Experiencing Calvert Cliffs

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The Calvert Cliffs, which rise over 100 feet along 30 miles of the Calvert County eastern coastline, are eroding at a pace of nearly three feet a year, spilling secrets from their clay-rich soil of the world, as it was 15 million years ago during the Miocene era.

Robert Hazen, a senior staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution and his wife, Margaret Hazen, a writer and historian, have been studying fossils from the cliffs for the past 25 years, such as: shells, shark’s teeth, whale, shark and crocodile bones. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, over 600 species of fossils have been found. Robert Hazen is also researching mineral evolution on the cliffs: how minerals (in this case, manganese) are forming because of microbes, and vice versa.

Although beautiful and majestic, the cliffs can be dangerous. Sections can fall without warning, dropping boulders along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline. Sometimes, conditions are created at high tide where the soil underfoot has the consistency of quicksand.

The public can gain safe access to the beaches at the Cliffs through Calvert Cliffs State Park, where shark’s teeth wash up with seashells along the shore.

Says Hazen, “What you’re seeing is a snapshot of history.”