Naracoorte Caves - Paleontology Week: In the Adelaide City region of South Australia
From shafts deep below the earth's surface at remote mining towns like Coober Pedy and Andamooka to the spectacular ramparts of the Elder Range in the Flinders, paleontologists - or fossil hunters have scoured them all. And below the gibber plains of Australia’s interior they've uncovered ample proof that much of it was once an ancient seabed… over which, strange and fearsome creatures roamed.
South Australian Museum staff at the Origin Energy Fossil Gallery have been able to recreate a giant model of the Plesiosaur by studying opalised fossils dating back 120 million years. Back then, the Ichthyosaur, a dolphin-like creature also scoured the freezing waters which covered inland Australia. Today it's opalised vertebrae might fetch a cool half million dollars on the open market but for paleontologists, the real value lies in what they reveal about prehistoric Australia.
“Australia as desert... Well it wasn't. Australia as the hot continent... Well it wasn't. Australia as the island continent... Well it wasn't.”
From next weekend paleontologists like Ben Kear will be on hand at the SA Museum to explain all this to the public as part of Australia's first ever Paleontology Week. The event also moves to the Naracoorte Caves on the Limestone Coast. From Thursday April 1st a team of experts will be on hand to take you into the bowels of the earth. We did the tour of Victoria Cave some time ago - it's an amazing fossil laden labyrinth discovered in 1894.
“We thought maybe they were looking for more bat guano deposits. They were mining it out of the bat cave to use as fertilizer at the time. Didn't find any guano in this cave. Then spent three years modifying so they could open it up to the public.”
Now it's one of the showpieces of the World Heritage-Listed Naracoorte Caves with a staggering array of stalagmites and stalactites. They've been formed by countless drops of water seeping through the cave over thousands of years - each dropping a crystal and settling in amazing formations.
As part of Paleontology Week you can wander through the caves with experts who still marvel at what is one of the richest fossil deposits in the world. It dates back to a time when giant kangaroos, wombats and marsupial lions - known as mega fauna - roamed the country. And the experts have only just scraped the surface.
“They estimate there's five thousand tonnes of bone and silt in here. So far they've taken out about ten tons. Twelve thousand nine hundred and ninety tonnes to go.
Plenty of work yet for the fossil hunters and you can keep track on their progress during Paleontology Week. It runs from March 26th until April 4th.
For details contact the Naracoorte Caves on 8762 2340. If you have any further questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org