Once over the dunes, the beach stretched out before us.
We were on the windy west coast, and boy, was it windy. And everything was on a vast scale.
Our destination turned out to be these boulders of beach rock, as they contained fossils – shells that are remnants of the sea floor that existed during the Miocene period, approximately 10 million years ago.
We also had a little surprise when we searched for fossils.
Luckily, he was having a long nap and hardly stirred, else we would have been in trouble.
I have taken a few courses with ACP, the last being Camera Craft 3. This course involved exploring different photographic genres – the first being still life.
Still life is a very old genre that was first perfected by the Dutch Masters in the 17th Century, but can also be utilised by photographers. Both the choice and placement of objects, as well as its lighting is critical, as you can see in this series.
A 15 minute walk took us to the other side of the CBD. There was the understated war memorial.
The Art Gallery of South Australia’s interior looks very like its Sydney counterpart.
But I was hanging out for the South Australian Museum.
We saw a really good exhibition called ‘Yidaki’ – about the didgeridoo, its Yolngu origins in North-East Arnhem Land, and its modern context. No photos, but here is an essay about it.
The other thing I was looking forward to seeing were the museum’s fossil collection. South Australia being the home of the Ediacaran fossils (one of the first known complex multicellular organisms), it was wonderful to see that there was a whole gallery full of fossils.
And here they are – with quite pretty patterns. Scientists have yet to agree whether they are plants or animals!
There were even preserved water ripples from 600 million years ago (that’s 6 times older than dinosaurs).
These fossils are so important in the biological history of the world that Sir David Attenborough visited the site where these fossils were found as part of his First Life series.
And so folks, that ends our epic trek across Australia from north to south. I’ll explore things closer to home next time.
A visitor to our house will very soon notice that there are geological items everywhere. Many are Hubby’s, but quite a few are also mine. As you might guess, I am quite interested in paleontology and fossils, so here are two specimens from my collection.
Ammonites are fascinating and beautiful marine creatures. Their fossils can be found all over the world in various sizes from thumbnail to a few feet. This fossil is from South Africa, and is quite big at about 15cm in size. It’s from the Late Cretaceous period, so it was living at the time of the dinosaurs, shortly before the great extinction event that wiped them, and also the ammonites, out.
An older but no less fascinating prehistoric animal is the trilobite. They were marine creatures that lived in the oceans long before fish, and certainly long before animals colonised land. Today, they look a lot like the Balmain Bug, though they’re distantly related. Their fossils can be found all over the world, in 2D and 3D. I love the 3D fossils, which have been painstakingly extracted using dental drills. Most 3D trilobites come from Morocco, but this specimen comes from St Petersburgh, Russia, and is about 460 million years old, from the Middle Ordovician period.
The paleontology lab processes fossils large, like this diprotodon skull that’s almost a metre in length…
To microscopic fossils from small marsupials or bats – these are micro-bat skulls.
Everything needs to be sieved…
Sorted (sometimes via microscope, as with these tiny teeth and jaws)…
And then classified. This generally involves comparing the fossils to known species. Teeth are the most useful fossils for classification as they are unique for every species.
This is the lower jaw of a small marsupial species, similar to a kangaroo.
And this is another diprotodon jaw, but for a much smaller species as it fits in a 10 x 10cm box.
These fossils may then be formally described as part of university research. The best go to university or museum collections. It’s this kind of research that helps paint a picture of what ancient Australia was like thousands and millions of years ago.
It’s been over 4 years since I made the field trip to the fossil sites of Riversleigh in North West Queensland. Back then, I helped the research team search for potential fossils in the limestone. The more bone-rich chunks of limestone were then bagged and sent to the University of New South Wales for further analysis.
It’s only last September that I had the opportunity to visit the paleontology labs at the university. And here are some of those bags of limestone!
And the limestone chunks themselves – with the bone chunks marked out.
Some of the fossil chunks can get quite large. All of this excess rock and dirt needs to be dissolved or washed away to reveal the fossils themselves.
To extract the fossils the rock chunks are immersed in a weak acid solution, similar in strength to vinegar. When limestone is placed in acid, the limestone dissolves, releasing carbon dioxide – that’s what’s bubbling away there.
Here’s what happens after a soak or two. Obviously, this is a process that needs to be repeated many times until the fossils are released, hence there were many, many tubs all over the lab.
We continue Jandamarra’s story at the Lillimooloora Police Station, where Jandamarra worked. Being continually exposed to the trials of his people took its toll. He killed his police constable while he slept and released the prisoners. Together, they planned to defend Bunuba land against all outsiders. Many being former stockmen, the rode and shot very well, and their knowledge of the country meant they were hard to even pinpoint as they waged guerilla warfare on the pastoralists. In retaliation, the police hunted down and killed many Aboriginals.
Things came to a head at Windjana Gorge, which we visited one hot afternoon. The cliff face loomed 100 meters above us.
The kapok trees were in fruit and whistling kites were circling.
The entrance to the gorge was via a narrow crevice. This may have well been used in Jandamarra’s time 120 years ago.
And the walls showed creatures that had lived in what was the Devonian equivalent of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aside from plenty of parkland, Ueno is also the site of a dozen or so of Tokyo’s museums. We visited just three of them during our stay.
The first was the natural history museum.
It’s entrance, with its blue whale, is quite impressive. Much of the building was built around the turn of the century.
But inside it was much more modern, and has what we thought was one of the best collections of dinosaurs in a public museum anywhere.
Farther along the beach there were some rock platforms.
The pools were clear, but since the tides here are strong, I didn’t see any notable creatures in them.
What we did find though were fossils from the time when this platform was at the bottom of the sea. There were leaves,
And a stem from a crinoid,
As well as shells and corals.
Goes to show that life in these parts go way back.
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?