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.)


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...


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.

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.