Fossil Hunting with Eldon George

As Curator of the Fundy Geological Museum – I have been looking forward to visiting some local fossil sites with Eldon George. We have been planning this for sometime, and these trips have been included in my current Heritage Research Permit (2015).  On Wednesday October 7th we had our first trip to the beach.
Dr. Tim Fedak, Curator @FundyGEO

Eldon George in Doorway with Collecting BagI arrived at the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral shop at around 12:00 pm. It was a beautiful day. The blue sky and bright sunshine warmed the fresh and cool Bay of Fundy air in early October. Eldon was ready to head to the beach, excited to show me some of his important fossil sites along the Parrsboro shore.

This is a pleasure for me as well. Eldon has been walking the beaches to look for fossils and minerals along the Parrsboro Shore for over seventy years. He has found many significant fossils from all across Nova Scotia – but his most important discoveries have been along the shore from Diligent River to Five Islands. We were going to one of these important spots, at Black Rock.

View of Black Rock - near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia.
View of Black Rock area.
Black Rock is becoming more well known and a popular tourist destination with the development of the FORCE tidal power development site. This used to be an area filled with two and three mast schooners, ships from the golden age of sail, but now promises to provide electricity from the highest tides in the world. There are also significant fossil sites in the area.

Eldon and Willie with Cape Split

Also along on this trip is Eldon’s brother Willie, who has accompanied Eldon on many collecting trips. As we buzzed down the beach on our ATVs, the joy is visible on everyone’s face. These two brothers have shared the passion for exploring the Parrsboro shore for their whole lives, and I am along for the ride of a lifetime.

We examined some of the exposed rocks that were filled with Carboniferous plant fossils. At 84 years of age, Eldon’s eyesight was incredibly sharp, but the world looks different through Eldon’s eyes. Eldon has spent a lifetime training and his eyes to see nature’s patterns, and he has mastered the skill of ‘seeing’ a significant fossil or mineral quickly. One moment we are looking at a Cordaites leaves the size of your finger and the next moment he is pointing out a small wavy line the size of a thread, a potential trace fossil on the ancient muddy surface.  When he looks at the rocks along the shore, Eldon sees a treasure trove of items preserved in the stony pages of time.

Fossils on Beach Small trace fossil

We spent about two hours examining the loose rocks along the beach, the erosion debris from the cliff above. We also looked up to the cliffs, and could see lots of large plant fossils. These are the same age and type of rocks that are exposed at the Joggins UNESCO World Heritage site.  With a quick glance, Eldon spotted some potential footprints fifty feet up the bank.

He pointed to a large boulder filled with Cordaites leaves and other plant fossils. He said “you have to spend time and look carefully, otherwise you will not see the important things“.  He also then noted that there are many common fossils here, but it is among the common fossils that you find the rare ones. You need to learn and be open to seeing the unique, seeing what stands out, before you can make a new discovery.

You have to spend time and look carefully, otherwise you will not see the important things.  Eldon George.

Eldon has spent a lifetime as a collector and made many important fossil and mineral discoveries. His ability to see and recognize important features, from the tiny trace fossil to the large dinosaur footprints, comes after a lifetime of effort. He looks at the modern shoreline and sees an ancient landscape filled with fascinating creatures.

Small trackways move around the base of a 300 million year old calimites stem. A small calimites stem preserved in life position, still standing tall after 300 million years.

After looking at several specimens along the cliffs edge it was time to head home. Today Eldon showed me one of the sites where he has found some important fossils. As we headed back to town, I remembered a Calamities specimen we had been looking at the week before, a 3D specimen that was attached to a small slab with horseshoe crab trackways walking around the thick stem.  A unique specimen, from an important site.

Eldon has become an important citizen scientist due in part to the extensive time he has devoted to learning about and observing the geology. He has had the opportunity to visit sites thousands of times, literally living above the cliffs that contain globally significant fossils. He has spent a lifetime devoted to studying the areas rocks and finding new minerals or fossils. Without spending such extensive amount of time, Eldon would not have found the rarest of the rare, those special specimens that are truly unique and important.

1 thought on “Fossil Hunting with Eldon George

  1. It was always a pleasure to visit Parrsboro Rock & Mineral shop every summer. My family’s origin is Parrsboro. I grew up in Ontario and spent most summers in Parrsboro and it was always a must to visit and explore Eldon’s passionate work of sharing his finds, fossils, rocks, amethyst from a child and to take my own children there. He is truly an icon in this area of beautiful Nova Scotia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *