Tom Cockburn

Fossil Fair highlights 150-million-year-old history

Palaeontology event brings dinosaur bones, cast of oldest bird ever to Saanich's Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary

A diverse variety of ancient and “younger” fossil animals and plants from the Cambrian period (550 million years ago) to the end of the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago) will be on display this weekend in Saanich.

The Victoria Palaeontology Society holds its 18th Fossil Fair on Saturday and Sunday at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.

“This is our society’s annual outreach public education event telling people about the importance of fossils,” said Tom Cockburn, chair of the Victoria Palaeontology Society.

Fossils on display range from locally found to beyond B.C. borders, and include dinosaur bones, ammonites, trilobites, corals, mollusks, insects, giant palm leaves and microscopic fossils. A special display includes information and fossils surrounding the relationship between dinosaurs and birds.

“We just happen to have one person who has quite a bit of expertise about this,” Cockburn said. The expert, Gary Kaiser, a research associate at Royal B.C. Museum, will be on hand to answer questions.

“We don’t have a lot of bird fossils because they are pretty fragile and rare,” Cockburn said. “They’re all at the museum so we can’t really be exhibiting them. But we can talk about them.”

They do have, however, a fossil cast of the one of the earliest birds, archaeopteryx, that lived approximately 150 million years ago.

“We have a very nice cast of one of those fossils. It’s quite large, about 17 inches by 14 inches. So it’s very visible and shows a lot of the bones and that,” Cockburn said.

Admission to the event by donation and also offers kid-friendly activities, such as a scavenger hunt, fossil rubbings and peering at the tiniest of fossils through microscope.

“We hear parents say, ‘We came for the kids’, but parents come and really start asking questions. It’s for all ages,” Cockburn said. “We have a wide range of fossils so there’s always something for people to see.”

The society also invites the public to bring in fossils for identification.

The Fossil Fair at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary (3873 Swan Lake Rd.) is March 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

Visit vicpalaeo.org to learn more.

reporter@saanichnews.com