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digit

Quick trip to Beaumaris Cliffs, Australia

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digit

While my wife Tammy and I were down in Australia celebrating our anniversary (we honeymooned down under way too long ago), we looked around to see if there was a quick place we could indulge our passion for fossil hunting while we were there. I found a lot of great information on TFF (valuable resource that it is). In addition to many fine offers to be shown the fossil goodness around the Queensland area and excellent suggestions from Dave (@sandgroper) on what to see on the western coast of Australia, I was able to plan a short fossil excursion in the Melbourne area. I had searched TFF before the trip to see if anybody had posted information on trips that were fairly quick and easy without needing to setup permission ahead of time or trudge through the countryside looking for the exact locality. What I found was a posting by @Paleoworld-101 detailing a trip he made back in January which included a stop at the Beaumaris Cliffs near Melbourne:

 

http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/61248-fossil-hunting-holiday-in-victoria-australia-dec-2015-jan-2016/&do=findComment&comment=653003

 

While the less commonly found items such as cetacean bones or shark teeth would be fun, what intrigued me was that a particular species of irregular (heart) urchin called Lovenia woodsii seemed to be there in some abundance. This is just what I was looking for--a target on which to focus my hunting in the limited time I'd have there and something that would display nicely. Another forum member, Tom (@Seve78) was incredibly helpful in providing us some detailed information on where to hunt at the site (and sending us tide tables for the dates we'd likely be able to be there). I was also able to contact Dr. David Holloway, Senior Curator, Invertebrate Palaeontology, Museum Victoria ahead of time and inquire about legally taking my finds out of the country. Australia (rightly so) has put in place the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which requires that objects such as antiques, artifacts, fossils, meteorites and other objects of cultural significance be verified to be adequately represented in public collections in Australia before they are allowed to be exported. The fact that Lovenia echinoids are very common at the site made me certain that there would be no issues exporting them but making contact before collecting allowed me to receive a letter of authorization shortly after collecting at Beaumaris. A little planning saves a lot of effort in the long run.

 

So with all my preparations made we flew off to Australia for our extended (and busy) tour of southern and western Australia. The day we flew back into Melbourne we picked up a rental car at the airport and set the GPS for our destination in Beaumaris. Having spent the previous week in relatively sparsely-populated Tasmania, the traffic around Melbourne was hard to get used to (especially driving on the opposite side of the road :wacko:). In time, we finally made it to the site by the Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron. I always think of jet fighters when I hear the word 'squadron' so a 'yacht squadron' always make me grin with silly images in my head. We parked the car in an appropriate location on one of the residential streets and followed the instructions to the site. When we arrived the tide was out but was slowly returning. Having access to the further reaches of the site is only possible during low tide (unless you want to get wet from the knees down). We spent a few minutes at the first beach area and then proceeded to further down the beach.

 

Here are some photos for those not familiar with the site. The area just past the section roped off with orange netting becomes unpassable at higher tide. You can't walk further up the shore and the water comes to the base of this area so you'll get wet if you attempt crossing at anything but low tide. The cliffs are composed of a bright yellow sandstone material (Beaumaris Sandstone) but did not appear to show much in the way of fossil material. I was told that the best place to hunt was in the 'shingle' or broken rocky area at the base of the cliffs. Even if the cliffs were better hunting (and they're not) there are usually laws about digging into cliffs and causing erosion so I never do that anyway.

 

Here is the first part of the beach (accessible at any tide and likely hunted more thoroughly due to that fact). We didn't spend much time there and moved on further.

 

PA250196.jpg

 

The second beach was where we started to find Lovenia. We just started looking in the rock rubble (shingle) till we got the search image. This is what that beach looked like:

 

PA250197.jpg

 

The beach was well full of enough rock to search through for some time:

 

PA250222.jpg   PA250224.jpg

 

We ignored the sandstone cliffs and instead hunted in the gravely area near their base (and all along the beach):

 

PA250198.jpg   PA250223.jpg

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digit

It only took a few minutes once we were in the proper location to spot the first Lovenia woodsi--a nice complete specimen too:

 

PA250199.jpg   PA250200.jpg   PA250201.jpg

 

Before long, Tammy had spotted her first echinoid having gotten the search image after seeing my find:

 

PA250202.jpg   PA250203.jpg

 

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digit

In just a few minutes we were having a blast. As we had hoped, these echinoids were relatively common and were lots of fun to try to find. Can you spot this one in this series of images?

 

PA250205.jpg

 

PA250206.jpg

 

PA250207.jpg

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digit

Here's one hiding in the muddy sand:

 

PA250208.jpg

 

PA250209.jpg

 

PA250210.jpg

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digit

We never did find cetacean bones or shark teeth but we honestly weren't interested in them. We had honed our search image for these little Lovenia and were having a great time spotting even the merest glimpse of them half buried on the beach or under rocks. Just the kind of Easter egg hunt we were looking for. We hunted for less than an hour before it started getting dark and the tide started coming back in. Had we brought lights we would have needed boots as well as our way back would have been cut off by the rising sea. This was just enough time anyway to add a dash of 'treasure hunting' to a fun trip to Australia.

 

Here's some more in situ goodness so you can vicariously come along on this hunt:

 

PA250211.jpg   PA250213.jpg   PA250215.jpg

 

PA250219.jpg   PA250204.jpg

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digit

In the end we came away with a nice little collection of Lovenia woodsii and great memories of walking along the beach crouched down scanning the rocks for the telltale shape or pattern that indicated an echinoid was trying to hide. Resources like TFF (and its generous members) make trips like this a reality. Thanks to all.

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

 

Lovenia_woodsi_collection.jpg

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Fossildude19

These are wonderful, Ken!

Fantastic finds - thanks for bringing us along. :) 

Regards,

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ynot

Wonderful report and finds!

Thanks for the virtual trip!

 

Tony

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sandgroper

Looks like you did well there Ken! Glad that you managed to get some fossil hunting done while you were in Australia. We have a couple of sites here in W.A. but with the time you had available I think you spent it doing the right things. Maybe next time you're out I can show you a few places here in W.A.

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sixgill pete

Beautiful echinoids and a great adventure finding them.

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digit

I enjoy seeing the fossil hunting trips other make to various places around the globe (sometimes setting up the desire to go there myself) and whenever possible I try to provide a little virtual fossil hunting for the others on the forum as a thank you for the great places I've seen (and trip ideas I've gathered).

 

Beaumaris was a perfect spot for visiting fossil hunters like ourselves. Despite rush hour traffic in and around Melbourne, still rather easy to get to. Plentiful fossils ensured a successful hunt. I never would have known about Beaumaris nor considered going there had it not been for information I was able to glean from TFF (and guidance from our Australian members). TFF continues to prove itself a wonderful tool for helping me get the most out of my fossil hunting activities.

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Nimravis

Ken,

 

Great report and great pics.

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Shellseeker

Ken,

Fantastic report -- I love the way you bring us into the hunt -- hunting area, rocks,  and then sharp eyes and hunting techniques to isolate the hidden quarry.  It is a LOT different from SMR Thanks for sharing.  Jack

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jpc

OK... I am putting this place on the list for when I make it back to Oz.

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digit
1 hour ago, Shellseeker said:

Ken,

Fantastic report -- I love the way you bring us into the hunt -- hunting area, rocks,  and then sharp eyes and hunting techniques to isolate the hidden quarry.  It is a LOT different from SMR Thanks for sharing.  Jack

 

Yup. If this location was just the same as hunting in the SMR quarry I'd not have been as interested in going there. New experiences are what I collect. Developing the search image for these little echinoids and then getting pretty good at spotting just a corner sticking out of the sand in fading light was worth the effort for the novelty of hunting Lovenia.

 

 

53 minutes ago, jpc said:

OK... I am putting this place on the list for when I make it back to Oz.

 

I'd recommend it if you end up anywhere near Melbourne. If you spent more time there you could likely find some of the more uncommon items like shark teeth, shells, corals, or cetacean bones or even extinct penguin bones (can't do that in Florida). We were quite happy with an easy abundance of pretty little echinoid tests.

 

I found a PDF online showing some of the other fossils that have been found in this formation. I'd probably be there way too often if I lived in Melbourne so it's probably best that I'm currently about 9,680 miles from there. :P

 

http://www.marinecare.org.au/images/Fossils_of_Beaumaris_Feb_2015.pdf

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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RJB

What a wonderful and beautiful spot to go on a fossil hunting trip!  Nice echy's too.  Ive always had a soft spot for the echy's.  Nice photos too.

 

RB

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Phevo

Thanks for the trip report 

 

Are the sea urchins composed of flint ?

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Ludwigia

The Lovenia are Lovely :D Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one. Thanks for the great report!

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digit
1 hour ago, Phevo said:

Are the sea urchins composed of flint ?

 

As I understand it (and that is at a very basic level), most mollusk shells (sea shells) are formed of calcium carbonate (aka limestone) in a form known as aragonite. This is the same crystal form of calcium carbonate that is produced by coral polyps to build the limestone structure of coral reefs. Echinoids also produce an exoskeleton (called a 'test' in sea urchins) that is primarily the same calcium carbonate compound but in the structural form of calcite which is much more chemically stable and this is why echinoids tend to be preserved so well as fossils.

 

I learned this when I asked some of the staff of the Invertebrate Paleontology Division, Florida Museum of Natural History while out on a quarry dig in central Florida. The site was Eocene in age and most of the shells were found as internal casts as the shell itself had been dissolved away leaving only internal and external molds. Apparently, some shells (notably scallops and oysters) produce calcitic shells but most were well dissolved after 35 million years--but not the echinoids we found. This lead me to ask why the echinoid tests outlasted the mollusks shells and I learned something that day.

 

Flint is a form of cryptocrystalline quartz and thus contains a lot of fine grained silica crystals. There probably is some silica that has infused into these echinoid fossils over time (the beach sand appeared to be high in silica) but I don't think I'd call these echinoid fossils flint though.

 

I found this description of the composition of sea urchin tests which may be informative:

 

The test of sea urchins is made of calcium carbonate, strengthened by a framework of calcite monocrystals, in a characteristic "stereomic" structure. These two ingredients provide sea urchins with a great solidity and a moderate weight, as well as the capacity to regenerate the mesh from the cuticle. According to a 2012 study, the skeletal structures of sea urchins consist in "92% of bricks of calcite monocrystals (conferring solidity and hardness) and 8 % of a "mortar" of amorphous lime (allowing flexibility and lightness). This lime is constituted itself of 99.9% of calcium carbonate, with 0.1% structural proteins, which make sea urchins animals with an extremely mineralized skeleton (which also explains their excellent conservation as fossils).

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Phevo
20 hours ago, digit said:

 

As I understand it (and that is at a very basic level), most mollusk shells (sea shells) are formed of calcium carbonate (aka limestone) in a form known as aragonite. This is the same crystal form of calcium carbonate that is produced by coral polyps to build the limestone structure of coral reefs. Echinoids also produce an exoskeleton (called a 'test' in sea urchins) that is primarily the same calcium carbonate compound but in the structural form of calcite which is much more chemically stable and this is why echinoids tend to be preserved so well as fossils.

 

I learned this when I asked some of the staff of the Invertebrate Paleontology Division, Florida Museum of Natural History while out on a quarry dig in central Florida. The site was Eocene in age and most of the shells were found as internal casts as the shell itself had been dissolved away leaving only internal and external molds. Apparently, some shells (notably scallops and oysters) produce calcitic shells but most were well dissolved after 35 million years--but not the echinoids we found. This lead me to ask why the echinoid tests outlasted the mollusks shells and I learned something that day.

 

Flint is a form of cryptocrystalline quartz and thus contains a lot of fine grained silica crystals. There probably is some silica that has infused into these echinoid fossils over time (the beach sand appeared to be high in silica) but I don't think I'd call these echinoid fossils flint though.

 

I found this description of the composition of sea urchin tests which may be informative:

 

The test of sea urchins is made of calcium carbonate, strengthened by a framework of calcite monocrystals, in a characteristic "stereomic" structure. These two ingredients provide sea urchins with a great solidity and a moderate weight, as well as the capacity to regenerate the mesh from the cuticle. According to a 2012 study, the skeletal structures of sea urchins consist in "92% of bricks of calcite monocrystals (conferring solidity and hardness) and 8 % of a "mortar" of amorphous lime (allowing flexibility and lightness). This lime is constituted itself of 99.9% of calcium carbonate, with 0.1% structural proteins, which make sea urchins animals with an extremely mineralized skeleton (which also explains their excellent conservation as fossils).

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

 

Thanks for pointing out the difference between aragonite and calcite, I actually thought they consisted of different compounds and not just crystal structure.

 

The reason I was asking is that we in Denmark find sea urchins in various conditions. All have an external calcite shell, but some have an internal mold consisting of limestone and others of flint. Near the coast most of the sea urchins have had their external shell polished away only leaving the internal flint mold, this is something I haven't seen elsewhere and was wondering if the ones you found where the same, but looking at your pictures alittle closer your specimens all seem to be the calcite shell, either way it's nicer because alot of detail is lost on the internal molds.

 

Phevo

 

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Canadawest

Thanks for bringing us along on your fossil hunting expedition. Great local and fun trying to spot the specimens.

 

I wish most fossil trips were presented like this one is.  Take a few shots of the scenery, site, etc.  Its good to remember that even the 'routine' in our own area can be interesting to someone a few thousand kms away. Even if a place doesnt have natural beauty, I still like to see a quarry, the cars, signs, the vegetation, local bugs, etc.  

 

 

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digit

I really do enjoy well illustrated and written trip reports--makes me fell I'm there as well. Some of these trip reports are enough to motivate me to purchase a plane ticket and try to see the place for myself (what airlines fly to Alberta? ;)). Whenever I'm out on a fossil hunting trip I've almost always got at least one camera so I can take photos to remember the experience later. I try to repay the places I've seen on this forum with some of my fossil hunting trips which I hope others will enjoy.

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Plantguy

Way too cool Ken. Congrats! thanks for sharing the journey. Regards, Chris 

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Shamalama

That is a very cool side trip you had. The pictures are awesome and help us experience it with you. Congrats on the cool echies too!

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JustPlainPetrified

I am SO impressed by your report and collection. Very well done!

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