15 million-year-old scallop – Calvert Cliffs, MD
The Calvert Cliffs, along the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland, can be seen on John Smith’s 1612 map, a mere spit ago in the expanse of the eons. The story here starts far deeper in the past, 15 million years back, in the Miocene epoch. At this time, North and South America were one, and a shallow sea covered this region………………
By chance, the eroded earth here is slowly exposing millions of the creatures that once inhabited this sea. The eons-old ocean floor is now part of a state park and is accessed by a two-mile hike through forest and marsh. The cliffs are encrusted with fossils. They are familiar shapes – scallops, shark’s teeth, crab shells, coral… They are so mundane that it’s difficult to accept that they are so old. On my visit, I was initially disappointed by this familiarity- these are everywhere. we eat these. I was hoping for bizarro prehistoric monsters.
You are allowed to take fossils from the beach. I took an over-sized scallop shell with some barnacles on it. It now sits in my room. It looks like nothing.
I dropped it once while moving. I imagined it shattering and thought: this thing has passed 15 million years unscathed, and my careless ass just wrecked it in a single motion. In the end it IS just a seashell. But millions of years are hard to deny.