Henry Sadler isn’t just our Lower School science teacher; he’s also an amateur paleontologist. This past weekend while diving along the Peace River in Arcadia, he stumbled across a HUGE find: a fully intact mammoth bone.
The bone is a femur from a Columbian Mammoth, one of the largest species of mammoths, and dates around 100,000 years old. Mr. Sadler, who was diving with his friend Derek Demeter (who is the Planetarium Director of the Seminole State College in Sanford, FL), found it by accident.
“It was a last-ditch spot,” Mr. Sadler said. “We’d been diving all day and hadn’t really found anything, and we thought ‘why don’t we head upriver a bit and see if there’s anything there.’” About ten minutes into the dive, however, Mr. Sadler was pulling himself past a fallen tree when he put his hand on the fossil.
“It’s blackwater diving,” Mr. Sadler said. “You can’t see anything because of the silt, which puffs up when you move, so it’s tough to find anything. But as soon as I felt it I knew it was a bone.”
Excited, he shouted for Derek to help, and together they dug out the 4 foot long, approximately 60-pound mammoth femur bone.
This isn’t the only piece of a mammoth Mr. Sadler has found in that area. On other occasions, Mr. Sadler has found mammoth leg joints, jawbones, teeth, vertebrae, parts of a tusk, and even other leg bones, which he believes belong to the same mammoth. However, this bone is the most intact one he’s found. On this same trip, Derek also found a prehistoric shark tooth that dated back to before Great White sharks were known to exist — and a Saber’s tooth.
The bone is now on display in Mr. Sadler’s classroom, joining a myriad of other fossils he has found in the past. He plans to use an adhesive called PaleoBOND to preserve the bone and to patch the crumbling end with another piece of bone. Then he plans to build a case with a padded bottom to display it.
“The kids were pretty excited,” he said. “Especially when I let one of them try to hold it and they were weighed down. It’s bigger than some of them, especially the kindergarteners.”
Mr. Sadler says one of the most difficult things for the human mind to comprehend is the huge amount of time between when these animals roamed the earth and today.
“I always talk about the movie Ice Age because that’s what everyone’s seen, but these aren’t just cartoon characters,” he said. “They were around, they lived here. We can’t go back in time, but we can see what life was like with the clues they left behind.”