Last week I spent my days sitting in the sun, surrounded by chatter and the sound of cold chisels hitting rock. I was in the Otways National Park breaking rock with a group of volunteers and scientists. The point of this you ask? Why, to find cretaceous-era fossils hidden in the rock layer, of course!

Dinosaur Dreaming (DD) have been digging for dinosaurs along the Bass Coast of Australia for around 25 years. I joined them for the first time in 2014, for my rookies day, and it was a pleasure to join them again this year. The main dig goes over three weeks, and returning diggers can chose how many weeks they would like to participate. I joined the dig for the first week, 4-11 Feb.

So what does a digger’s day look like? First things first, week one diggers have to shovel sand off the rock layer containing fossils, then clear the overburden too. It is only then that the team in ‘the hole’ can break off bits of rock with fossils in it, for the rest of us to break into 1 x 1cm cubes. Volunteers in the hole are rotated so everyone has a chance to see how excavation works. Some volunteers are also taught how to use the heavy machinery such as the angle grinder, big saw and jackhammer.

I caught up with old friends and made some new ones, including our new site manager. It struck me on the second night of the dig that our new site manager is the same guy whose research papers I’d recently been making my way through. You know that feeling when you finally meet someone whose work you admire and then realise you just failed the first impression test? Yeah… that’s how I felt, but me being me, I got over my embarrassment quickly and continued to make an appallingly wicked impression.

I heard a lot more about the Queensland Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD) group this dig. I first learned of them through a presenter at Questacon who volunteers with the group each year. His stories about Australovenator are my son’s favourite. In addition to the stories I’d heard from ‘the dino guy’ at Questacon, it was great to hear about AAOD digs from DD’s new site manager too. I’m now more keen than ever to try an AAOD dig.

I always learn a lot at these digs and this one was no exception. I even got a small recommended reading list. Hopefully, I can finish most of them by next year’s dig and then not feel like such a noob when all the big names get thrown around!

  1. Vertebrate Palaeontology
  2. Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy

  3. Dinosaur Dreaming
  4. Dinosaurs of Darkness
  5. Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea
  6. Australia’s Lost World

So after a week of continuous learning and good company, here I am, back home, putting the finishing touches on this blog post and listening to Emerald Sword by Rhapsody. I’m reminded of the little girl who wanted a job that was outside and in the sun every day of the year. Thanks for another great experience Dinosaur Dreaming, bring on 2018!