February 1, 2022by Jon Kramer

EOCENE ECHINOIDS – Levy County, Florida

Who: Mike, Ann, Jon, Julie

We loaded the boat on a nice day in Crystal River, Florida and motored west to the off-shore islands in search of Eocene echinoids – mostly fossil sea biscuits and sand dollars.  We have been exploring these small islands for 25 years and have spent time on most of them.  They were artificially formed many years ago when the coastal access channels were dredged out and the debris was dumped to the side.  That debris contains Eocene marine sediments.

Weather was lower 70’s with E winds 8-12mph.  We discovered – comically, the hard way! –  that pontoon boats can sometimes crash directly into a head-on wave and spray huge amounts of water over their top.  Mike was at the helm when a loaded oyster boat passed us going the opposite direction.  It created a formidable wake that we hit directly head-on.   The first wave was no problem.  But as we dropped into the trough between it and the next one, the second wave was plenty high enough to come over our bow, and did so.   The front of our boat was an unforgiving flat wall facing out with bench seats facing in.  Julie, Ann and I were catching the sun on the front seats when the tsunami hit.   A huge wall of water erupted from the bow and came down directly on our heads.  Everyone except Mike got instantly drenched!  As I always say, The adventure doesn’t begin until something goes wrong!  Accordingly, our adventure had officially begun.

We arrived at the islands about an hour later.  Ann stayed aboard and the rest of us fanned out to explore the shoreline.  These islands are not much visited as there are no soft sandy landing spots.  Over the next few hours we found several loose specimens as well as some complete specimens still in matrix.  As the sun began to set, we headed back to the Crystal River.  We ended the day with a spin by Kings Spring where we saw a mother and baby manatee before pointing the vessel home.