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Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Dinosaur Mystery and Bass River State Forest

I hope all you Blog readers are beginning to notice that Bass River Township is a pretty special place when it comes to history. As I rub my Bass River History crystal ball each day to reveal another story for the blog, I always hold my breath as I never know what wonders will pop up. 

Today's story is no exception. It goes back 65 million years and puts Bass River State Forest at the center of the scientific controversy concerning the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs on our planet. Yes folks, the answer to that perplexing question may be right here under our feet in Bass River . . . well, actually, about a quarter mile under our feet.

A June 1, 1997 article in the New York Times reports on a team of Rutgers University researchers who drilled down 1,260 feet behind the middle building in the Bass River State Forest Maintenance Yard and made an amazing discovery. They found a two inch layer of glass beads that they believe were deposited as a result of the impact of a large asteroid that slammed into the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago.

Traces of Explosion Found
In New Jersey's Depths

by Michael Pollak

Tiny glass droplets found nearly a quarter-mile underground in Bass River are being called vivid evidence that the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by the impact of a single meteorite 65 million years ago.

Researchers from Rutgers University discovered the two-inch-thick deposit of glass beads, called spherules, while drilling in the Burlington County town, about 15 miles north of Atlantic City, for a study of global sea level and climate change throughout the ages.

The spherules, found 1,260 feet underground, almost certainly represent the residue of sand or rock that melted when a meteorite roughly the size of Mount Everest slammed into the Gulf of Mexico at the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula, said Dr. Richard K. Olsson, a geology professor at Rutgers who took part in the drilling project. He said the molten cloud would have traveled the 1,500 miles to New Jersey in about 10 minutes before cooling into droplets that settled on the ocean floor.

The two-inch layer at Bass River is the thickest spherule deposit of that geological period found north of the Gulf of Mexico, and the first discovered in New Jersey. Other effects of the Yucatan explosion theorized by various scientists include huge forest fires, acid rain, planetary darkness, destruction of marine plant life at the bottom of the food chain, wide swings in temperature and giant sea waves.

While the meteorite theory is not universally accepted, Dr. Olsson said he could find no other explanation for the spherules.

Dr. Olsson and Dr. Kenneth G. Miller, a professor of geological sciences at Rutgers, presented their findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

New York Times article - June 1, 1997

The Bass River State Forest Maintenance Yard on East Greenbush Road was the site of the 1,260 foot boring that found evidence of a catastrophic asteroid collusion that may have killed the dinosaurs(April 1, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated by dinosaurs, but I never thought that I would be living in a community that would be a key to proving the answer to the cause of their extinction. 

There's also an important lesson to be learned here. Be careful when digging in your backyard. You never know what or who might turn up. Can you say Judge Crater or Jimmy Hoffa? In New Jersey, you never know.

Pete S


  1. Sounds like glass making in South Jersey was important a lot earlier than we thought.