Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This one's a fossil of an extraterrestrial...

Julia posted about an e-mail she recently received, in which her correspondent described finding a fossilized head of a sea horse and a fossil heart. And it reminded me that my other half wanted me to tell a story about a tag that I've used before. So, Jay, this post is for you. (Correct the story if I blow it.)

Back in the early 90's, there used to be a funky art festival in northeastern Vermont called the Bread and Puppet Circus. The group apparently still tours with their giant puppets and political theater, but in the 90's, they held a big weekend gathering at a farm in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, with various skits and lots of bread (cooked in outdoor ovens). The festival grew to something that involved camping, vendors, and all the trappings of a Phish show except the music.

We went up there in one of its last years as a summer festival. I had just started doing fieldwork a bit south of there, so I combined a geology scouting trip with a cultural event, and Jay and I headed out to check out the scene.

The parking lots were a bit like those at a Grateful Dead show - veggie burritos, drum circles, jewelry, bumper stickers, twirly skirts and bare feet. But there was one guy with a lot of rocks sitting on the ground. I would have avoided him - I have had enough experiences with people wanting to talk about the coming Earth Changes as it was - but Jay likes talking to unusual characters. So we went over to talk to him.

Oh, yes, he had interesting rocks.

"This one is a dinosaur!" (I squinted. It looked like a moss-covered calcareous schist, and no, I don't mean it was a coprolite.)

"This one is a dinosaur egg!" (Well, maybe it was kind of oval-shaped...)

"And this one is the fossil of an extraterrestrial!" (Waits River Formation. Not even a single darned garnet.)

I smiled, nodded, and backed slowly away.

I don't think Jay has ever forgiven me for avoiding that long discussion of alien fossils.

(Jay is traveling for work, which is why I'm talking to him via my blog.)

5 comments:

Chuck said...

You are far too kind. When I was in field camp, during our trip to Yellowstone, I tried to convince tourists that the clear white sanidine phenocrysts in the rhyolite flows were diamonds, that the Government really set up the part as a vast coverup to prevent people from profiting.

Chuck said...

part=park

kurt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kurt said...

I think that David McKay and his coworkers at NASA believe they have extraterrestrial microfossils.
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/marslife.html
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lpi/meteorites/life.html

This was a very popular topic that year at GSA, although I have not followed it since then.

Kim said...

I remember the Mars meteorite. (I think the ultimate conclusion was "nope, nice try, though." I didn't follow the discussion that closely, but I don't hear that study cited in discussions of data from the recent Mars missions.)

But anyway, the fossils weren't pieces of a metamorphosed Silurian rock from northeastern Vermont.