I wouldn’t say I was a fossil collector, but I do find them very interesting. Whenever I am on holiday, I always look out for interesting stones.
I think most of us have done it – you go to the beach and wander along the edge of the water looking for shiny attractive stones, ending up with a handful and putting them in the boot of your car. The next time you see them is when you get home. By this time, they’ve all dried out and gone dull, and you wonder why you bothered! Having said that, over the years I have built up quite an impressive collection.
There are only three different types of rock: sedimentary, which is laid down on the seabed; igneous, which is volcanic; and metamorphic, which, as the name suggests, is rock that goes through change caused by heat and pressure. Probably the most well-known is the ammonite, which can be commonly found on the coastline in Dorset. When looking for them, you must be sensible as the cliffs are very fragile and it is not wise to interfere with the actual cliff face. The best time to find them is when there has been a landslide and the rocks have been broken open and are lying on the beach, but care must still be taken.
It is in this area, which is known as the Jurassic Coast, that a Victorian lady first became interested in fossils. Her name was Mary Annings. Over the years, she made many special finds that contributed to important changes to what was known about prehistoric animals and the history of the Earth. In 1833, she had a lucky escape when part of the cliff she was working on collapsed, but unfortunately her dog was killed.
The ammonite became extinct about 65 million years ago, which in geological terms is quite recent. Another common fossil is the sea urchin, and these lived in our seas around 450 million years ago; that’s 220 million years before the dinosaurs were around.
Sometimes, on my travels, I find strange, heavy, metallic-looking stones, and I try to convince myself that they are meteorites. They are probably not, but they can be found if you are very lucky. In 1969, in Murchison, Australia, a meteorite was found weighing over 200 pounds! Now, meteorites are in a league of their own when it comes to being old. They are older than any rocks found on Earth. They are over 7 billion years old! Some have been found to contain prebiotic complex organic substances, and there is a school of thought that believes that they are the ingredients for life.
Ted is a local resident and keen collector.
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