One last look at the wonderful country side around Canowindra before we headed home.
On the way home, we stopped at Mount Canobolas, the highest point in these parts. It gave us a chance to farewell the canola below.
After our museum visit we drove out into the Canowindra country side and stopped to visit the original site of the fishes.
It’s quite astonishing that the slabs of fish were dug up from under this road.
Since the original dig only went for a mere two weeks, they could only remove a limited amount of material. Afterwards the site was covered up, and the road rebuilt.
Dr Ritchie thinks there are still a whole load of fishes out there – if only the local council would let him dig here. He has not been able to dig here since the early nineties, despite plenty of petitions. There’s still a lot to learn about this site, but at the moment bureaucracy has grounded any further studies to a halt. Shame when politics gets in the way of things, but isn’t it the way these days?
Lovely as the countryside was, we were on a science tour, and the Canowindra Age of Fishes Museum was our destination.
The story goes that while digging up a nearby road, some workmen stumbled on some fossil fish. They called the Australian Museum, and when the road was opened up, they discovered loads and loads of dead fish from the Age of Fishes in Devonian times, around 360 million years ago. The fish had died probably when their water source completely dried out in a bad drought. These slabs below are the tip of the iceberg.
Back then fishes were the height of evolution. No animals had made it out of the water as yet. You can imagine that there was a lot of competition out in the water! Consequently, these fish aren’t like most of the modern fish you see. They had a suit of armour to protect them instead of scales or skin.
Some of the fish were quite small, perhaps 10cm long at most. This one looks a bit like a weird mini sting ray.
Others were up till 1.6 metres in length.
We were lucky enough to have the foremost expert in these fishes telling us his story. It’s not often that you find so many fossil fish in the one place, even Sir David Attenborough visited recently.
There were lots of old gum trees along the roadside.
And a few vineyards on the edges of town. They seemed quite large places compared to the smallholdings we visited recently in the Hunter and Granite Belt.
The canola fields were dispersed by paddocks of viridian. Not sure what these crops are – wheat or cotton?
But that morning we came to view the balloons.
And of course, there were the pubs of Canowindra.
The town was big enough to have more than one.
In fact, there were more than just these three! The last one is for Joan, who likes ‘collecting’ Royal hotels, although I noticed she has this one already.
We travelled south-west of Bathurst to our chief destination for the weekend, the sleepy town of Canowindra. After settling into our motel, we wandered around the main street.
The residential houses were Edwardian, I think, of the same vintage as those around the suburbs of Ashfield, Summer Hill and Croydon in Sydney’s inner-west.
A few had some lovely blooms on display.
Soon we came to the shopping precinct. With some lovely architecture, I wasn’t surprised to find out that it’s been used as a film set recently.
However, the streets were very quiet, even for a Saturday evening. We found out after we got home that there had been a memorial for one of the victims of the Rozelle fire, who came from here. Everybody is affected when something happens in a town of this size (Canowindra’s population is around 1,500).
Also in the main precinct, and the purpose of our visit, was the old Primary School. Its size gave you an idea of how big the town was in the gold rush.
Now it houses the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum.
Inside, there was a very beautiful collection of minerals from all over Australia and the world, but I was more interested in fossils. There was an impressive cast of a T-Rex skeleton.
But this weekend trip was all about marine fossils, particularly trilobites, an animal crossed between a crustacean and a centipede. These were common-place around 400 million years ago, but were wiped out in an extinction event 375 million years ago, possibly when the sea-level changed dramatically and the oxygen content in seawater decreased.
Their fossils are now found all over the world. The most spectacular specimens are from Morocco.
But Australia also has its fair share. These great specimens are from Kangaroo Island in South Australia.