chance discovery

what started out as just a day off, may have just become one of the most significant outings of my life...

as per my new year's resolutions i need to have more fun.

lately i've been having to find ways to have solo fun (and i don't mean watching han solo) as my friends are all away for the holidays (or just out right disappeared). back in the tyrrell days if you told me i needed to entertain myself without anyone else around i'd have been stumped... how does one have fun on their own.

now i'm not going to lie people of the web wide world i still think being social is way more fun than being by ones self. it is a nice change of pace though once and a while to just hang out with ones self (though due to the repercussions of my cousin larry's visit i may just be spending a lot more time on my own!)

my current favourite solo activity has been to go fishing. now that i've sorta mastered it (yeah that's right. in your face spinosaurs!!!) it's really fun!

another thing i really like about fishing is it gives me an excuse to head out of dunedin and explore more of beautiful new zealand. can you believe i've been here almost a year and only really seen around just dunedin?

well today i came to another really nice beach on the ocean. as the majestic waves splashed against the delicate sand a shroud of fog clung to the horizon... wow did you just read that people of the innerweb. with descriptive writing like that i could become an author or something!...

i should have taken that fog as a sign of things to come... as in mystery and adventure waited for me. they always have fog in movies with that stuff... though i'd come here with the goal of fishing what actually occurred was nothing i could have anticipated...

one of the key things about fishing is location. so i had to scout out this new foreign beach. i'd never been here before. how was i too know where a good spot would be?

as i looked around i was struck by how pretty this beach was... man i STILL love the ocean.

you'd think i was into the ocean just cause i grew up in such a landlocked and waterless place like drumheller . yet here i am having lived by the ocean almost a year (and seeing it quite a lot) and i still love it!

though as i hunted for a good fishing perch i was distracted by another wonder of nature. one i hadn't noticed in a while...


now what could be appealing about rocks you might wonder? i mean hey their just rocks. they don't laugh. they don't sing. they don't do anything!

well growing up in a palaeontology musuem like the tyrrell i learned a thing or two about the wonderful world of rocks. more importantly i picked up a couple things (well okay i actually picked up a LOT of things, but was promptly told to put them back where i got them from) about the whole science of rocks. a science they call geology.

for those of you who don't yet appreciate it rather than not laugh, sing, or anything rocks do one thing really well: storytelling! now they don't tell you the story upfront sadly. rather they present it for you to uncover.

the texture of these rocks kicked in some of my latent tyrrell palaeo skills. i immediately zoned in on them to check them out.

low and behold my prospecting instincts revealed something very much like petrified wood...

wait a second... if some of you out there on the innerweb aren't into rocks than you probably don't know what i was doing or looking for when i say prospecting...

well only one way to fix that! time for yet another...

okay prospecting. well prospecting is a key part of being a fossil hunter and/or palaeontologist. it's the term we use to basically say "looking for fossils".

it's really not that complicated. you just point your eyes on the ground and look for anything interesting. just like this group of prospectors with Dr. Brinkman of the tyrrell museum.

now there are many ways to prospect, but here's the basics of good prospecting.

when looking for the big impressive specimens, it's important not to look for them... weird eh?

well the reason is that for 99% of fossils to be in the amazing shape they need to be in to be considered impressive the fossil needs to inside rock to protect it from the destructive and damaging forces of erosion. meaning that if your looking for a whole complete fossil to just be lying out on the ground you'll be disappointed.

first off you won't find it, because fossils erode pretty quick once exposed. meaning that if your treasure fossil does make it's way to the surface it won't be there long, and thus you won't see it at all. second if you do stumble on it within that short window of exposedness it will be still damaged by erosion. again meaning that you won't find or see a perfect specimen.

so what do you look for. well we use the destructive nature of erosion rather than fight it. as exposed fossil erodes broken off pieces get carried away like the rock around them. well if a fossil hunter looks for these loose pieces we can use them to follow the erosional trail back to where it came from. meaning that we now know the source of these fossils, and this may well lead us to those prize specimens i mentioned just buried beneath the surface...

the other great thing about this strategy is it allows you to be lazier. rather than climbing steep hills or covering ever square centimetre of ground you can just look in erosional channels. only once you've found something do you have to leave the beaten (or blown, washed, frozen, swept, etc.) path.

now that you're a prospecting expert (well okay the theory side anyway... you need to do a bit in the field before you get good at it) you can envision me back on the beach.

you should also be able to picture my conundrum. you see rather than seeing a small piece of interest i saw a whole hill of fossily texture. (oh yeah i forgot to mention in the fact. when you prospect you look for texture rather than shape or colour).

i could have sworn i was seeing a whole hill of petrified wood... yet that made no sense at all!

it had the straight vertical grain of petrified wood (and living none fossil wood for that matter). it was a bumpy grain like pet wood too.

but it was a whole hill!?!

my palaeo skills and knowledge told me this just couldn't be... either that or i'd just made the biggest find ever. a tree the diameter of... uh... well however many metres a hill is.

i peered in closer for inspection.

with this more in my face vantage point i started to discern the cause of my confusion, and more to the point the attractor of my attention.

though at first glance this rock (yeah that's right it was just a rock sadly) had all the characteristics of petrified wood texturally. it even had a lot of silica in it (fossil wood often is mineralized... fancy word for organic material being rockified... by silica... giving the wood glass like portions). however the none silica bits were all wrong. they were rock. a type of rock i'd never seen before.

that meant they HAD to be volcanic. the badlands of alberta, where all my fossil hunting experience is, have nothing but sedimentary rocks. thus i'm pretty good at identifying sedimentary rocks, but any sort volcanic rock and i'm hopeless. in fact i only know there's two different types, but i couldn't tell you much beyond that. that alone how to identify any of them...

though it was fun for a minute to get to do some fossil hunting i was kinda bummed out by that. i'd gotten so excited and pumped by that brief bit of prospecting. i forgot how much i missed it.

i forgot about fishing entirely as i wandered the beach. my thoughts were turning to lonely homesickness and depression which i fought off by trying to focus on the beauty and tranquility of the waves rolling in and out from the sandy stretch of beach i'd wandered on to.

just as the sorrow of being away from home was closing in on me, i noticed something out of the corner of my eye in the sand. had i not been in a prospecting zone that moment i probably would have missed it.

buried just below the sand was something shiny...

leaning in closer for a look i could only just make out a metallic surface covered in sand. suddenly a wave rolled in giving me a snout full of water for a moment. i was about to get angry and annoyed... till as the wave drew back to the sea it carried off much of the sand covering my find (see erosion happens all the time, and can be VERY quick!)

it was really shiny oval. though normally not really the sort of thing i'd look for it was kinda cool.

definitely not a fossil. which meant i had no idea what it was, nor if it was a good find...

problem with a brain the size of a peanut. if you haven't thought about something before it can be a bit of a BIG task when you finally start...

several more waves came in, washing away more of the sand covering my find. i focused all my tiny brains facilities on the object trying to figure out what it was, and if i should be excited.

after many minutes it suddenly the following dawned on me. it was definitely human made... metal doesn't form with such perfect shape or symmetry.

as of such it must serve a purpose...

than it occurred to me!

jewelry... it was some sort of geologically based ornament worn by humans (which considering their lack of horns, frills, crests, and feathers makes sense).

most important it is always valuable. i mean hey robbers are always trying to steal it in movies!

with this realization i picked up my new treasure... wait a second! i realized.

this could very easily be a treasure!

i'd seen jewelry just like this at work in the otago museum . more to the point how and why would a modern person lose something like this on the beach?

i wasn't sure of anything for now. what i did know was that i was going to have ms. rhonwyn have a look at this when she returned to the country. she'd be able to tell me what it was. more importantly it'd show her that i have skills at finding things. skills that are very useful to a museum!

so depending on what i found this could have been a really big milestone in my life people of the innerweb... don't get me wrong it's not like i haven't found things before. i've found more fossils than even you with big brains can count, but never has anything i found been this intact or complete before! (dinosaurs for example need at least 50% of some 250ish bones of a skeleton to be considered complete...).

this might be my first step toward that curatorship i've always wanted...

(checkout the behind the scenes story behind the discovery of this artifact at prehistoric insanity!)

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