The Blue Lake Rhino

The Blue Lake Rhino

Fossil hunters, for the most part, confine their explorations to rocks that were formed as a product of erosion — sedimentary rocks, Igneous rocks, having originated from a molten state, would hardly be expected to contain fossils.

Yet a rather strange incident occurred in an area now known as the state of Washington approximately twenty—five million years ago. At that time the area was vented by prominent fissures many miles long, from which flowed immense quantities of soupy, molten basaltic lava. This material, derived from deep within the earth's crust, spread rapidly, forming huge lakes of burning rock surrounded by mountains. This process of land building continued on and off for thousands of years, creating a basaltic structure now known as the Columbia Plateau.

Animal life during that remote Miocene Epoch was quite abundant, and doubtless many animals fled in all directions during each eruption. Apparently, however, not all the prehistoric denizens managed to escape.

In 1935 a group of workers came across a curious hole at the base of a basalt cliff near Grand Coulee. Poking around inside the hole, they found a few charred bones and fossil teeth of an extinct rhinoceros. A scientific investigator showed the hole actually to be a mold of the ancient victim.

Scientists believe the animal was overtaken by the lave in a small lake that it inhabited. The water caused rapid cooling of the lava, which engulfed the body and preserved its outline in a somewhat crude mold. Quite probably the rhino was dead when it plunged into the lava. However, several scientists believe that in its terror the rhino simply ran headlong into the encroaching lava and was engulfed by the cooling molten mass.

It must have been a source of amusement to the worker who first discovered the "cave," because he poked his head through the entrance to the cave — a twenty—five—million—year—old rhino's rump!

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth