Exploration for sand resources for beach nourishment has led to an increase in the amount of geologic data available from areas offshore Delaware's Atlantic Coast. These data are in the form of cores, core logs, and seismic reflection profiles. In order to provide a geologic context for these offshore data, this cross section has been constructed from well and borehole data along Delaware's Atlantic coastline from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island.
The Bethany Beach borehole (Qj32-27) provides a nearly continuous record of the Oligocene to Pleistocene formations of eastern Sussex County, Delaware. This 1470-ft-deep, continuously cored hole penetrated Oligocene, Miocene, and Pleistocene stratigraphic units that contain important water-bearing intervals. The resulting detailed data on lithology, ages, and environments make this site an important reference section for the subsurface geology of the region.
Reddish-brown to yellowish-brown silty quartz sand to sandy silt that interfingers with medium to coarse clayey sand with gravel. Sand fraction, where a sandy silt, is fine- to very fine-grained and angular to subangular. Iron-cemented zones are common. Gravel fraction is primarily quartz. Sands are quartzose with minor amounts of weathered feldspar. Opaque heavy minerals form up to 3 percent of the sand fraction. Unit ranges up to 70 ft thick but generally less than 30 ft thick and commonly less than 10 ft thick. Surface forms a distinctive terrace that has elevations between 350 ft and 425 ft, and it overlies saprolite of the Piedmont rocks. No macrofossils have been recovered. Fossil pollen from the York Pit in Cecil County, Maryland (Pazzaglia, 1993; unpublished DGS data) indicate a Miocene age. Owens (1999) considered the unit late Oligocene in Pennsylvania.
Reddish-brown to brown, medium to very coarse, poorly sorted sand to silty quartz sand containing scattered gravel beds. Less than 15 ft thick and underlies a relict terrace flat that has elevations between 170 ft and 180 ft and parallels the present Delaware River. More extensive to the north in Pennsylvania (Owens, 1999; Berg et al., 1980).
The microflora of the Bethany formation and the lower part of the Beaverdam Formation is characterized by a Quercus-Carya assemblage, very few non-arboreal pollen, and Pterocarya and Sciadopitys as exotic constituents. This assemblage has much in common with that of the Brandywine Formation of Maryland and the Eastover Formation of Virginia which are of late Miocene or early Pliocene age. The environment of deposition of the Bethany was probably deltaic, and that of the lower Beaverdam fluviatile.
While sampling the lower Miocene Calvert Formation at the Pollack Farm Site, 30 fossil fish taxa were collected, consisting of 24 cartilaginous and 6 osteichthyes fishes. The fossils found in the lower Miocene bed have similar characteristics to an equally aged Formation in southern Delaware suggesting deposition occured in a subtropical, shallow-water, near shore environment.
Clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops are members to the class Bivalvia (or Pelecypodia). Bivalves have two shells, connected by a flexible ligament, which encase and shield the soft vulnerable parts of the creature. All 15,000 known species of bivalves are aquatic in nature, with close to 80% being marine (saltwater environments).
The Class Gastropoda includes the groups pertaining to snails and slugs. The majority of gastropods have a single, usually spirally, coiled shell into which the body can be withdrawn. The shell of these creatures is often what is recovered in a fossil dig. Gastropods are by far the largest class of molluscs, comprising over 80% of all molluscs.
Delaware offers a few sites for fossil collectors, and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and the Pollack Farm are the best. Other locations throughout the state also offer good hunting grounds for fossil collectors. Just south of Dagsboro, where Route 113 crosses Pepper Creek, the collector can find young (less than 2 million year old) marine fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch. At the state sand and gravel pit just south of Middletown on Route 896, plant impressions from the Pleistocene may be found.
If you think you may have found a Delaware dinosaur or any unusual fossil, the scientists at the Delaware Geological Survey at the University of Delaware, Newark campus would like to see it. It could provide important information on the geologic history of the First State.