|During early years of speculation
about loess's origins, most naturalists assumed that running water had somehow deposited
our loess. That's because where loose dirt lies very thick someplace, as in a river's
floodplain, it's usually because water has deposited it there. However, not everyone
agreed with this hypothesis.
Foremost among the doubters was a fellow named B. Shimek, who had an absolute passion for fossil snails, and who enjoyed using his detective skills. One day Mr. Shimek came to Natchez, because he'd heard that when you walk in the bottom of a loess-zone "bayou" there and come to a place where the slope is vertical and void of vegetation, you'd find lots of white snail-shells embedded within the loess -- snails exactly like those at the right, photographed in the loess bluff at Laurel Hill Plantation, just south of Natchez. Sometimes there were few or no shells, but other times shells appeared in abundance. Different from the bones of mammoths, ground sloths, ancient forms of horses and the like which are nearly always buried deep below heavy deposits of loess, these fossil white snail shells occurred throughout the loess, from top to bottom.
In 1902 B. Shimek published an important paper in the prestigious journal called American Geologist. The paper's title was "The loess of Natchez, Mississippi." In that article he argued that Natchez's loess couldn't possibly have been deposited by water because fossil snail shells prove it! Exactly like a Sherlock Holmes of geology, in his article he gathered together and spread before the world his evidence:
Therefore, if not water, then what?
Wind, Shimek recommended. Wind, wind, wind...
But, old ideas never die easily. A lot of important people kept saying that it was perfectly obvious that the agent that always lays down lots of loose dirt is water, water, water!
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