Petrified Forest

Today’s LA Times tells the story of Clyde Friend, who has discovered a forest of petrified trees on his property in an undisclosed location near Yakima, Washington. The standing trees were apparently engulfed by a lava flow about 15 million years ago, and now are preserved in a basalt hill covering an area of about 2 acres. The fact that the trees are still in a life-like vertical orientation is astounding. So far trees as tall as 24 feet and as thick as 24 inches have been observed.

Mr. Friend has done the right thing by alerting professional paleontologists who have studied this deposit. Apparently one mystery is why no tree roots are preserved in this ancient forest of hickory, elm, maple and sweet gum. But Friend seems obsessed by the notion of digging the whole thing out and destroying it. The trunks fall apart as they are freed from the basalt matrix.

One line in the story raised my hackles:

“He uses his heavy machines to break away large chunks of rock, and then drops to his knees with a hammer and chisel to chip around the trees, like an archeologist unearthing dinosaur bones.”

Archaeologists don’t excavate dinosaur bones – paleontologists do.

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