Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thursday extracts: fossil hunting

At the bottom of the cliff path we turned left and began to pick our way across the pebbles until I found a place that I thought was a potentially rich seam for my search. I looked around and found several larger pebbles that appeared to be weathered clumps of limestone. I knew they could contain fossils and explained to Dad why I had chosen them and what to look for. For once I felt that I knew more than him about a topic and it filled me with a thrill that I was delighted to experience. He was impressed with what I knew and wanted to learn from me, for once, rather than our usual roles. I hammered each stone, tapping gently until it broke open. Some revealed ancient shell forms and ocean animals from millions of years ago. Most were simply lumps of limestone. As I collected my first few specimens I dropped them into a canvas shoulder bag that was slung across my body. We continued to work our way slowly along the cliff foot and my collection started to grow. From time to time Dad would find a likely piece of stone and he would hand it to me, silently, or with a slight, questioning sound that implied that he was asking my opinion.

After a while we stopped and sat on two suitable boulders while we ate our sandwiches and drank our tea. The day was fine and the sun shone brightly, just over the edge of the cliff, so we were warm but out of the direct rays. It was a perfect place to be. The sea was calm and made very little sound as its waves lapped gently back and forth over the rocks. And all the time we could hear above the sea’s hum, the crash and boom of the gannets as they fished just offshore. I felt like I could have stayed there forever and Dad obviously felt the same way. With lunch finished, we packed away our flask and sandwich bags and continued our hunt along the cliff until finally Dad looked at his watch and said, “We ought to be getting back to the car if you have enough fossils for your project.” I assured him that I had made a great haul and agreed that we should go. We turned to head back along the cliff foot and suddenly realised our mistake. While we had been ambling along the beach the tide had turned and was headed back at an alarming rate. What was more, we had not noticed as we fossil-hunted that we had gone past a small promontory and we could not reach the seaward point of it before the tide did. We were going to be cut off very quickly.

The Wise Child
Anne Jeffery
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ann - suits my A-Z posts this year .. being cut off, so easy when you're engrossed ... and here people often get stuck around Beachy Head ... and that tide does roll in doesn't it ..

Lovely snippet by Anne Jeffery .. cheers Hilary

snafu said...

It is a long wait sitting on a high enough rock waiting for the tide to turn again. I was able to wade back when I managed that trick, but it was a clam sea. Cold wet jeans are horrible.