April 23, 2005 - Cretaceous Fossils, Sumter Co, AL

Another wonderful day on the river! Weather forecast called for a cold front to come in, but we were far enough south to enjoy very nice weather. The river had risen 10-15 feet since the scouting crew checked it out the previous week, and much of our collecting area was under water. The collection area is in the marl limestone sequences in the Arcola Limestone Member (Late Cretaceous Campanian 83-74 mya). We were hoping to find more of "our" mosasaur, whom we have named "Bigbee", and we actually did find one piece, another vertebra, in situ. Much of the collecting area had been scoured by the water and wave action. A few other pieces of mosasaur bone were found, including one vertebra, but not in the same area as the ones from the last trip, so there is no way to be certain they are from the same animal. Numerous steinkerns (internal molds) of gastropods (snails), bryzoan (look like a bunch of worm tubes stuck together), brachiopod, pelecypod, straight cephalopods, and ammonites were found, also some carbonized fossil wood.

Steve was spotted tooling around in the boat, looking as if he planned to go way down to a place that was difficult to walk to, so Vicki stuck out her thumb and she and Paige hitched a ride. A very exciting time getting into that boat from a cliff face! Claire decided not to try the boat trick, but decided to risk walking along the steep bluff. We got there about the same time, and of course were looking for "great treasures". Vicki spotted something that looked "odd" pretty quickly, and it turned out to be part of a large ammonite embedded in a huge boulder that everyone had walked past. We all started hunting around that area, but didn't find the other half. Further down, Steve stuck his hammer up under a rock before putting his hand there to check for fossils. Good thing he did, because a cottonmouth attacked the hammer! After moving away from the snake, we heard Claire squeal. She had found another large ammonite near where the first one was found, and it was almost complete. Steve just shook his head, and declared he would never pick up hitch-hikers again!

A small group took off on a scouting expedition after the trip was officially over. They found a nice shelf area with numerous fossils which were very fragile and easily breakable. So, we'll just enjoy the pictures! Found a number of very nice ammonites, a few shells, and pieces of fossil wood.

A big THANK YOU goes to Captain Gilbert and Captain Steve for the use of their boats!

(pictures courtesy Lea Martin, Claire Smith, and Vicki Lais.)

gathering for the fossil trip
Hanging out waiting for everyone to arrive.

hunting fossils in chalk bluffs
Paige, Leisa, Gilbert, Carl & Vicki popping out the small gastropods and straight cephalopods.

hunting fossils in chalk bluffs
Claire is just getting started.

fossil mosasaur vertebra
Mosasaur vertebra found by Vicki, quite a distance from the others that were found on the last trip.

hunting fossils in chalk bluffs
Leisa excavating around a fragile fossil.

showing off a gastropod
And the nice gastropod she collected.

hunting fossils in chalk bluffs
The chalky shoreline. (Paige isn't tired, just getting a closer look!)

hunting fossils in chalk bluffs
Steve's attention has just been diverted as someone stopped to talk . . .

fossil gastropod
Close-up of some of Steve's finds, mostly gastropods. There is also a nice mosasaur bone in that box.

fossil nautiloid
Tiny nautiloid found by Steve.

fossil exogira
Several Exogira were found.

fossil bivalves and gastropods
Some of Lea's finds.

fossil gastropods and cephalopods
Some of Paige's finds.

Gilbert has found another one (what, I don't know!)

fossil gastropod
Nice gastropod and the impression it left in the chalk, found by either Lea or Paige.

fossil ammonite section
Nice partial ammonite in place. It really blends in with the boulder quite well. Several people passed by without spotting it, leaving it for Vicki to find!

fossil ammonite section
Same ammonite after excavation. This is the bottom that was protected from weathering.

showing off fossil ammonite
Paige holding an ammonite found by Claire.

showing off fossils
Carl showing off his favorite finds.

boat drivers
Captain Steve and Captain Gilbert. Thanks, guys!

fossil wood
Gilbert found some fossil carbonized wood and a mass of what is either worm tubes or bryozoans.

fossil gastropod
Another nice gastropod and image it left in the chalk.

fossil shells in chalk bluff
Shells embedded in the chalk.

hunting fossils in chalk bluffs
Carl & Leisa, tuckered out after a long day.

fossil gastropods
Steve's finds, all cleaned up and protective coating applied.

fossil ammonite
Nice Ammonite found by Claire (after cleaning)

fossil ammonite
Another view of the ammonite.

chalk shelf with fossils in matrix
A limestone shelf filled with fossils found in the late evening. Nice to look at, but the fossils were too fragile to collect. Below is our "picture collection".

ammonite in chalk matrix
Nice ammonite.

fossil wood
A limb of carbonized wood.

ammonite in chalk matrix
Another nice ammonite.