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A local clay lens up to 60 cm thick in the Eocene Castle Hayne Limestone at the abandoned Fussell Quarry, Duplin County, North Carolina, is identified as a bentonite. It is composed of authigenic smectite with sparse euhedral biotite and apatite. Scanning electron microscope examination shows that the bentonite consists of relic bubble-wall shards altered to smectite. Smectitic columnules, rod-shaped casts of elongate pipe vesicles in pumice fragments derived from early dissolution of nearby small glass shards, also occur. This association is considered diagnostic of a silicic air-fall ash. K-Ar and Rb-Sr biotite dates from the bentonite are 46.2 ± 1.8 Ma and 45.7 ± 0.7 Ma, respectively, and a fission-track age of apatite is 51.0 ± 2.0 Ma; this later date is considered to be incorrect.

Biotite compositions determined from electron microprobe analyses on 100 crystals suggest derivation from a single volcanic source no more than 4000 km from the bentonite. Possible sources of the ash include Bermuda; Highland County, Virginia; and the Caribbean; however, because of distance, prevailing wind direction, and similarity in age and composition, the volcanic swarm in Highland County, Virginia, is the suggested source.

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