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The Fisk Quarry Preserve is a 20 acre fossil site located on Isle La Motte. Follow the signs to St. Anne’s Shrine. The Fisk Quarry Preserve is slightly more than four miles to the south on West Shore Road. Park in the designated area ONLY.
In the Northwestern corner of Vermont on the insland of Isle La Motte, the northernmost island on Lake Champlain is a remarkable natural phenomenon called the Chazy Reef formation. This formation, known worldwide among paleontologists, has been called the world’s oldest reef in which corals first appear. It was formed almost half a billion (500,000,000) years ago in an ancient Ocean, a shallow tropical sea covering most of what became the eastern North American continent, straddling the equator where Zimbabwe is today. Think about it. At one point, the same land that makes up Isle La Motte in Northwestern Vermont was once part of a shallow reef bed at the equator off the coast of east Africa.
Reefs have been described as the marine equivalent of a rainforest - a diverse association of organisms living in close ecological relationship. Because they are built by organisms, fossil reefs are treasure houses of paleontological information, providing a large source of data for scientists seeking to study the history of life as it has evolved on earth.
The ancient fossil reef on Isle La Motte, approximately 480-450 million years old and of a certain Period, provides scientists and the occasional visitor with an extraordinary opportunity to study a primitive reef formation, shedding light on the evolution of the later coral reefs which have had such an important role in Earth’s bio-history such as the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of northeastern Australia which is a very young 8,000 years old in comparison. For paleontologists, Isle La Motte is, among other things, a treasure trove of “firsts” featuring some of the world’s earliest corals and the oldest stromatoporoids, which are some of the oldest corals that made up the Chazy Reef.
Throughout the 19th Century the only clue to Isle La Motte’s future importance to scientists was the fact that five or six active quarries on the island produced a uniquely beautiful black and grey limestone which polished to a marblelike finish and was sold to such distinguished customers as Radio City Music Hall and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.. These forms appeared in the rock from which they were drilling and loading into shipping boats on Lake Champlain. These forms were later identified by paleontologists as marine fossils of astounding antiquity.
In the past hundred years geologists have determined that much of the island bedrock, the beautiful black and grey limestone that had been quarried for many years, was actually the fossil remnants of an ancient reef. A Harvard geologist in 1924 called it “the oldest coral reef in the world”.
Since that time researchers have determined that though ancient corals are found here, coral was not one of the predominant framebuilders of the reef. So instead of calling it “the world’s oldest coral reef”, Dr. Charlotte Mehrtens, Professor of Geology at the University of Vermont has called it, “the world’s oldest reef in which corals first appear.”
Islanders find it difficult to imagine that 480 million years ago Isle La Motte, now located some ten miles south of the Canadian border, was a tropical marine environment, part of a shallow continental shelf with an Ocean stretching to the east and the land mass off to the west. Plants and animals, by and large did not yet inhabit dry land. But marine life was becoming increasingly profuse and diverse. Complex reef cities, as we can see in the fossil layers on Isle La Motte, had begun to grow up with increasingly complicated and diverse populations.
In order to log this cache as “found”, you will need to do two things. First, you must answer the following educational requirement of this cache and email me the answers. Second, you must post a photo of yourself at the site with something in the background that shows you were there. A photo of a found fossil with your GPSr will do nicely. Failure to include the two requirements will result in a deleted log. Do not post your answers here.
Go to the kiosk at N44 50 758 W073 21.762 and you will find the answers there.
1. What period was the reef formed?
2. What is the Latin name of the Giant Snail fossils found here?
3. What Ocean was the reef formed in?
And for all you Internet searchers out there, to make sure you visit the quarry:
4. What was the full name of the person who first settled next to the quarry and when?
Visitors to the site are asked to respect the rules which include NO REMOVAL OF PLANTS, ANIMALS, OR ROCKS/FOSSILLS from the preserve. There are places for quiet walking, observation and learning, but not for vehicular traffic or bicycles which may damage the fragile ecosystem and geological formations of the preserve.
You can find this cache year round, but it is best when the snow is off the ground, so you can take the time to hunt for the embedded fossils in the limestone floors and walls. Take the time to look down into the quarry from the north rim. You will not be disappointed. The quarry is open from dawn to dusk daily. There are no facilities at the preserve. Walking, hiking, snow shoeing, and cross-country skiing are allowed.
(No hints available.)