The Canowindra Story
Dr Alex Ritchie
Dr Alex Ritchie received his BSc. (Hons) in Geology and a Ph.D at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as a Palaeontologist at the Australian Museum from 1968 to 1995 where he is currently a Research Fellow.
Nearly 10 years ago I had the privilege and pleasure of rediscovering one of the world's great fossil fish sites, a Late Devonian fish-kill, near the small town of Canowindra, in central west New South Wales, 300 km west of Sydney.
The story behind its original discovery (in 1956) and rediscovery (in 1993) is a fascinating one and, with the assistance of the Australian Museum's talented web-site team, we have now made it available to everyone.
The Canowindra project was a remarkable community effort and the arduous task of preparing the fossil slabs for study was eased by enlisting the support of many hundreds of paying volunteers.
Most of the scientific work on the Canowindra fauna was carried out by my colleagues, Dr Zerina Johanson, Australian Museum, Sydney and Dr Per Ahlberg, Natural History Museum, London, whose impressive selection of publications on Canowindra Devonian fishes have been drawn upon for the web-site images.
What can one do with 60-70 tonnes of rock slabs holding more than 3,700 fossil fishes? The obvious course was to retain the material locally and build and create a dedicated Age of Fishes Museum at Canowindra to house and display the most spectacular of the local finds, as has been done so successfully at Miguasha, in Quebec, Canada (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Eventually we hope to supplement the local discoveries with displays of fossil fishes from around the world and from all geological periods to illustrate the well-documented story of fish evolution over the past 500 million years.
Much of 'The Canowindra Story' still remains buried at the original site, 10 km west of the town, awaiting funding and resources to reopen, cover and develop it with many of the fossils left in situ for the public to inspect and admire - along the lines of Dinosaur National Monument in the U.S.
The Canowindra Story can be found at Field Sites - The Canowindra Story
See also The Age of Fishes Museum at Canowindra, New South Wales, Australia