Aussie ABC – F is for Fossils!
The ancient landscape of OZ, eroded by time, long disappeared sea beds and a harsh climate has given rise to weirdly unique and bizarre creatures. Well … their remains, anyway!
I knew this. But I DIDN’T know the present day Outback fossil fields near northwest Queensland’s Richmond, would engender a creature more fantastic than any of them.
And I was there when the Bermuda Trianglesque alignment of mystical forces during our July 2011 visit to the Richmond fossil fossicking fields coalesced to spawn an almost-alien almost-super heroic life form.
Where else could the trappings of an ordinary life of relative civilization be thrown aside so fecklessly – to transmogrify into the fabled and fearless, frenetic and frightening …
I blame the ‘Honour Roll’ exhibit.
As we left Richmond’s Kronosaurus Korner, inspired by an array of wondrous fossil finds worthy of removal by study at Harvard University, an exhibit near the exit catalogued some exciting discoveries. We stopped for a closer look. An honour roll of significant fossil finds – unearthed by tourists, many of them children on family holidays, at the nearby fossicking fields!
Yes, the fossil force-field started to stir …
Then again, maybe the blame lies with the ‘dig’.
Armed with our photocopied ‘Fossil-Hunting Guide’, map from the Visitor Information Centre and shovel, we arrived at the fields ready to kick some serious fossil-finder butt. Only to be trumped by a pair of Canadians who’d discovered a rare, almost complete fish skeleton (cick HERE for the story) that even made the news – although incomprehensibly claimed by Queensland’s premier as a great personal triumph. We watched the plaster cast being lifted from the ground for the bumpy trip back to the lab.
The odds of finding fossils are astronomically high on this Toolebuc formation – an ancient limestone sea floor, where almost every rock yields animal remains. We couldn’t miss, right? SURELY we could outdo the Canadians – after all, this was virtually our home turf! And Pilchard’s gemstone fossicking skills, well developed from countless hours on the sapphire and opal fields, were transferrable to the fossil medium, weren’t they??
But the final blame for FOSSILHUNTER lies with junior FOSSILHUNTER.
Part of the ‘dig’, a young lad casually wandered up to one of the staff with something in his hand. ‘What’ve you got there?’ she asked, bending over for a closer look.
‘Fish jaws,’ he replied nonchalantly as she got out her fossil-hunter kit – magnifying glass and preservation liquid.
‘Fish jaws, huh?’ Pilchard snorted, and I could sense his competitive urge rising, along with the hot, green bile of envy.
And right then, right there, FOSSILHUNTER emerged, fully formed and frantic for a frenetic fossil finding frenzy!
The uninformed may well believe FOSSILHUNTER’s foiled attempt to join the fossil-finding elite*** was due to lack of expertise. I blame lack of equipment – ie only two (map, shovel) of the guide’s 14 suggested field equipment items! My discovery of a Scenic Public Toilet only partly made up for the disappointment of remaining amongst the millions of Australians who haven’t yet found a major fossil …
But where FOSSILHUNTER failed, many others have succeeded – a list of Queensland fossil hotspots reads like an Outback who’s who! And Richmond, along with Winton and Hughenden, forms the Dinosaur trail – although impressive fossil credentials in other towns (eg Muttaburra, Eromanga, Mt Isa, Isisford and Boulia) put them on the map for fossil enthusiasts*.
Of course transmogrifying into FOSSILHUNTER isn’t a requirement for appreciating Australia’s fossil finds – but Richmond, aka ‘Fossil capital of Australia’, is one of the few places that FOSSILHUNTER and his ilk can actually join the hunt.
Thanx to FOSSILHUNTER’s superior skills (yes, he’s probably reading this …) I’m betting that although we’ve already seen more fossils in Queensland than the average person, we’ll be following the fossil trail to other states! Bet you can’t wait either …
For now, following the fossil finding failure in the fossicking fields, FOSSILHUNTER is dormant. But who can say when fossil force field fever will once again activate FOSSILHUNTER and trigger the next awakening??
*Click on each town for more information
** Click on each dinosaur for more information
*** No, other than the rock fossil in FOSSILHUNTER’s hand, not one of the exhibits above had ANYTHING to do with either of us … unbelieveable, huh?!