First find of the week: Matt Lewis’s beautiful opalised pine cone. It’s now in the permanent collection of the Australian Opal Centre, with Matt immortalised as its discoverer.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    An underground opal mine visit provides important insights into the geology and social context of fossil discoveries at Lightning Ridge.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Claystone containing seams of red and green precious opal, a bonus find made during a field trip.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Opal miner Butch McFadden, one of many local residents who make the Dig unforgettable, shares knowledge gained through years spent hunting for rare black opal and elusive opalised fossils.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Dig participants pause their search for fossils to pose for a photo. (Except for those too absorbed in their search to look up!)

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Arthur Singe, John Livingston, Melissa Jones and palaeontologist Dr Phil Bell (behind) during a special session allowing participants to handle important opalised fossils that are under current scientific study and usually inaccessible to members of the public.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Helen Ward and team leader Timothy Fraunfelder, carefully moulding an opalised dinosaur vertebra from the AOC collection.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Pink is the colour of…..a flexible moulding material used to make detailed casts, or replicas, of fossils. Availability of high quality replicas for research and student use can reduce the risk of damage to priceless originals. Dig participants learn to mould and cast fossils to assist the research effort.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    On ‘opal morning’, participants can continue their search for fossils, or try their hand at rubbing down rough opal.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Helen Ward, a three-time Lightning Ridge Fossil Dig participant, manually prepares a find to reveal its identity.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Dig participants learn from dedicated team leaders including Dr Elizabeth Smith (left) and Clytie Smith, who have decades of experience searching for, finding and identifying opalised fossils.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    In progress: opal tailings being sorted and searched for rare opalised fossils.Traces of more recent human activity are also often found!

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Paleontologist Phil Bell and participant Kirsten Cowley, working on two different tables, each discovered an unusual piece of intricately textured opalised fish scale – then discovered that the two pieces fit back together perfctly!

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    Rich pickings from an afternoon’s specking: exquisitely preserved 100 million-year-old pine cones and other plant structures, found at one of the special sites visited during the Dig.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

    2018 Dig participants enjoyed a sneak preview of the opalised partial jaw of the new dinosaur species Weewarrasaurus pobeni, which was revealed to the world three months later.

    Photo Credit: Jenni Brammall

Digging at Lightning Ridge

By Australian Geographic | February 13, 2019

Each year Australian Geographic sets out for Lightning Ridge to discover fossils and opals, or even fossilised opals.

Searching for opalised fossils is a privilege usually available only to opal miners and scientists. Each year, however, the Australian Opal Centre and Australian Geographic Society team up to search for fossils on the Lightning Ridge opal fields. In 2018, Weewarrasaurus pobeni, whose opalised jaw was discovered among materials that had been discarded as un-noteworthy, became Australia’s newest dinosaur and the first dinosaur to be given a scientific name in NSW in almost 80 years. Come to our dig in 2019 and you could make the next enormous discovery! The details can be found HERE.

Above are images from our 2018 dig.