AS Jamie Jordan found himself slipping up to his neck into a pile of quicksand, he began to wonder if his hobby really was such a good thing after all.
AS Jamie Jordan found himself slipping up to his neck into a pile of quicksand, he began to wonder if his hobby really was such a good thing after all.But he slowly inched himself free, dusted himself down, and got back on with what he loves doing: looking for fossils.
Because the 18-year-old doesn't relax by watching football, or reading, or watching telly.
No. He loves nothing better than setting off with a geological hammer, cold chisel, pen knife, brushes and specimen bags and hunting for the bones of creatures who walked the earth millions of years ago.
Jamie is known to some as the "Fossil Kid" – the recent finder of ultra-rare Plesiosaur bones, and much more besides. Falling into quicksand at disused quarries is what you might call an occupational hazard.
"For him, looking for fossils is as exciting as looking for gold," said his dad, Gary. But Jamie disagrees. "We went panning for gold once in a gorge in Vancouver, and found a lump of gold," he said.
"But even that wasn't as exciting as finding a really unusual fossil."
Jamie has a wealth of knowledge about all things fossilly, and wants to go to Portsmouth University to study science and palaeontology before heading for Montana, in the United States, where Tyrannosaurus Rex bones have been discovered.
And yet he's no geek – he's just like any other teenager, even down to his T-shirt, with its self deprecating logo 'Genius by birth, slacker by nature.'
"My friends either think my hobby is cool and interesting, or boring," he said. "But if I take them out with me and we find something they all love it, and say 'Can we come again, can we come again?'
"And as Friends has got a paleontologist as a central character, it makes it easy for people to understand what I do. When my friends tell their parents about me, they say 'You know, he's just like Ross from Friends.'"
Jamie's passion was sparked by finding a bird footprint in sediment rock on a Skegness beach at the tender age of four-and-a-half. "We took it to a museum in nearby Chapel St Leonards and discovered it was a 120-million-year-old Cretaceous bird track," he said.
"Since then I have spent thousands of hours looking for fossils everywhere from Warboys brick pits to ancient pine forests on the Isle of Wight."
He made the headlines when he discovered Plesiosaur fossils in Yaxley quarry last December, but stumbling over amazing remains is no surprise for him. He said: "I've lost count of how many fossils I've found over the years. The things I find the most of around Peterborough are marine reptiles, because 160 million years ago the city would have been a shallow tropical sea dotted with a few islands.
"I am most pleased to have found a new genus of shrimp, but ideally I'd love to discover a new species of dinosaur."
His hobby demands a lot of painstaking work, but that doesn't mean it doesn't get Jamie's blood racing, as danger is par for a palaeontologist's course.
As well as being sucked into a pockets of quickmud and quicksand he has also tumbled from a cliff. I was at the top of a cliff in Warboys, and it gave way beneath me,” he said. “I slid about 20 feet to the bottom, and hurt my leg, but it wasn’t badly hurt and so I just carried on.”
His father, Gary, who hails from Arkansas, USA, is proud of his son, whose passion has, over the years, become a family affair.
The Jordans pond is decorated with scraps of fossil, and Jamie’s findings have spilled out of his bedroom into the landing, sitting room, garden and family shed.
And as well as being intellectually stimulating, fossil hunting has also taken on an unexpected emotional dimension. Before Jamie turned 18 he needed an adult to accompany him on a lot of the sites, and so I went with him,” said Gary.
“And I had cancer a while ago after being exposed to Agent Orange when I was fighting in Vietnam, and also had a stroke. I stayed in the house a lot because going out was such a struggle. Jamie would ask me to go with him on quite easy digs, and I would go because it was interesting, and also because I knew how much he wanted to do them.
“Going along with him helped me to recover and got me back out doing things. If it wasn’t for him I would probably still be housebound.”
The two have had a few laughs along the way, not least when they spent hours trying to delicately dig a belemnite – the remains of a huge squid – out of the ground.
“It was huge,” said Gary. “We thought we were really on to something.”
And they were – although sadly it wasn’t a belemnite, but a length of metal piping.
Jamie is currently retaking his GCSEs at Peterborough Regional College, and yet fossil hunters from across the world visit him at home to see all the things he’s found and to ask him advice. Jamie’s had about 40 visitors, and also runs the World Fossil Forum, which has 700 members, including professors and all sorts,” said his dad. I remember coming home when he was about five and he’s been watching a programme on TV, and had gone out in the back garden and dug loads of holes, to see what he could find.
“He hasn’t changed all that much since then.”
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