Fossils of Calvert Cliffs By Ann...


March 10, 2002|By Special to the Sun


Fossils of Calvert Cliffs

By Ann Wehrle


Growing up, I spent many summer vacations with my family along the beaches of Calvert Cliffs in Southern Maryland. Every July, we rented rooms at the Cliff's Hotel, a white clapboard building on a hill between the beach and tree-covered Calvert Cliffs. The hotel had a wraparound screened-in porch and a family-style restaurant, nondescript except for the rows of dusty glass jars containing fossilized shark teeth.

There are hundreds of varieties of fossils to be found along the beaches of Calvert Cliffs -- sand dollars, sea turtle shells, fish vertebrae and the like. But to me, nothing compares to shark teeth.

Shark teeth between 12 million and 24 million years old can be found in any number of shapes, sizes and colors. Even though they are ancient, some still have wickedly sharp edges. It is hard to imagine crocodiles, whales, sharks and other such creatures once inhabiting the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, but the proof that they did is evident.

In September, my two sisters-in-law and I made the drive to Calvert County. The cozy Cliff's Hotel is long gone -- the victim of neglect and a fire -- but there are several public beaches that make excellent day-trip destinations.

We visited Flag Ponds Nature Center, near Prince Frederick. The park displays a variety of natural settings, including wooded hiking trails, freshwater ponds and the glorious beach.

We tramped through the woods, past hiking trails and elevated boardwalks, eager to get to the water's edge. I was insistent: We had to walk along the beach, as I had as a child, searching for the fossilized teeth that had once inhabited the mouths of gigantic sharks.

When we arrived, several seasoned fossil hunters were already walking along in the shallow water, toting wooden poles with kitchen strainers strapped to the ends. We headed for the end of the beach that is reserved for fossil hunters -- it's posted off-limits for sunbathers and swimmers.

It was a warm day, and we waded up to our knees, stepping around a few jellyfish and sifting through the shell bars to look for shark teeth. We stopped occasionally to admire the discoveries made by others on the beach, and before long we struck gold.

I spotted a nice gray specimen -- narrow and about 1 1 / 4 inches long. That first find of the day was followed by many more. Among the three of us, we collected about 30 interesting fossils.

We drove home exhilarated, sandy and slightly sunburned. We found that the morning tide still washes delicate and beautiful fossils upon the shores of Calvert County, and beachgoers can still walk along the shore, stooped over, peering downward, looking for the perfect find. It's nice to know that some things never change.

Ann Wehrle lives in Towson.


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"Find true romance on a Paris evening. Stroll along the Seine as soft jazz wafts through the air. Linger over an intimate, candlelight supper in a tiny bistro. At midnight, share a kiss on the Pont Neuf and gaze at the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance. Tres romantique!"


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