For those of you who have been following the blog, we are going to divert away from our typical look. Instead of having a theme, this blog is going to cover several interesting stories that I have been involved with. After nearly 35 years of studying area geology, a number of memorable moments have occurred. Here are five of my favorites.
Let’s start with visiting a old quarry site. I love mining history and to visit a new site is always thrilling. Trying to imagine the workers employed here, the dangers involved, the amount of work that took place and exactly what was produced always tickles my mind. I was escorted to an abandoned quarry in Saginaw, YorkCounty. I have read about the New Holland or J.E. Baker Company quarry located here, but never had the opportunity to visit the site. This was a treat as my first visual on it was from the top, looking down to a large water-filled excavation. It seems out of place geologically. After all, most of the Saginaw-Mt. Wolf area is located within the Triassic area containing rocks that were about 200 million years old. There is a northern extension of limestone and dolomite coming from the Emigsville area into Saginaw and continuing across the Susquehanna River into LancasterCounty. The New Holland quarry is located within that thin belt of 500 million year old rocks.
As I took in the sites from the top, admiring the grayish dolomite and limestone walls, I notice that the water was so clear that we could still see the railroad tracks on the bottom. Remembering a picture of the active quarry taken here in the early 1940’s from George and Anna Stose, the operation was using tracks to remove the rock to the processing plant. I love to compare a historic photo with a modern-day one.
Speaking of limestone, as I have discussed in prior blogs, there is an environment concern associated with this sedimentary rock. Sinkholes commonly form as a result of acid rain falling into the cracks and crevices of the rock, eventually widening these cracks and with the help of gravity, the unsupported rock falls in creating a sinkhole. Sinkholes can also form as a result of a cave roof collapsing, producing the same result. In 2005, for it not be for an observant train engineer running the York Rail ine near Thomasville, there would have been a tragic accident. Sometime since the last run made by a train on these tracks, water has caused the rock beneath a railroad bridge to subside, creating a large sinkhole. Basically all of the support material for the trestle bridge was gone, only the tracks ran across the void. If the weight of the train would have reached that point there would have been heavy damage to the equipment and possible loss of life.
Turning our attention to a unique fossil find, this is the story of what occurred one day at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation quarry north of Hanover. Today, Vulcan Materials operates this property and continues to be one of the largest limestone quarries in the area. In the early 1970’s, while the quarry workers blasted and removed the rock and soil from the excavation, they began to find bone material that turned out to belong to mastodon. These fossils dated about 13,000 years ago. Bone material was so abundant that Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh came in and conducted their own research and took a number of specimens back to the museum. The quarry superintendent has a wonderful case of samples found in the quarry.
One particular specimen stands out as a neat story. While on a bus tour of the quarry one day, a member of a local civic organization saw something that caught his eye. While the bus was stopped at a crusher and the tour guide explained the how’s of the equipment, this person looked out the window and saw a shiny object laying on a pile of rock that would shortly be loaded into the crusher. With permission from the tour guide and being escorted, the gentleman exited the bus and went to identify the shiny object. What was the object? It turned out to be a complete lower jaw of a mastodon. The specimen was in nearly perfect condition and the person was allowed to keep the fossil.
Although I knew about the mastodon finds from the quarry, I did not learn of this specimen until about 10 years ago. After doing a geology program for a group in Hanover, someone asked me if I knew about the jaw bone fossil. I did not and they told me the owner’s name. I quickly got in contact with the fossil owner and he invited me to come to the house to see and photograph the specimen. Wow, what a neat experience that was!!! Although the person is retired from his profession, he was able to tell me the various bone layers of the fossil.
Let’s shift gears and head to the Susquehanna River. I am not a boater and haven’t spent much time in the Susquehanna River, other than a quick swim as a teenager. In a way, the river scares me, even today. I had a friend drown in the river when I was a teenager and that will never leave me.
In any case, again, I heard much about the petroglyphs around the Susquehanna River. The authority on this subject is Paul Nevin, who has studied these petroglyphs for many years and has some pretty neat theories about the drawings origin and meanings. Several years ago, while talking to Paul, I indicated that if an opportunity would arise for me to visit the site, I would be interested. Sure enough, one day Paul called me and said that the Holtwood Dam has the water level dropped down for some maintenance and there is a window of time that we can get out into the river and see the petroglyphs. I was free and met Paul at the designated boat launch and off we go. We went south of Safe Harbor Dam and visited both Big Indian Rock and Little Indian Rock, both containing some of the nicest petroglyphs in this region.
To preserve the artwork, we had to remove our shoes reducing the abrasion on the rock and helping to preserve the petroglyphs. Paul presented some of his ideas to me, I took some pictures and identified the bedrock that this two landmarks are composed of and returned to shore before the river level came back up.
My last story is a short one, not because of running out of space here, but the lack of information. This has been a mystery location since 1972. My uncle Larry has grown up in Stoverstown and knowing my interest in the area’s geology, he gave me a tour of his backyard one day. One of our stops was on a steep hillside overlooking the Codorus Creek and PennsylvaniaGameLands east of Stoverstown. As we walked down the crude looking trail, we came to a small mine shaft dug into the hillside. It is difficult to determine how far back in the shaft goes, as there is water laying in the bottom a very short distance. As I guess this was a small iron prospect, I searched my historic records for any information, but nothing can be found. There is a reference and a picture of this man-made shaft in the “History of North Codorus Township” book saying that an Indian woman reportedly lived here for a time. Well, it is still a mystery. All I know, it is man-made but the area doesn’t show any evidence of rock and dirt piles like you would see at a mining operation. This is what makes science interesting – you never know all of the answers. In fact , the more research you do, the more questions you get!!!!Read More