Gascoyne Junction, WA

Gascoyne Juntion Is located approximately 150 Kms inland from Carnarvon Western Australia. The Cudelgo Formation is approximately 280 millions years old and contains a unique fossiferous marine fauna. Exposed for about 10 Kms along the Gascoyne River, the deposit extends 1 km to the south, dipping gently to the north, burying itself under the shifting sands of the river bed to the north. Contained in the deposit are some of the most spectacular crinoids in the world. Jimbacrinus bostocki is the largest and most bizarre looking crinoid found in the deposit, along with Neocamptocrinus, numerous bivalves, gastropods, spiriferas, trace fossils and rarely, starfish up to 6 inches across. The crinoids tend to be found in “Pods ” or ancient rock pools and generally numerous specimens are found together.

There are three leases held over the main areas of the deposit held by Tom Kapitany. Collecting can only be under taken with his permission.

While There have been three major commercial expeditions to the area over the last 20 years, the most successful was undertaken by Kevin Davey, a well known, now retired Australian fossil dealer. Along with Tom Witherspoon an expert American crinod preparator, they successful collected and prepared some of the most amazing criniod specimens in the world, many of which have been distributed to major museums in Australia and around the world.

Controversy has surrounded specimens from this deposit. In the early 1990’s, another well known Australian dealer exported numerous unprepared specimens to be prepared in Europe. This had happened numerous times before by other dealers. Around this time Cultural heritage acts began to be put in place by State and Federal governments. It was considered that any specimens considered to be over $1000 in value required expert permits .

Crinoids specimens at that time were quite plentiful and could easily be found walking along the rocky river bank. The value in the crinoids was not their rarity but rather the difficulty and the time require to extract the animal from the hard rock. This required very specialised equipment as well as many hours of delicate work.

Federal Police were called in, specimens were seized in Germany , houses were raided , people arrested . It was a nightmare for the people concerned. Eventually two dealers were charged with numerous criminal offences (many drug dealers were not treated as harshly). After considerable time and controversy both people were found guilty. Though no jail terms were incurred, considerable time and money and a part of their lives were lost . The main crux of the prosecution attorney was that these fossils were scientifically important, rare and endangered. I tried to defend the two dealers, explaining that the site contained an inexhaustible amount of specimens, being distributed to museums around the world and that they were not significant. This was dismissed by other expert witnesses.

Six Years later Andrew, Hugh, Johan and Tom went back to the site, not with picks and shovels but with big machinery. After many days of exploring we determined which locations would be more viable to dig, and over a period of 5 days we extracted approximately 20 tonnes of material containing criniods, starfish and brachiopods.

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