Two cliffslides observed along the British Jurassic Coast could be a boon for fossil hunters. The authorities call for caution, however. Other similar events could occur in the coming weeks.
Stretching 153 km in length, the Jurassic Coast stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to the Old Harry Rocks in Studland Bay in Dorset. Although it owes its name to one of the most famous geological periods, the “Jurassic Coast” also gives us rocks dating from both the Triassic and the Cretaceous – approximately 180 million years of history. The oldest strata are in the west, while the most recent are in the east. And many fossils are regularly found there.
Two new landslides, and a boon for fossil hunters
That being said, a few days ago approximately 4,000 tonnes of debris collapsed on a beach between Seatown and Eype Beach. The cliff collapse, reported by Dorset Council on Tuesday April 13, is believed to be the UK’s biggest in 60 years. A second collapse was reported shortly thereafter, this one just east of Seatown. A priori, no one was injured by any of these events.
This famous part of the English coast, regularly hit by winds, waves and bad weather, is prone to erosion and cave-ins. This is not really a surprise even if in general, these rock falls are still much less marked. So the public is normally invited to stay away from the peaks and bases of these cliffs. And today more than ever.
That said, these recent rock falls could attract both amateur and professional collectors. Hunting for prehistoric treasures is indeed a real pastime in Dorset.
According to Sven Sachs, a paleontologist at Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld in Germany, stratigraphic layers from the Upper Jurassic could now be exposed. ” It is therefore possible that interesting fossils can be found“, highlighted the searcher.
For his part, Steve Brusatte, paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, invites those concerned not to rush to the scene to look for fossils. ” The cliff, he said,always seems really unstable and dangerous ”. In the meantime, the curious will be able to console themselves with the Dinosaur museum from Dorchester, a twenty minute drive from the Acorn Inn, to see skulls, teeth, eggs and even dinosaur droppings once roaming the area.
There was another cliff fall just east of Seatown. About 300m from the cliff were affected, including the coastal path. The path has been closed. The cliff is still very unstable and we expect to lose more. Please take note of the safety signs. pic.twitter.com/JAwxxrXaY7
– Dorset Council UK (@DorsetCouncilUK) April 13, 2021
Indeed, other collapses are possible in the days and weeks to come. Hoping that this newly discovered parcel of Dorset can be opened to paleontologists, once all danger has passed. Some incredibly important fossils could be there, just waiting to be discovered.