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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50 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.18 on it because it helps to show contrast," he says. Goldstein takes me to a fairly bland patch of rock. "Take a picture of this first and then I'll get it wet," he says. Spray, spray, spray. Out jumps a jumble of crinoids, looking like Cheerios mixed with broken spaghetti. e Cheerios are simply cross sections of the spaghetti. ey're all the same animals. "Right here — I don't want to get your phone wet — this is a branching coral," he says, spraying until a shape the length of my hand appears out of the stone face. "ere used to be a crinoid with arms, but it's been weathering out and may be totally gone now." He sprays in vain for the fossil. "Now, are they not a plant?" asks a woman who has hopped onto the tour. "ere's no fossil plants here," Goldstein says. "Imagine a starfish with a stem." Nearby, he sprays a rock with two fossilized snails — or, rather, the fossilized mud that was inside the snail's shell. "See that blue thing right at the other end?" he asks, pointing out a slate-colored bit about the size of a thumbnail. "at's a fishbone. Normally they start out black, but you get some ultraviolet light on them, they turn blue." ere aren't many fossilized fish, at least not here, in part because fish bloat and float when they die, instead of sinking into the sand of the seafloor. Nearby, I find a slurry of broken shells that looks exactly like something you might find at the beach today, when the waves make a little valley and deposit enough broken shells to make your feet bleed. Only these are 400 million years old. And then, Goldstein sprays a trilobite to life, the clear outline of its skeleton now white against the darkened rock. ese fossils in the bedrock at the falls are in situ, meaning they have not been moved here but have been here. is whole time. is little trilobite really was crawling right here, 400 million years ago, when it got covered up. Except that right here wasn't right here exactly. is place, what we call Louisville, has been many places, many times. e Paleozoic Seas eventually drained. e land shifted. New plants and animals evolved in abundant variety. Eventually, dinosaurs roamed here. Few places would have been untouched by the presence of the dinosaurs, plesio- saurs and pteranodons. If they'd been sentient, they would have thought this was their world as much as we think it's our world now. For tens of millions of years, they would have been right. ey probably would have had favorite feeding spots, migratory patterns, familiar landmarks. Now, all gone. e land shifted. e dinosaurs died. e land shifted again. And over time, whatever dinosaur fossils may have once been here eroded and washed away. at's why there are no dinosaur fossils in Kentucky. eir pages are missing from our geologic book, lost now to time. Sixty million years is plenty for the whole world to change over and over and over again. Even now, Kentucky is moving west one to two centimeters a year toward somewhere else. In 60 million years, Kentucky will again no longer be here; it could be hundreds of miles away. Most of the plants, animals and even the fossils we have known, even some of the hills they were buried in, could be long gone. ere are ultimately few survivors of the great crush of geologic time. Geologic time is like being on a boat out at sea, with no land in sight. You bob up and down. e sea cares not. e sea moves you; you do not move it. And yet, in our short time, we have altered the world more completely than we realize. Really, it's humbling just how briefly we have been here. All of us. But, the McAlpine Locks and Dam eventually solved). Geology was our destiny. e Falls are still one of the best and oldest exposed fossil beds in the region. After good rains, there is ocean-like power in the water at the shoreline of the Falls of the Ohio State Park, in Clarksville, Indiana, where one slip into the current could sweep you away, perhaps for good. "e fossils are here as long as the river lets us take a look at them," says Alan Gold- stein, interpretive naturalist at the park. He has been doing this for 25 years and is quite the fossil guy. "ere are more rock layers with fossils than rock layers that are fossil-poor," Goldstein says of this area. "Kentucky and Indiana have been exposed like this since probably the Permian period. You know, so 200 million years. So there's been a lot of erosion going on in the last 200 million years. e coalfields of eastern and western Kentucky used to connect." Wearing a park ranger hat and sunglass- es, and toting a spray bottle, Goldstein leads me down to the visible rocks of the falls. ese are visible even after the spring rains, but some of the best only come out after drought. Along the way, he points out the rocks the park has brought in from surrounding quarries and construction sites to line the steps with even more fossils. At the bottom, Goldstein quickly points out a honeycomb coral, also called a kneecap coral. He sprays it with water, which makes it visually pop. "I like to put a little water Chain coral in Cherokee Park.

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