Wednesday, October 5, 2011
At the Visitor Centre at the Petrified Forest National Park, we watched an informative film about the way in which tree trunks petrify. For those of you who know as little about this as we did, the short answer is that logs end up under water, buried in a sludge coating that keeps the wood from decaying. After millions of years a very interesting process occurs. Particles of water get trapped within the fibres of the tree trunks and the chemicals in the water, react with the fibres to eventually fuse together into quartz particles. Little by little, the entire tree trunk becomes rock.
While petrified wood can be found in many places around the world, there is a very large concentration of it in Petrified Forest National Park — or at least there was at one time, before millions of visitors began taking the forest home one piece at a time. It is estimated that one tonne of petrified wood leaves the park each month in peoples pockets. There is signage everywhere alerting you to the fact that it is a federal offense, punishable by being sent to jail and large fines. There is also a sign letting you know as you leave the park that you can be searched.
As we were passing the sign on the way out, it was already dark, but Marc commented that if we took a look under the sign, we would probably see piles of small pieces of petrified wood, that visitor’s who’s conscience got the better of them threw out of their windows before leaving the park! Apparently there are many people who get all the way home before they fess up. The Ranger station routinely receives packages with pieces of petrified wood together with heart felt apology letters!
While the petrified wood was fantastic geological sight to see, the Park itself was absolutely out of this world. We did not get an explanation for the rolling layered and crackled, purple, blue, and golden hills where the pieces of petrified wood have come to rest. We were there at sunset and with each moment, the colours and textures changed. We walked through this landscape, we really wondered if we were on another planet!