Fifteen people attended the Immokalee fossil trip Saturday January 7, 2012. Organized by Doug Fisher, Field Trip Chairman and led by Gary Schmelz PHD, past president of the Bailey Matthews Sanibel Shell Museum it was an educational adventure. We met briefly at a local shopping center for a Safety Meeting and to collect hand outs that we used to identify shells then followed Gary in a caravan to the excavating site. This is a working quarry that Gary arranges access to on off hours, otherwise the public is not allowed. A gate is opened to let us in, and then locked behind us.
Gary took us to the first collection site and explained to us that there are over 600 species of shells that are over 500,000 years old in this quarry! At one time there were more than 100 working excavating sites in Florida and now there are only 37 working quarries left. These fossilized shells are in good condition as they have been preserved by the soil.
During the 2+ hours we were at the quarry Gary took us to 3 different collection sites. Some members concentrated on big shells and filed their buckets several times over, while others concentrated on small shells. The 3rd and last site Gary took us to with the quarry was a huge shell mound that we sifted through to find our treasures. The most common finds were Oliva sayana (Olives), Conus spurious (cones) and Stronbus pugilis (fighting conchs).
11 people continued on to lunch at the Long Horn Steakhouse in Naples, where Gary gave away prize specimens to club members, including a fossilized whale bone. Gary provided appetizers for the group and the meal and camaraderie were excellent. For some members this was a repeat trip and everyone agreed it was well worth the effort.
Pictured below include our group in front of a giant shell mound with Gary kneeling in front and an example of the shells we collected.