Want to know a sure-fire formula to get long time internet friends together in person — and even outdoors on a blazing August day? Dig up a perfectly featured Carolina Bay.
Long time Carolina bay enthusiasts, digital buddies of the Tusk, and curious citizens, Chris Cotrell, Antonio Zamora, Michael Davias, Micah Hanks and Jason Pentrail met up recently to — literally — get to the bottom of things. So on August 10th we excavated a perfect little specimen, “Arabia Bay”.
The opportunity was presented by the long standing confluence of my work and my interest in Carolina Bays. My profession as a wetland mitigation banker (a field where the Tusk reigns as longest national practitioner) provides a bay enthusiast with the perfect set of tools (track-hoe) and access (friendly farmer) to perform such an investigation.
So Restoration Systems identified a wetland restoration and mitigation opportunity at Arabia Bay. The problem was the site was kinda small. At only 16 acres of it was the most diminutive project of the 70 or so Restoration Systems had performed. It was a close call, that I admit was influenced by scientific interest, but we bid and won the job.
Hundreds of years of agricultural in Eastern North Carolina has required the deliberate ditching and drainage of tens of thousands of Carolina Bays. Their rich soils make for good farming (if one can keep a good bay dry). Despite bays being literally everywhere in our region, for technical reasons, I have only restored one other bay, which you can see here. And here is another really, really cool one we lost a regulatory debate on a decade ago.
When we were awarded the job I reached out to my digital buddies to suggest we dig ‘er up. The goal being to see if we could develop any interesting data with regard to bay genesis, using techniques pioneered by the Comet Research Group. This includes obtaining samples of bay sands and sediments across the face of trenches, which could then have the “magnetic fraction” separated out for testing of certain characteristics. For instance, can see any spikes or patterns in Platinum, charcoal, carbon spherules and magnetic spherules? And perhaps some Carbon 14 testing to see there is an “age depth” relationship which is informative.
This where it gets really fun. My principle ally in the effort was the indefatigable Chris Cottrell, known by tens of thousands for his Carolina bay videos on his YouTube channel, Dabblers Den. Chris’ day job is a high school science teacher in coastal Kingsland, Georgia. I quickly realized that Chris’s classroom may provide an valuable resource for the effort — free labor.
(A significant pinch point of all YDIH forensic testing is shortage of bodies willing to perform the uncomplicated but laborious sifting and sorting of sediments, until it has been culled to the smallest bits of material that may provide evidence for cosmic influences in the past. Here is the protocol.)
Chris took 60 bags of sediment back to Camden High School. Pam and I purchased some tools for his class to sort the materials — and work is underway. I was thrilled to see the school project covered in the local press.
What did we find? Hard to say at this point. There were certainly distinct layers of sediment. At the bottom are some photos from each of the three trenches we excavated.
PDF Window viewer under repair, click below
Chris and I are particularly (literally;) looking forward to sending the sorted samples to the lab to test for Younger Dryas Platinum. To my relief, Platinum testing is relatively inexpensive.
Here is great video from Chris’ describing the extraction protocol and performing some of the work.