In July 1947 geologist Chuck Newmarch and a small field crew working for the British Columbia Geological Survey were busy mapping coal seams in the shales, siltstones and sandstones exposed above Coal Creek in the Rocky Mountains just east of Fernie in the south-east corner of British Columbia. Fossils are few and far between in these rocks and it was not clear which part of these coal measures is Jurassic and which Cretaceous. So, Newmarch was astonished when [??a student reported a fossil truck tire??] , on reaching a massive sandstone bed, he literally stepped into a giant ribbed depression the size of a tractor tire. He was no paleontologist, but when he saw the coiled nature of the depression he realized that he was looking at the imprint of an ammonite, but one of truly heroic proportions. The fossil measured almost 1.5 metres across -- by far, the biggest complete ammonite ever found in Canada.
After the field season Newmarch told the Geological Survey of Canada of his discovery and, a few years later, Hans Frebold of that organization became the first of a succession of Canadian Jurassic paleontologists to hike up to the giant. Frebold later described the ammonite and gave it a name -- Titanites occidentalis but, because of its size, locality, and the nature of preservation, he was unable to follow through with one of the requirements when any new species is named -- that is, the type specimen, or holotype, must be deposited in a museum. The specimen could not be removed from the sandstone creek bottom, but over the years, different latex molds have been made -- each mold made of this ammonite requires about 20 liters of liquid latex.
The generic name Titanites was coined by the English paleontologist S.S. Buckman for large ammonites found in Jurassic rocks of Dorset. In the nineteenth century these ammonites were so common in the vicinity of Portland that they were used to edge garden beds. The "Portland giants", however, have diameters less than half that of the Fernie behemoth. Because he thought they must belong to the same group, Frebold concluded that the English and Canadian ammonites were the same age, that is latest Jurassic -- a time interval with few diagnostic ammonites in western Canada.
The name might fit, but the identification of the Fernie giant as Titanites is probably wrong. Although it is poorly preserved, fine ribbing can be seen on the first-formed coils, but this is abruptly replaced by coarse ribbing on the last coil. Such difference in ribbing is unknown in Titanites from Dorset. Titanites has been denigrated as a "garbage can genus" of vaguely similar ammonites that have little in common, aside from their size. Canadian paleontologists, however, continue to use the name Titanites (sprinkled liberally with quotation or question marks) for the Fernie giant simply because there is, at present, no alternative.