Saturday, February 22, 2014

Maine Geology Timeline

I tend to write blog posts in the order I become interested in them.  I may include how long ago events occurred, but when you're dealing with hundreds of millions of years, things get a little abstract. Today I decided to present the information of my blog in timeline form.  Using a web tool at, I created this.  There are some limitations in the software - primarily, the timeline tool does not go back in time to millions of years ago, so I did some messing around with dates to make it work.  Try clicking the arrows on the slides or clicking around the timeline itself to navigate Maine geologic history.  Also, click the links on the slides to find more about each event and how it shows up in the Maine landscape.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to Make Bricks in Three Easy Steps

Last weekend my son and I foresook our weekly grocery shopping trip at the West Falmouth Hannaford.  Instead we crossed the bridge on the south end of the parking lot and ended up taking a walk on an ancient sea floor.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a magical bridge that can transport one to a fantasyland.  The bridge was built in 1859 by the railroad company to connect the Hobbs farm to the rest of society.  John Hobbs homesteaded the land in 1775, and before 1859 when the railroad isolated it and the Hobbs sold it, put it to a variety of industrious uses.  Like people of earlier times are fabled to have done, the Hobbs put every part of the land to use.  The trees became oak shingles, the soil was farmed and the clayey sediment was extracted to make bricks.  The story of these bricks extends far beyond the Hobbs enterprising spirit and thousands of years before the clay was first dug.

The story of our bricks began about 22,000 years ago when glaciers covering much of the globe decided to call it a day and begin the slow commute home from Long Island, New York (Long Island formed as the flowing ice of the glacier delivered gigantic piles of rock to its melting endpoint).  At this point, Maine and the rest of northern North America were buried in ice. Heavy, heavy ice.  The normally firm raft of rock, on which our continent sits, sank like a rowboat upon boarding.  As melting glaciers contributed to a growing ocean, this depressed plate would make way for the intrusion of a sea much larger than today's Atlantic.

The land above the sea couldn't wait to cast off its icy water.  Massive streams poured tons of melted ice into the growing sea, but the water didn't come alone. As the rivers raced to the sea their fast current picked up every stone, pebble, sand grain or mote of clay they could carry.  Massive material, like stones and pebbles may have been dropped long before reaching the sea.  When the stream met the water, it rapidly decelerated. Upon slow down, enough sand was dropped to create a river delta as deep with sand as a football field is long.  The sand from this river's mouth can still be spied along I95 between Gray and Lewiston and is currently being quarried in Gray.  But what about the bricks?

The slow moving water, at this point, would have dropped nearly everything.  Robbed of most of its energy by the trudge into the ocean, the sluggish water couldn't carry much.  Luckily, clay is small and light.  The water transported these small grains the farthest, finally dropping them at the sight of the future Hobbs' farm.  About 13,000 years ago, with the weight of ice removed, the plate rebounded, and the sea level dropped.  The acreage of the Hobbs' farm was revealed.  Soil developed.  Oaks grew.  Eventually, the Hobbs would dig up their bricks and my son's and my weight would leave footprints in the ancient seabed.  

McCully, Betsy. "Ice Age." New York Nature. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <>.

Robinson, Michael A., Stewart K Sandberg, and Kirkpatrick Melissa D.,. "Using transient electromagnetic soundings to map the thickness of the Gray Delta, Maine, and correction of data using coil calibration to improve resolution. ." Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 33.1 (2000): 1. Print.

Weddle, Thomas K., Gray Quadrangle, Maine, 1:24,000, Augusta, ME: Natural Resources Information and Mapping, Maine Geological Survey, 1997.

"Surficial Geologic History of Maine." Maine Geological Survey. N.p., 6 Oct. 2005. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <>.

"River Point Conservation Area." The Town of Falmouth . The Town of Falmouth , n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <>.