Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Dig Fossils

My son has been going on about dinosaurs for a while now. They have been talking about them at school, he has seen them on TV and he has many books about them. All he still needed to do was to dig for some fossils and he would be happy. Finding dinosaurs around Cape Town is not an easy task, but finding fossils is not that difficult. I thought it would be a great opportunity to take him to the West Coast Fossil Park and learn a thing or two myself on digging up fossils.

The West Coast Fossil Park is situated on a piece of land close to Langebaan that was previously used for phosphate mining. While the mining activities were going on, about 80% of the fossils were lost in the process. It was only after a while that someone mentioned the fossils and eventually the area was declared a national heritage site. That was when they really started digging up the fossils of many animals that are now extinct. The site looks like a burial site for animals over thousands of years, because this is the site with the most amount of diverse species in the world all together in one small area.

When we arrived at the site we were the first visitors for the day.We paid the R50 per person fee for a guided tour and also ordered our breakfast before the tour started. Kids under 5 go free. A short walk through the museum was followed to a drive down to the "digs" as the tour lady called it. Here my son just wanted to get into the dirt and dig out some fossils. Fortunately we could explain to him that the site is only for people who has a lot of patience and experience and that a beach spade would not exactly do the trick. Yet again I learned that even at my age I could still be wowed with things I have never really took much interest digging for fossils. It was amazing to see the dig site and how they go about finding and identifying fossils. What looked to me as just ordinary rocks were actually fossils with more information in them than my external hard drive were I store my pictures in. I always thought I never had the patience to be a fisherman, but I am sure I would've wrecked a couple of fossils as well had I been a paleontologist.

After the short visit to the dig site, we returned to the lab to look at some more fossils that were found there and how they are being sorted, numbered and eventually put together. I still think that sometimes this is as good as guessing how the earth was created, I mean they can even predict what colour the animals were...or can they really? What I do know is that there are some strange looking skeletons that does not fit the profile of the animals we currently have around Cape Town, so maybe these dinosaurs were for real. Well, at least my son believes they existed.

Quite an interesting excursion which really triggered my interests. I might just get myself a little spade and a brush and start digging in my back yard. Who knows, I might still discover the "missing link" under those Agapanthus Africana.

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