Our imagination ran wild as we meandered through the Sarmiento Petrified Forest in Chubut, Argentina. Ninety million years ago this arid and desolate place was a sub-equatorial forest of lagoons, palms, ferns and conifers where dinosaurs crocodiles and turtles roamed. That was before the Andes Mountains rose out of the sea. Geologic time is difficult to grasp. Today it is a lumber graveyard in multi colors strewn about on beds of petrified wood chips. The stone looks like trees that fell in the recent past.
Wood can become rock over millions of years. The strange process of trunk-to-stone transformation can be explained by the action of time on these ancient trees. Throughout time geographic and climatic changes upended the area from one period to another between the different eras. Silica produced during volcanic eruptions begins the process of permineralization when the trees are covered in ash. Silica in the ash infills pits in the trees connecting the cells which leads to replacement and crystallization over eons. Located within the volcanic sediments of the soil are fossils with tiny grains of pollen used to reconstruct the types of vegetation dominant in the area millions of years ago. It is difficult to imagine that this area used to be temperate to tropical warm with high humidity.
We continually look at landscapes which have been millions of years in the making but somehow when we view the familiar tree which has been transformed into another substance by time and still remains recognized as a tree, it becomes more surreal.