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Monday, October 11, 2010

Diving for Fossils

Yesterday, our dive shop invited the staff to come on an "exploratory fossil dive" in the Chesapeake Bay.  We weren't really sure how it was going to go and if we were going to find anything at all, so it was really just an opportunity to do some local diving and maybe find something interesting.  The fossils can be found around Calvert Cliffs in Southern Maryland, and we headed out from a marina in Deale.  The whole Deale area is near and dear to my heart, as I grew up not too far north of there.

Todd and Buddy smile for the camera at the dock before the boat leaves (just after sunrise)

The boat was a fishing boat and not a dive boat, so if you can see in the photo above, we had our tanks in a big cooler!  It worked out fine, the cooler actually worked quite well.  We discussed the plans for the day and then headed out to the cliffs.

Dive briefing before we headed out

The fossils we were looking for were 8-20 million years old.  We were hoping to find shells, bones and sharks teeth, especially Megalodon teeth.  Megalodons are GIANT SHARKS!  They're extinct, but I'd sure like to go back and see one.  There should be a Back to the Future 4 that involves putting the flux capacitor into a ship and going back to find Megalodons.  It's like Back to the Future meets Star Trek IV. Wow, I just showed my geek side.

So, we got to the cliffs and jumped in for the dive.  Since the boat was not a dive boat, we had to do a side roll off of the boat, which was a totally new entry for me.  I was, in fact, the first one in.  I was hot, since I was zipped up in my wetsuit in the sun, so I went ahead and jumped.  However, since I wasn't wearing a hood, the water went right down my neck right onto my skin.  The water was 67 degrees and it was like pouring ice water into my wetsuit.  That'll take your breath away!

The first cliffs that we dove

We didn't find much of anything on the first dive.  Visibility was lower than I've ever dove in - we could see about 2-4 feet when we first entered the water.  As we got closer to the shoreline, it went down to almost nothing and I had my mask basically against the sand looking for shells.  Todd and I had to hold hands so that we wouldn't lose each other.  It wasn't terribly deep (only about 6-10 feet), so we popped up every so often to see where we were in relation to the boat.  We each only had one tank. so after about 35 minutes, we swam back to the boat.  It was a long swim - I was definitely getting my exercise.

Todd is excited to dive!

We headed to the second dive site, hoping for better conditions.  It was definitely calmer, and the cliffs were higher.  We decided to try snorkeling since the depth reached 4 feet pretty quickly.  Todd had built us sifters, so we headed almost to shore (waist deep water and below) and used trowels to shovel sand and shells into the sifters to look for things. 

We did find some fossils!!  No teeth, sadly.  It would have been so cool to find teeth.  We did find a small bone, a fossilized barnacle and lots of fossilized scallop shells.  Believe it or not, these shells are millions of years old.  Very cool!

Sadly, that was the end of the day.  Well, after a long swim back to the boat (again, getting my exercise!).  At least for the second swim I didn't have 50 pounds of equipment on.  

Back to the boat, and then back to the marina for crabcakes.  

Our shop is going to give it another try another time.  Next time, we're just going to dive some oyster beds and reefs in the bay.  Or, if the conditions are right, we'll go for fossils.  The conditions weren't quite right for the fossils this weekend.  I will admit, though, that the weather was PERFECT and we could not have asked for a better and more beautiful day on the bay.  

Our fossils!

Check them out!  On the bottom row, on the left is a fossil "in transition", where it is becoming a fossil.  To the right of that is a barnacle, and to the right of that are some bones.

Hooray for diving!


Jenny said...

awesome! we went to a beach not far from calvert cliffs for a day trip this summer and I found a little shark tooth on the shore! I was pretty excited! I never thought about looking from in the water though.

marathonmaiden said...

i love fossils so i'm kind of a little jealous. it sounds like fun!

K said...

What makes a fossil a fossil?

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