yesterday! Well, we found the intersection – all four corners were occupied by churches and mini-malls (I actually believe that churches by far outnumber mini-malls, maxi-malls, and just about everything else down there. Ah, nearer my god to thee!) On closer inspection we noticed a solid rock wall that wrapped around two sides of a Verizon store. The store had been dropped right into the corner of the (obviously) long abandoned quarry. A ten foot wide corridor between the two proved to be our proper destination. So we picked and poked and found some interesting Ordovician fossils (brachiopods primarily). I even brought some home.

Right in the middle of urban hustle and bustle, far different from my beloved Kaaterskill Creek, we found abundant proof of life 450 million years ago – probably much to the chagrin of the many evangelical churches that surround what’s left of an old quarry. And here’s the proof:

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