Jan 3, 2016

Cockburn Town Fossil Reef

January 3, 2016

Waking up, today did not feel like a Sunday. It is only our third day on the island, but it feels like we have been here for much longer. Our morning began at 6:45 a.m. with a magnificent view of the sunrise as we made our way to breakfast. Soon after, we all met in the conference room to go over today’s schedule and share what we have learned so far. We packed up our snorkel gear, hopped on the trucks, and made our way down to our first stop: Cockburn Town Fossil Reef.

Panoramic view of Cockburn Town Fossil Reef

The Pleistocene fossil reef is a true paleo-gem, with an outstanding combination of fossils and lithified dunes. Our objective is to compare fossil and modern reef environments to learn how to construct a stratigraphic column and interpret biofacies changes with respect to sea level fluctuations. 

The carbonate lithofacies of the Cockburn Town Fossil Reef were deposited during a global highstand of sea level that occurred around 120 thousand years ago. Everywhere we looked, we saw fossils. The most notable and abundant included: palmata, monastrea, porites, elkhorn coral, mollusks, bivalves, and brain coral. Overall, sea level has been in regression although it has fluctuated between phases of transgression and standstill phases. It was interesting to note that dune cross bedding was found near reefs which are deposited underwater.

Close up photograph of fossilized diploria, more commonly known as brain coral.

These tidal pools that form on the reef make great homes for modern-day gastropods.

Our daily exercise culminated in us meeting with a local on the reef. The local was very
upset by a pipe leading from the Bahamas Electric Corporation (BEC) to the water and Cockburn Fossil Reef. It is possible the pipe may be leaking diesel or other liquids into the local groundwater and sea. At the same time, it is this diesel and electricity company that powers the island. Supplying power to the island comes with a cost. Clearly, locals are concerned with the well being of their island and how companies are affecting it. Companies should communicate to the locals what they’re doing and what precautions are being taken to conserve the environment. There needs to be a bridge between the two parties in order to create a sustainable future for the island. Moving forward, locals should be informed about their geology, as do the engineers and companies that work on the island. How can this compromise be met?
Update: We later found out that this is an intake pipe for the island's diesel supply which provides electricity for the entire island. It's surprising how this pipe is not secured more properly.
Photograph of intake pipe sitting a top the Cockburn Town Fossil Reef leading to the Bahamas Electric Corporation.