Louisville Magazine

AUG 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.18 49 buried at the bottom of the sea). Over time, more layers of sediment pile on top. Pressure builds. And, gradually, the molecules of the plant or animal (or, as is often the case, the mud inside the animal's shell, which can outlast the shell itself ) are replaced by molecules of stone or crystal, leaving a decent facsimile made of differ- ent matter. It's like a magic trick that takes millions of years to play out. At Harrods Creek, bits of coral stick out here and there. ere's limestone stained a rusty-gold color by the soil, highlighting the dark faces of clam-like brachiopods. Other shells peak out of the shale, which, like coal and oil, is made from mud and the compressed remnants of plant matter. If you take a piece of shale and break it open, you can see outlines of shells inside. e shale is brittle, and it's hard to get a piece out with a shell intact, but finally I do it. I put a few black shells in my bucket and keep moving. Later, I will drop one on my porch and break it in half, uncer- emoniously ending 400 million years of preservation. Fossilization has carried these ghosts of little creatures into the future. But now that they are exposed, the fossils are erod- ing. Time is carrying even the ghosts away. e creek gushes by. Chimney swifts swirl overhead, and the song of a wood thrush pings off the canyon walls. Soaked to the bone, I finally climb back through time, into the modern world. Like Hadizadeh, my most person- ally significant fossil finds are in the same place where I first became aware of geology — rock walls in Cherokee Park. ere are two separate walls, each capped with large limestone slabs, presumably quarried nearby when the park was built in the 1890s. One goes along Beargrass Road, between the pavement and the creek, the other along Park Boundary Road, above the creek on the other side. I spy coral after coral, great in their variety and size — some as big as an end table. Honeycomb corals, pipe-organ corals, horn corals and branching corals. Colonies of hexagonal Phillipsastraeidae, in which each little animal built its own home next to the others, like barnacles on a pier. But my favorites are the nautiloids. ese were cephalopods, relatives of the modern squid and octopus, some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet. ere's a straight nautiloid on the Beargrass Road side, its shell about two feet long — long and narrow, like an artillery shell. Its squid-y tentacles would have come out of the end. And then, almost exactly above Big Rock, is my best find — an ammonite about the size of a bread plate. Ammo- nites are ancestral cuttlefish, like a squid with many arms, coming out of a nauti- lus-shaped shell. Even now, you can see the spiral of the shell and imagine this creature swimming near here before it got buried in the sand, forever. But, of course, not forever. e fact that I can see this fossil means it is slowly weathering away. e morning fog hangs close to the ground as the sun begins its ascent, light- ing it up. e air glows like alabaster. In a very specific way, Louisville is here because of geology. e Falls of the Ohio were where the Ohio River ceased to be navigable. River traffic would have to stop, unload and reload (a problem Alan Goldstein, an interpretive naturalist at the Falls of the Ohio, leads a fossil tour.

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