Mammoth bones...teeth from big ol' shark...
At least I don’t need insulated chest waders, boats, diving apparatuses or remote-operated cameras to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes. Last weekend, I was doing a little bit of catching up by reading copies of USA TODAY which had shown up in our mailbox just across the street. The mailbox, by the way, needs some tender, loving care. It’s leaning, just a bit...not as much as that famous tower in Italy, though.
A couple of stories piqued my interest. Both of the stories, strangely enough, were in the January 16 issue of the paper. And both were about fossils. As you probably know by now, yours truly likes fossils.
One of the stories reported that in New York City, “Treasure hunters have taken to the East River after hearing a guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast claim that potentially valuable prehistoric mammoth bones were dumped in the river in the 1940s.” The treasure hunters were using all kinds of special equipment in their search.
The article noted that the American Museum of Natural History said in a statement that “We do not have any record of the disposal of these fossils in the East River...”
I haven’t found any signs of mammoth bones while wandering around in Union County looking for fossils. Although, while crafting this week’s gem of a column, I did find information online which shared that a mammoth was discovered in 1927 near Golconda during construction of a dam on the Ohio River. Did not know that.
I’m guessing there were folks who figured they could find the mammoth bones in the river in New York City and get rich. After all, there are fossils selling for millions of dollars these days. I’m guessing they would just get wet.
To be honest with you, I don’t give much thought to the monetary value of the fossils I find. One time, I showed a fossil I had found to a fellow traveler on the Journey Through Life. He looked at the treasure and said: “Wow. That might be worth a lot of money.”
Just for the sake of knowing such things, I paid a visit to eBay and did a search for the kinds of fossils I bring home. When I am lucky enough to find them. My gems are worth a couple of bucks each. If somebody actually would be willing to pay for them. So much for that retirement fund...
The other story was about a 9-year-old Maryland girl who was fortunate enough to make a “once-in-a-lifetime find.” On Christmas morning, of all days. The fossil she discovered in the waters of Chesapeake Bay was a 5-inch tooth which belonged to a now extinct shark called a megalodon. The critter lived millions of years ago.
The young lady was quite surprised to find her very special Christmas gift. All I can say to her is “Good on you.” I hope she finds another fossil shark tooth that is 6 or 7 inches long.
The story in USA TODAY shared that the 9-year-old, along with her sister, had asked for insulated chest waders as Christmas presents. They wanted to wear the chest waders to go hunting for shark teeth. Each of the girls did indeed recieve waders for Christmas...and it was off to the hunt that very day.
Just like mammoth bones, I have never found any shark teeth while on the hunt for paleontological treasures. However, the fossils I do find also are the remains of creatures which lived in our little corner of the world millions of years ago...when we were at the bottom of an ocean.
Generally, I will find fossils that resemble sea shells. Guess that’s because they are (or were) sea shells, belonging to critters called brachiopods.
Ultimately, though, my “dream” fossil find would be a complete trilobite. Trilobites also were critters that lived in the oceans millions of years ago. They looked a little bit like the sow bugs we find in our yards.
And, like the giant shark, trilobites are extinct. But they left behind some very nice fossils. I’ve found a fair number of trilobite fossils. Just not that special one. I know its out there...just waiting to be discovered...
So, I’ll keep looking. Most of the time, the search mostly will be about spending time outdoors...in the winter...spring...summer...fall.
Sometimes, after it’s been raining a lot in Southern Illinois, and I’m heading for a creek bed or two, I’ll put on my well-worn, comfortable, water-proof boots. But I’m thinking it may be time to get some insulated chest waders...