I have put together a few stories of the 'sublime and ridiculous' things that have happened during my time fossil hunting. I hope that you enjoy them.
Take your pick from:-

Nudists. Silly Things.

Ones That Got Away.

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NT stands for Nudist Territory.

From various books and articles I have discovered that nudists are the bane of fossil hunters the world over. On an Ordnance Survey map the letters NT are given to mean National Trust, an area of natural beauty or historic importance.

Do not believe this!

Many times, hammer in hand, I have been wandering along beaches searching for fossils, only to find that someone has chosen that area for their nudist activities.

Lyme Regis to Charmouth.

Ammonites are continually weathered from the cliffs so I was walking along the cliff base concentrating on the beach. I amost fell over an entire family of nudists lying on their huge towel. It is surprising to find a naked woman lying directly in your path when you are concentrating on other things. As we passed on, the last we saw of this family was all four, heading for a dip in the sea, holding hands and naked as the day they were born.

Budleigh Salterton

It was only a casual visit. I had heard that the cliffs to the west of the town were of triassic age but included pebbles from a much older rock. A large river system had carried rock from a much older deposit, ordovician and devonian, and laid it down around the area, producing the beautiful pink cliffs along the coast.
I walked along the base of the cliffs, hammering at what looked interesting and not really regarding the other people on the beach.
I was stopped in my tracks by a call from behind:"Do you find much here"
I turned to find a man, totally naked, tackle swaying in the breeze.
There is something totally surreal about spending time describing the geology of an area (" the sandstone is about 230 million years old but the pebbles in it are over 400 million years old") to a naked Dane (he told me he was danish) and almost feeling guilty because you have clothes on.

Isle of Wight

They were everywhere! I don't mean to imply that the human body is ugly but to be suddenly subjected to nude football players can be surprising. Hazel did comment, with a giggle, on seeing one naked male emerging from the sea "Oh, the water must be cold!".

Silly Things.

Interactions with the rest of the human race can be rather amusing.


The first time we went to Whitby we stayed at a campsite about a mile south of the town near Robin Hoods Bay. A very nice little village nestling in a valley facing the sea. When we arrived the tide was high, covering the rocks I wanted to hammer. Obviously we went to the nearest pub. After a lot of speculating on the relationship of the suited businessman and the young lady with him,(sharing a whole lobster and having fun deciding how to best disebowel the beast), I overheard the barman and a local talking about boats and tides! On my next visit to the bar I asked when the next low tide would be. After consulting a little book the reply came, "Ten o'clock tonight."
My reply was "Great, it'll be low round about ten tomorow morning, thats fine."
"No, ten tonight."
"It'll be too dark to see anything tonight, I'll come back tommorow morning."
"It's ten tonight."
"But it happens every twelve hours so it'll be low again tommorow at ten."
The barman consulted the book again to confirm the data ,"Ten o'clock tonight!" then seemed to lose interest.
I returned to the table with our drinks and said to Hazel "I can go banging the rocks tomorrow, round about ten o'clock in the morning."
We arrived on the shore about nine o'clock the following morning and had three hours exploring on a water free beach.

Lyme Regis

As you can see from the picture of Lyme Regis in the introduction, the rocks there are formed of layers of soft shale between layers of much tougher limestone. The limestone does contain fossils but they are a pig to remove.
As I was walking along the beach, looking among the small rocks and soft shale layers on the beach I noticed a well built man doing severe violence to a large boulder of tough limestone. Huge chisel in one hand and bashing it with a massive hammer, sweating profusely he was trying to remove a clam almost identical to the one in my collection. I picked that one up a few minutes later about fifty yards along the beach. I certainly would not have expended so much time and effort when there were so many other things waiting just to be picked up.

Ones That Got Away or....
Oops, I buggered up that one!

Anyone who has collected fossils must think back with angst on the beautiful specimens that could have been if only.......

Between Lyme Regis and Seatown there is a level bit of beach composed of a soft shale called the "Belemnite Marls". While collecting belemnites, naturally, I spotted a well preserved crinoid on the surface of the rock. The rock was rather soft so I cut a deep groove round the sides of the specimen. When I thought it was deep enough, about two inches, I inserted a chisel and gave it a light tap to dislodge the piece of rock with the crinoid on it. Of course the rock disintegrated scattering irrepairable fragments of the crinoid with it.

Also at Lyme Regis, I found a nice peice of bone from a marine reptile. I took it home and put it in a drawer. Weeks later it was a mess. As it dried out, salt crystals had formed turning the object into a pile of mushy fragments. I should have soaked it in fresh water to remove the salt. Ok I learned something but I would rather still have the piece of bone than the knowledge.

And again at Lyme. I found a slab of rock that had fallen from high up in the cliffs. There was a layer in it packed with calcified ammonites that could only be seen side on. To reveal the surface I gave the block a whack with a chisel. The block splintered through the ammonite layer and fragmented all the ammonites. I noticed a similar block but left it while I walked along the beach trying to think of a better strategy. Finally, convinced that the only course of action was to take the whole block home and painstakingly remove the rock layer by layer to reveal the fossils, I returned to where the block should have been to find it gone or I was in the wrong place. I searched but never found the bit of rock.

Not once but twice I had bad trips with acid. Weak acid can be used to remove limestone from silicifed or pyritized fossils. The process should be slow and constantly monitored. I left a group of bivalves and a sea-urchin spine soaking in acid overnight but went to my work forgetting they were there. When I returned the bivalves were reduced to a few fragments of pyrites and nothing recognisable remained of the urchin spine.