Eyes down!

by Chris Searston

During the warmer months in the arctic, when some of the ground-covering snow has disappeared, a treasure trove of fossils can be revealed. In some areas you can be literally walking over them with almost every step you take. My personal favourite fossil was picked up during my very first trip in 1991.

We were walking in single file over the Bakaninbreen glacier and I was directly behind the ARG leader Ian Frearson when he mentioned it was worth keeping your eyes down on the ground for fossils as we crossed over moraine patches (in between keeping a more important lookout for the large white fauna that frequents these areas – the polar bear). Moments after he said that, I spotted a fossil of a starfish – very rare as in life it was a soft tissue creature.

It has been our long running, but friendly tease since then as he must have stepped over it a second before I saw it – and he missed it! I have never found another starfish fossil, despite earnest searching over the intervening years, but often wonder how many impressive fossil specimens are missed because they happen to be ‘upside down’ when we pass them…

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