The Comox Valley is full of surprises. You never know what you might find while walking along the Puntledge River.
Last January, amateur fossil-hunter Russ Ball spotted an unusual brown patch of rock on the riverbank. He chipped away the surrounding rock and realized it was a chunk of bone. Ball took photos, then sent them to the Royal BC Museum, which confirmed it to be some type of ancient turtle fossil.
The exciting discovery adds to the Comox Valley’s reputation as a hotspot for paleontology.
In the late 1980s, local amateur paleontologist Mike Trask and his then 12-year-old daughter were scouring the Puntledge riverbank when they discovered the fossilized skeleton of an Elasmosaurus, a long-necked marine reptile. A model of their find now hangs from the ceiling in the Courtenay and District Museum.
Three years later, the Puntledge yielded yet another fascinating specimen, this time a Mososaurus.
And nearly three decades later, Mike’s twin brother Pat unearthed the ancient remains of another Elasmosaurus, this time along the Trent River south of the Puntledge.
Extracting dinosaur fossils is painstaking work. A team for the Royal British Columbia Museum is leading the effort to remove the turtle.
“It’s largely still covered in rock. We just have a bit of bone sticking out here and there,” said Derek Larson, RBCM Collections Manager, Researcher Paleontology, about the 84 million-year-old specimen. “There’s so much that we don’t know about the BC fossil records. I’m really excited to learn what this turtle is and what it can tell us about the environment.”