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mary caperton morton

On the trail of treasure in the Rocky Mountains

In 2010, collector Forrest Fenn filled a bronze chest with gold, jewelry and artifacts valued at $1 million to $2 million, which he then hid somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, N.M., leaving clues to its location in a mysterious poem. Thousands of treasure hunters — including the author, one of EARTH's roving correspondents — are on the trail, but no one has found it yet. 

15 Feb 2015

A tantalizing treasure

The contents of Forrest Fenn’s chest are not completely known, but Fenn has listed enough of the treasure to make the hunt truly tantalizing: 20 troy pounds of gold coins, gold nuggets the size of a man’s fist, pre-Columbian Incan and Mayan animal figures, a 17th-century Spanish gold-and-emerald ring, a bracelet with more than 250 rubies, diamonds and Ceylon sapphires, and two hand-carved Chinese jade masks.

 
15 Feb 2015

Crumbly amber holds dinosaur secrets

In the movie “Jurassic Park,” dinosaurs were resurrected from DNA in blood harvested from Mesozoic mosquitoes preserved in amber. The plot was pure science fiction, but a new study has found another use for the biological material trapped in fossilized tree resin. By studying microscopic inclusions of plant material, pollen and feathers preserved in bits of amber recovered alongside dinosaur fossils, paleontologist Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada is recreating a more complete picture of the Mesozoic landscape.

 
12 Feb 2015

Stegosaur's tail packed a lethal punch

With their big lumbering bodies and plates of armor, stegosaurs can be likened to the modern-day rhinoceros. Both are primarily peaceful plant eaters, but you wouldn’t want to make either of them mad. Now, paleontologists have uncovered evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat: a predatory allosaur with a lethal conical wound the size and shape of a stegosaur tail spike.

07 Feb 2015

Ancient cave art discovered in Indonesia

Europe has long been thought to have been the home of the oldest art in the world — including a stash of cave paintings in northern Spain that date to about 40,000 years ago — but a new dating technique may put Indonesia on the ancient art map as well.

06 Feb 2015

Tohoku tsunami may have gotten a boost from submarine slump

When the magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, the mainshock triggered tsunami waves averaging about 10 meters in height by the time they reached the coast of Japan, from Fukushima in the south to the northern tip of Honshu Island. But one mountainous stretch of coastline known as Sanriku, about 100 kilometers north of the main rupture area, saw waves higher than 40 meters. This oddity has led some scientists to suggest that a submarine landslide, triggered by the earthquake, may have contributed to the tsunami’s extreme height in this region.

 
04 Feb 2015

New tracers can identify fracking fluids

Hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas has been controversial due in large part to the potential for contamination of ground and surface waters by the pressurized fluids used to force open cracks in deep shale formations and by the so-called flowback fluids that re-emerge at the surface from fracking wells. Now, researchers have developed a geochemical method of tracing fracking fluids in the environment; it’s a tool that could be used to identify hazardous spills in the future and may lead to better use and disposal of fracking wastewater.

01 Feb 2015

Scientists complete a global inventory of lakes

How many lakes are there in the world? Until recently, the exact number was anybody’s guess. Now, a new global inventory conducted using satellite imagery has placed the count at 117 million. The GLObal WAter BOdies database (GLOWABO) includes all lakes greater than 0.002 square kilometers, which combined, cover a surface area of 5 million square kilometers, or 3.7 percent of the Earth’s nonglaciated land area.

28 Jan 2015

Icebergs were the original Florida snowbirds

A new study shows that between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago, icebergs drifted southward off the coasts of South Carolina and Florida.

Using multibeam bathymetry data, Jenna Hill at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., and Alan Condron of the University of Massachusetts mapped a number of long scars on the seafloor that they attribute to scour marks left by icebergs journeying south.

23 Jan 2015

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