Dinosaur Dreaming

07 September, 2008

Question: I heard that Museum Victoria runs a fossil dig. Can you tell me more about it? How can I get involved?

Answer: Dinosaur Dreaming is an annual dinosaur dig that is held at Inverloch each summer and is run by Museum Victoria in conjunction with the Monash Science Centre. The Inverloch fossil site has special significance because it is where the first Australia’s dinosaur fossil, the Cape Paterson Claw, was discovered.

The Dinosaur Dreaming field dig at Inverloch

The Dinosaur Dreaming field dig at Inverloch.
Photographer/Source: Lesley Kool

The Inverloch fossil site

The rocks at the site have been dated at approximately 115 million years. Hundreds of dinosaur bones have been discovered there, as well as evidence of mammals, birds, pterosaurs, primitive turtles, plesiosaurs and fish. The main excavation site, discovered in 1991, represents the bed of an ancient river channel that flowed in a vast rift valley connecting Antarctica and the southern coast of Australia.

The fossils

The fossil bones found at the site, typically encased in the mudstone/sandstone conglomerate, are the remains of animals that lived in the river, such as fish and turtles, as well as the bones of animals that lived and died in the rift valley and whose bones were washed into the river during periodic flooding events. Many exciting discoveries have been made at this site, including the first skeletal evidence of Early Cretaceous birds in Victoria and at least 5 genera of dinosaurs.

The Cape Paterson Claw

The Cape Paterson Claw. This body fossil - the first dinosaur bone ever discovered - is the claw of a carnivorous theropod. It was found near Inverloch at Eagle's Nest.
Photographer: John Broomfield / Source: Museum Victoria

What is involved?

The 2009 Dinosaur Dreaming field dig will run for four weeks in February. New volunteers are invited to apply to join the dig for one week during this period, commencing on a Sunday and ending on a Sunday.

Volunteers will be taught basic excavating techniques and trained to recognise fossils. They will be expected to carry equipment to and from the site, assist with tasks such as shovelling sand and breaking rock, and to help with the cooking and washing up.

There is no cost involved: accommodation and food is provided. However, volunteers must to be prepared to work quite hard for their 7 day stay.

How to apply?

Applications and information on becoming a volunteer at Dinosaur Dreaming are available from the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre. There are a limited number of places available and selection is at the discretion of the selectors.

Volunteers must be:

  • at least 17 years old
  • reasonably fit (prepared to work solidly for 7 days straight)
  • able to attend a compulsory information session in October 2008
  • able to commit to a 7 day period from Sunday to Sunday in Feb 2009

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