A Visit To The Fossil Pit

By Bill Lyerly

Pictured at the pit, from left to right, are Harry Lee, Roger Portell and Carol Rishel.

    One of the many advantages of being a member of a Shell Club is the opportunity to participate in field trips, and if there is anything that causes more excitement than a trip to the scallop dumps, it’s a trip to a new fossil pit. This opportunity came on the weekend of November 6 when our club was invited by the Palm Beach County Club to join them and other clubs in a trip to Schroeter-Manatee-Schlitz Quarry in Sarasota, FL.

    Four members of the Jacksonville Shell Club (Carol Rishel, Jack Gebert, Betsy and I) got an early start from Jacksonville on Friday morning in order to make a side trip to The Shell Store in St. Petersburg Beach (our first visit to their new location). This was Carol’s first field trip, and she couldn’t have picked a better one.

     After checking in our motel, we took a "sight-seeing" trip to the area of the old APAC pit. It is now all under water and has been transformed into a public park. A walk on the edge of the lake disclosed fossils can still be found there, but only after a lot of searching. Following this brief visit to APAC, and remembering previous visits to Sarasota, we drove into town, anticipating a seafood dinner at Walt’s Restaurant. This turned out to be the only disappointment in our entire trip as Walt’s was closed for renovation. We settled for steak at Longhorn’s.

     Saturday morning, we met the rest of the group in the Taco Bell parking lot (Interstate-75, Exit 39) where we were joined by Harry Lee - making a total of five from our club and a total of 36 participants. Here we met Roger Portell of the Florida Museum of Natural History (our field trip leader), and his companions Susan Fain (Gainesville) and Jim Toomey (Sarasota area). Roger gave a brief explanation of what we could expect, advising that we would be in Phase 9, Pinecrest Unit, Pliocene, with fossils 3-5 million years old. The group then drove to the pit (about five miles distant), where Roger again explained some rules and advised that he and Jim would be operating pumps and hoses to wash the face of a wall (probably 100-feet long) to dislodge shells. Some of the group took turns operating the hoses, including Harry and Jack. In addition to this wall, there were many areas where excavation had taken place, making fossils readily available for those who did not man the pumps.

     Carole Marshall has advised via E-mail that some of the better finds reported were Epitonium, a strange bubble shaped Cypraea, a small Xenophora with attachments, Trigonostoma, Typhis, Murex and Miters. Betsy and I haven’t identified our small shells yet - maybe we’ll find a treasure.

     Our thanks to Carole Marshall and the Palm Beach County Shell Club for inviting us along on the trip.

Editors Note: Because of liability concerns, the operators of the quarry will no longer allow shellers to visit effective January 1, 1999. This action was prompted by the recent visit of an individual to the quarry without securing prior permission.