Monday, September 13, 2010

Fossils Fossils Fossils

The Chuckanut Range has a very interesting geological history.

A non-marine sedimentary deposition, approximately 10,000 feet thick, was formed in the Eocene Age.

George Mustoe of the Western Washington University Geology Department was kind enough to give my daughter Mackenzie and I a hands-on-tour of his collection of fossils from the Chuckanut Formation deep in the bowels of one of the science buildings.

I won't try and explain too much right now because my knowledge of paleontology is, "ahem", well, a bit limited, but George  - who is a great guy to talk to about all of this - patiently answered all of my questions and tried to steer me gently back on track whenever I interrupted with dumb questions, suppositions, and guesses on what happened when, where and why.

Basically the Chuckanut formation was a non-marine (meaning it wasn't from the ocean) deposit of sediments that created sandstone over time.  Mixed into the sand were plants, leaves and other material and when conditions were just right there formed over time - fossils.

Geological forces - pushing, shoving, tilting, folding,  shearing (from glaciers) and erosion exposed some of these fossils that were collected by scientists like George.

It's difficult to pin down an exact age of these fossils but they were deposited approximately 50,000,011 years ago - or roughly 50,000,000 years before we moved to Bellingham
So as you are walking, biking, hiking, jogging the trails around here, take a look at the ground under foot - who knows some of the leaf litter you are squishing down may someday become a fossil.

And that is just another example of what contributes to our sense of place about Bellingham, Whatcom and Skagit Counties and is another reason to protect the Chuckanut Range - a most interesting place in our world.

Here are a few examples of fossils in his collection - thanks George!

all photos © Paul K Anderson courtesy of George Mustoe and
from the Geology Dept. of Western Washington University

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