Field Camp

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Photo by Janice Boekhoff, taken on field camp in Wyoming (notice the tiny people on the road)

Every prospective geologist must go to field camp before they graduate. If you graduate from a large school, then you go to field camp with your fellow geology students whom you have known for years. But if you go to a smaller school, like me, which doesn’t have their own camp, then you end up going to a larger school’s field camp. So basically I went to field camp with four of my classmates and somewhere around thirty strangers.

That may not sound so bad unless you know what field camp is all about. I showered in group showers with the girls (including my professor’s wife). I climbed mountains with the guys and had to hide behind tiny scrub bushes when I had to go to the bathroom (no restrooms on the side of a mountain). We froze together in the beginning of the season, we got heat stroke together near the end, and suffered through rashes, spider bites, and rattlesnakes. We hung off the side of unstable cliffs two hundred feet up from the highway (well, I didn’t, but I bit my nails twenty feet back from the edge). We worried over one of our professors, some 70 plus years old, who would waver and sway on the trails. He almost fell to his death at least five times. Thankfully, he survived field camp, as did the rest of us.

I came to know those thirty strangers quite well, but what pulled me through the struggles of field camp wasn’t my companions. It was my love of rocks, especially fossils. I came back with fossils of cyanobacteria (called stromatolites), gastroliths (stones used by some dinosaurs to grind up food in their bellies), nautiloids and more brachiopods (ancient clam shells) than I could count. Like most fossils, these are grouped together in deposits of different rocks and don’t usually overlap, with the exception of nautiloids and brachiopods.

At the time, I didn’t question anything my professors said at camp. I believed them when they said the fossilized animals lived hundreds of millions of years apart. And I never asked why they believed this. Later, I discovered the reason. Because the fossils are found in such discrete groups and because my professors believed the rocks were laid down slowly with burial occurring during local floods. However, I came to realize the discrete groups of fossils could just as easily be explained by the burial of animals living in different habitats, as the water rose during a global flood.

One global flood or many local ones? I look to the Bible for my answer and what I see in the rock record gives me no reason to doubt it. Fossils are the remnants of amazing creatures, many now extinct, that our creator left for us to appreciate. Even the rocks declare His majesty.

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