Vogt Opens ‘Windows into Maryland’s Ancient Past’

Calvert County author weaves history and sci-fi tales together for children

Writer: Edna Troiano
As a marine geoscientist, Peter Vogt worked at the Naval Research Lab, voyaged on American, French, Russian and Norwegian research ships, and explored the ocean floor in a submersible as part of an international expedition. He also authored and co-authored over 150 scientific publications. But after retiring in 2005, he turned his attention from scholarly articles to science fiction and his audience from scientists to children.
Vogt’s books differ from typical science fiction — there are no robots run amok, no alien creatures landing in spaceships. Instead, he uses fiction as a framework to explore the natural history of Calvert Cliffs and the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
As readers follow the characters’ adventures, they learn about the formation of Calvert Cliffs, which the Calvert County author refers to as “windows into Maryland’s ancient past.” Erosion, Vogt adds, acts as “windshield wipers,” providing a clear view into the past. Readers also learn about the formation of the Chesapeake Bay, geology, fossils, the Miocene Epoch, with its now extinct plants and animals, and the cataclysmic effect of a comet’s collision with Earth.
And although his books are for children, they will fascinate adults.
Backdrop: Calvert Cliffs
In “The Monster Shark’s Tooth: Canoeing from the Chesapeake Bay Into the Ancient Miocene Sea” (Barclay Bryan Press, 2009), 8-year-old Johann travels from his home in Arizona to visit his grandparents.
After Johann and his grandfather, nicknamed Grumpa, explore Calvert Cliffs, they embark on a magical canoe trip back in time to Miocene Maryland where they encounter whales, red pandas, slingshot deer, bear dogs and a gomphothere — the ancestor of elephants. As they paddle back toward the present, they fend off an attack from a giant megalodon shark, a prehistoric creature whose enormous tooth Johann later finds embedded in the canoe.
In the sequel, “A Most Mysterious Fossil” (Barclay Bryan Press, 2011), Johann again visits his grandparents. While exploring the beach along the Calvert Cliffs, he discovers an animal’s skeleton embedded in the cliffs. Before a paleontologist can examine the bones, someone digs into the cliff — a forbidden activity — and removes some bones. Johann solves one mystery, the identity of the fossil thieves, but uncovers a far more perplexing one, a piece of metal which scientists agree could not have come from Earth.
More Adventure Awaits
In his third book, “Tourmaline’s Quest” (Santa Barbara Books, 2020), Vogt introduces a new character, Tury, nicknamed for the gemstone Tourmaline. A 13-year-old girl, Tury has come with her cousin Johann to visit their grandparents.
In this longer book, aimed at slightly older readers (11 and up), Tury is interested in exploring both her Native American heritage and the natural history of the Chesapeake. She and Johann, now with Grumpa in his dugout canoe, drift off to sleep and awake in the Pleistocene Epoch, when Southern Maryland was populated with short-faced bears, saber-toothed tigers, dire wolves, giant beavers, mastodons and other now-extinct creatures. In one harrowing scene, they return to the present time after narrowly escaping the comet that may cause the extinction of these ancient animals.
These books, filled with information and adventure, leave readers with a vivid picture of life in Southern Maryland millions of years ago. And those who want to know what happens next won’t have to wait long to revisit Johann and follow his adventures; a fourth book is in the works. •

Calvert Marine Museum
14200 Solomons Island Road S., Solomons. 410-326-2042; calvertmarinemuseum.com

Bayside History Museum
4025 4th St., North Beach. 410-61-5970;baysidehistorymuseum.org

Phone the museums or visit their websites to be sure they have reopened.