National Geographic : 1961 Nov
Oregon's Sidewalk on the Sea Such a one was 18-year-old, Douglas Em long, whom we met at Gleneden Beach, a village some 50 miles south of Tillamook. Douglas wants to be a professional paleon tologist, and I have no doubt that if his pres ent enthusiasm continues, he'll make the grade. Taking us to his home, he proudly showed us one of his most remarkable finds. Sprawled in his front yard, together with scores of other marine fossils, were the remains of an ancient sea mammal. It was embedded in half a ton of sandstone when he found it, and Douglas had dug it out after many hours of painstaking work, then triumphantly carried it home in a truck. Scientists have identified it as a Miocene sea lion 25 million years old. I asked Douglas to take us beachcombing for fossils. We drove down the coast highway several miles, then set off on foot toward some high cliffs along the beach. Stopping at the base of a great sandstone escarpment, Douglas pointed to a spot about 15 feet above our heads. "See that line?" he asked. I nodded, recog nizing an eight-inch stratum ribboning across the massively eroded cliff face. "Now run your eye along it," he directed. I did, and suddenly discerned what the casual beach stroller perhaps would not have seen. Chalk-white shells by the hundreds pro truded from this ancient layer of sedimentary rock. The hard parts of such organisms, geolo gists tell us, accumulated on the sea floor over centuries of time. Slowly they were covered by layers of mud and fine sand, which even tually solidified. Inland volcanic activity add ed ash and lava. Thousands of years of earth contortion, uplift, and erosion followed, pro ducing what specialists regard as a geologi cally complex coast. Gleaming Pebbles From Gum-ball Machines Shrieks of delight came from my daughter Eda. She had discovered a heap of loose rock teeming with bivalve, snail, and tube-worm fossils. They were so abundant that we could have filled a bushel basket. Needless to say, the children and their mother were already at work to this end. A far more popular form of beachcombing centers on carnelian, sagenite, and a score of other agate varieties for which the Oregon coast is famous. Every shore town has its agate shop or shops. Often they have rotating drums of beach stones outside the door for all to see. Rough, vaguely translucent beach-gathered Burnished trophies, tumbled for weeks with abrasives and water in a rotating drum, reward the pebble hunter's patience. Translucence and colored patterns identify agates. Shaped into spheres, they become prized "aggies" for marble shooters. KODACHROMEBY PAUL A. ZAHL, NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFFWO N.G.S.