Why I failed at fossil hunting – so you don’t have to

Like most people with a biology background, I love fossils. Who doesn’t!? I went through my “I’m going to be a palaeontologist” phase, I worship all things Jurassic Park (not Jurassic World though, sorry), and I have a shelf of fossils to admire. Last week I went on a family holiday down to Norfolk – we went boating in the Broads, chatted to Nemo at the SeaLife centre, and best of all, we went fossil hunting! I had never been to Norfolk but I knew that it was supposed to be a great fossil hunting spot. I have also never gone fossil hunting, but hey, I bought a fancy hammer – how difficult could it be?

 

Location location location

The first thing we did was hit up https://ukfossils.co.uk/locations/ and check out the recommended sites near us. The lovely people at UK Fossils have listed fossil hunting locations about the UK and put together a brief synopsis of what you’re likely to find there and what era the fossils come from. They also give a rating out of five. We chose the beautiful beach at East Runton – it was close to where we were staying and had a whopping five out of five from the UK Fossil team. I was envisioning strolling down the beach with the other half and his family, fossils falling into my outstretched hand, and looking like a fossil hunting legend. It was not to be…

 

  1. I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was

So, the first reason I failed at fossil hunting was that I just hadn’t done enough homework. I was sure that I knew what a raw fossil would look like and I was sure that – based off of the fossils I already own – I would recognise the type of rock they could be found in. Of course, the fossils I own are from all over the world, and off the top of my head, none of them are from Norfolk. I had not familiarised myself with the local geology – not the best start.

 

  1. The weather was beautiful

The beach that we were fossil hunting on is lined with chalk cliffs that portion out their fossil burden as the chalk falls away over time. This process is much aided by tempestuous weather – of which there was none. It had been beautiful weather for the week that we were there, so there had been no wind or rough tides to break loose the chalk. I had imagined that new fossils would be showing up daily. That day, however, was likely the last day that there had been rock fall, which had probably been the week or two previous.

 

  1. It was after lunch

We had other plans for the morning, so it was about 1500 when we arrived at the beach. Had there been any fresh rock fall that morning, local fossil hunters had most likely come down and swept the area for treasures already. I kept finding what I believed to be the correct type of rock, but every appropriate piece I found had already been broken open. So technically I was correct in the rocks I was picking, I was just too late.

 

Even cheating didn’t work!

After my unsuccessful beach excursion, I took me and my bruised ego to the local fossil shop to buy something (and maybe lie and say I found it). Unfortunately, anything nice they had, I already had one at home. Next time I have the chance to go fossil hunting I will be (a) taking geology lessons, and (b) bringing someone with me who knows what they are doing.

 

If you would like to try fossil hunting for yourself (and be more successful than I was!) check out this video on how to find fossils on the beach. Happy hunting!

 

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