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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mary Anning Day 2012

Yesterday was Mary Anning Day at Lyme Regis Museum, celebrating the heritage of Lyme’s most famous fossil-hunter, Mary Anning (1799 – 1847). It was a lively day of events both indoors and out-of-doors. Natalie Manifold (left) led two of her ever-popular Mary Anning walks around the town, visiting the various places that Mary lived and worked, and her burial site and memorial window in the Parish Church.

There was a packed programme of lectures in the Marine Theatre, introduced by Museum Director David Tucker (below).
The first talk was given by Richard Edmonds, Earth Science Manager for the Jurassic Coast, who gave an informative and entertaining presentation on the challenges of managing a World Heritage Site that sprawls along the Dorset and East Devon coast for almost a hundred miles. He explained that while countless sites around the world can boast beautiful coastal scenery and fascinating geology, the Jurassic Coast is unique because the way the rock strata are tilted means that by walking the hundred mile length of coast you are effectively walking through 180 million years of history, during which massive changes occurred in the evolution of life on Earth.

Richard talked a lot about coastal erosion, which, although it is understandably seen as a “threat” in human terms, is the very thing that creates the coastline and maintains its perpetual interest. Fossils are only discoverable in a brief window of time – days or weeks – after they are exposed by erosion and before they are destroyed by it. So the thousands of fossil hunters who come to the coast every year are a good thing for conservation, not a bad thing as is often supposed!

Not surprisingly, there was plenty of practical fossil hunting going on yesterday, as well as the indoor talks and Museum displays. Museum geologists Paddy Howe and Chris Andrew (right) led an enthusiastic group of fossil collectors on one of their regular walks along the beach. As well as countless ammonites and other invertebrate fossils, there was the usual find of a small but perfectly preserved ichthyosaur vertebra, which Chris can be seen holding in the photo.

There are more “Mary Anning Weekend” events at the Museum today (Sunday), and both the fossil walks and Mary Anning walks continue throughout the year.

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