By Ann O’Driscoll
They may not be gold, and I don’t think they’re gems, but they are definitely treasures. They’re called belemnites and about 16 kilometres north of Hughenden in Queensland there are a number of creeks where you can fossick for these fossils – we have dozens to prove it! Everyone who comes to visit is first taken to the beautiful Porcupine Gorge to swim and explore and then, if they have enough energy left after the long trek back up the hill, to one of the local creeks to fossick for belemnites.
For those of you who know nothing about belemnites, they were squid-like carnivores with a soft body that enveloped an internal, pencil-shaped shell. Early forms evolved in the Carboniferous period and are thought to have evolved from the ancestors of ammonites, which can also be found around Hughenden but so far not by us.
Belemnites were common from the Lower Jurassic period to the end of the Cretaceous period and became extinct about 65 million years ago along with the dinosaurs. Evidence shows they formed a major part of the diet of ichthyosaurs, the fossils of which are also locked away in this part of the world.
As you search the banks and the dry creek beds you are looking for a torpedo-shaped stone. It’s quite distinctive and relatively easy to spot once you get the idea. The structure (vertebrae) of the squid can be seen in some of the broken pieces and if you wet them and hold them up to the sun, the good ones glow a bright orange