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Sarah Simpson column: Ninja kick unearths cool find on family adventure

Needless to say, they were jazzed

Inspired by the Cowichan Valley chapter of NatureKids B.C.’s junior fossil hunter explorer day they held recently that we had to miss, we decided to go fossil hunting over the May long weekend, despite knowing nothing about what we were doing.

I figured, hey, worst case we’d play in the dirt and get some fresh air.

I was wrong. That wasn’t the worst case.

Not five minutes after we arrived one of my children was ready to leave. It was too hot (it wasn’t.) They were thirsty (they brought a drink).

We kind of ignored that kid’s dissent for a few minutes and explained to both children the basics of fossils, how they form, and how to find them in the shale and set to work digging around.

Truth be told, we didn’t expect to actually find anything — my husband and I just wanted to get outside as a family.

Well, one kid diligently started searching while the other wandered around kicking at rock walls and watching the pieces tumble. Eventually he found a stick that looked like a pick-axe and that seemed to turn things around….that is until he was digging and scraped his knuckle — as all four of us did at one point or another. Hey, rocks can be sharp!

We found some things we think may have been fossils but without being properly educated, we agreed we needed to learn a bit more about fossils before we could be sure.

We kept poking around and it was a lovely bit of afternoon, really.

Well, for three of us.

My son kicked at another rock wall and watched the shale break apart and fall to the base of the little trench we were in.

“Is this something?” my daughter asked as she reached down and grabbed a chunk of rock my son had just released.

Well by gosh if he hadn’t unwittingly kicked out a proper without-a-doubt fossil. My daughter just so happened to notice it in a pile of other bits and pieces.

That changed the entire mood.

“Who found it then?” wondered my son, always wanting to one-up his sister.

She was quick with the comeback.

My daughter wasted no time telling him that he found it but she discovered it.

What’s more, they were both all of a sudden interested in finding more. They figured the method that worked for them the first time would work again, no doubt.

Typical kid logic, right?

We tried to warn them that it wasn’t the most effective way to search and not all that kind to the environment, in fact.

Nevertheless, the boy booted the side of the mountain once more and once again it rained rocks.

The girl had a quick look at the rubble and casually reached down and pulled out another genuine fossil.

Needless to say, they were jazzed.

Not long thereafter, we packed up and headed home. It wasn’t particularly hot out but it was sunny and only half of us had sunscreen on.

The kids oh-so-delicately brought their discoveries to the car and we brought them home in the hope of touching base with the same group who led the NatureKids’ fossil hunt to identify them.

Us adults, we did our best to ignore the arguing about who actually found/discovered the fossils. (I think we need to have another family lesson on the idea of teamwork. )

I sent a message to the Victoria Palaeontology Society Facebook page, and included a photo, but didn’t really give any location information but lo and behold, the site’s administrator wrote back, and knew which area we found them in!

“Where they were collected gives a good clue as to what they might be,” replied admin. “Without knowing the location, my guess would be fragments of an ammonite called Glyptoxoceras subcompressum commonly found in Cretaceous age rocks in the Nanaimo Group Haslam formation.”

The species is common on one of our local mountains, they said.

“Did I guess right?” the admin wondered.

I’m not sure they could have been more correct.

I’m excited to share with the kids about what we’ve learned from the Palaeontology Society. I’ll be sure to really highlight the fact that they found fragments of a fossil from between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago. Then I’ll let them dream about what could have been had they been a little less ninja and a little more gentle in extracting them.

I’m looking forward to going fossil hunting again and I have a feeling my family is, too.

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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