Field of Science

90th Anniversary of Charles Camp Collecting at the Petrified Forest

Today marks the 90th anniversary of Charles Lewis Camp's first day collecting fossils in the Chinle Formation of what is now Petrified Forest National Park. Camp was a PhD student at Columbia University who was later hired by the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California at Berkeley, and on June 4th, 1921 he received a telegram from Museum Director Bruce Clark asking if he would be able to help out museum founder and benefactor Annie Alexander and her field partner Louise Kellogg who were collecting fossils in the Blue Forest east of Adamana, Arizona. The two woman had made significant finds of vertebrate fossils and needed assistance. Charles Camp arrived in Adamana on June 11 and joined the two women at their camp on June 12.

His field notebook for this day (which was also a Sunday) recounts his trip from New York to Adamana, notes that the exposures are of the Chinle Formation and Triassic in age, and visited the various fossil forests, including those in the Petrified Forest National Monument, which was then located to the south and much smaller than the present national park.

The paleontology of the park and the Chinle Formation owes much to the work of Charles Camp. It is an honor to follow in his footsteps and in the 90th anniversary of the his first work in the area, we will occassionally revisit his localities (many of which are known because of detailed notes and photos) on the same dates that he did. Paleontology is not done in a vacuum and we truly do see farther because we are "standing on the shoulder of giants". We should never forget the work our predecessors have done and honor it when we can.

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