It was in March 1995, Klaus and I were searching the lower lias reefs at Robin Hoods Bay
for ammonites when I stumbled across something exposed at the surface of the shale that
looked like a hand… it turned out to be an Ichthyosaur paddle.
We spent a few hours excavating the mostly disarticulated bones, before the upcoming tide
chased us away. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of how the bones looked like when in
situ – this was pre-digital, and my wife had the camera with her…and we did not want to
wait another day to return with the camera, risking we would not find the bones again.
In hindsight that probably was a good decision – there was a bit of a storm the night and we
barely found the place again next day for checking if we had left any bones !
In the end there was one mostly complete paddle, a few vertebrae, some jaw sections partly
with teeth, some isolated teeth and an isolated hind fin femur.
The ichthyosaur remains stayed mostly unprepped, only the paddle and two jaw sections
(I gave one to Klaus for his help salvaging the bones) were prepped.
The preparation was somewhat tricky since it could only be done mechanically – the bones
are not embedded in any kind of nodule and are relatively soft, so no air abrasion was
Fast forward almost exactly 20 years (doesn´t time fly ?)…
Discussing bones in the Yorkshire Fossil Collectors Facebook group, I mentioned the
finds we made in 1995 and was persuaded by a collector specialized on bones
(that´s you, Mark !) to post a few pictures.
Dean Lomax and Nigel Larkin expressed an interest in the fossils due to their rarity
(ichthyosaur material from the lower lias is a lot rarer in Yorkshire than from the
upper lias), so I mentioned that I would be happy to donate these (I´m really more
of an ammonite collector, you might have guessed), if they could come up with a
museum which would take them.
Contact was made with Sarah King, curator at the Yorkshire museum in York and
after a few e-mails back-and-forth a meeting on August 24 was arranged to hand
the fossils over to Sarah.
Klaus kindly donated his jaw section back to me, so the bones were again complete
To get the fragile ichthyosaur bones back to Yorkshire (talk about carrying owls to Athens…)
boxes were fitted with several layers of foam, one at the bottom for cushioning, one with a
cut-out of the fossils shape in the middle, and one at the top to cover.
An afternoon of cutting foam later, the bones were safely packaged up in four boxes and
one bag (for associated bits of shale without bones).
To be able to carry the bulky (though not heavy) boxes, two large blue bags from a well
known swedish furniture chain were utilized.
On August 24, the bags were packed into our car and the bones made their journey to
the Yorkshire museum at York. Sarah was met in her office, I gave her a bit of a tour
of the boxes with the bones and she in turn gave us a tour of the fossil collection
rooms in the museum.
Final hurdle was a donation panel decision in September and that was positive as well,
so everything was set.
The museum catalog number for the ichthyosaur remains is :
YORM : 2015.618, just in case anyone needs to look it up…
Although I´m really specialized in ammonites, I can´t help myself from finding
other “stuff” 🙂 from time to time. These days, if I´d find something rare like this again,
I´d probably engage the help of Pro´s like Mike Marshall or Mark Smith to
professionally collect the bones – these guys are much better equipped and experienced
to deal with finds like this.
I´m letting this find go with one crying and one laughing eye.
One crying eye because of course one gets attached to a rare find – but it´s much better
to give it to someone much more suited to take care of this find properly and provide
access for scientific study.
One laughing eye because this frees up two large drawers for more ammonites !
Thanks to Dean Lomax and Nigel Larkin for providing the contact , to Sarah King and
the Yorkshire museum for taking care of this find and of course to the members of the
Yorkshire fossil collectors Facebook group for the many good discussions…