Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Fossicking is a term found in Cornwall and Australia referring to prospecting. This can be for gold, precious stones, fossils, etc. by sifting through a prospective area. In Australian English, the term has an extended use meaning to "rummage". The term has been argued to come from Cornish. -- Wikipedia

Last week Tam and Patrick and I trouped down to the AGMS building on Burnet Lane for the monthly meeting of the Paleontological Society of Austin. I can barely say "paleontological," (seven syllables, count 'em), so I just call it "the paleo club."

Sometimes they refer to themselves as "dirt diggers."

We paid a whopping $20 for a family membership, and I think -- between the featured presentation and the expert IDs of some oddball specimens -- we got our money's worth the first meeting.

Good people. No surprise since, as my buddy Vince says, you can tell a lot about someone by how they feel about rocks. I was pleased to see Paul Hammerschmidt, a TPWD coastal fisheries biologist, there. Paul and I -- along with his son and some other folks -- went rock-hopping together at South Padre Island during the Texas Clipper sinking event. Nice guy with the kind of all-encompassing curiosity and enthusiasm that I identify with the very best scientists in any field.

Vince's office-neighbor Bill Kidd was there as well -- he and his wife are regulars -- as was Vince himself, with two of his daughters.

I heard the term "fossicking" for the first time twice in one night, from two different people. I like it; to my ears, it has overtones of "frolic" and ... well, it's just a fun word.

That was back in ... January, at our Twelfth Night party. Aimee, my cousin Geoff's geologist wife, gleefully sang out the word when I showed her some recent find. She had picked it up while fossicking in Australia.

Later in the evening, my friend Dub, also a geologist by trade, said: "Man, you guys have really been doing some fossicking ..."

Dub arrived after Aimee and Geoff left for the evening, and brought with him a housewarming gift of a beautifully cleaned and preserved exogyra ponderosa. It's the single best housewarming gift anyone has ever given us, and sits on the mantle now.

On the way home last Tuesday, Patrick broke a short silence with: "Daddy, that was fun!" It probably didn't harm his appraisal of the event that he left with a box full of give-away fossils (including some small ammonites and some very cool gastropods ... er, snails).