Giant Nautilus discovery at the UK Channel Tunnel 1991

Phil

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#1
Many thanks to Martin Young, who from a chance conversation down the pub, has kindly provided this interesting anecdote of an ancient Nautilus discovered back in 1991.

This rare fossil was found during the construction of the Channel Tunnel. For anyone unware what the Channel Tunnel is, it is a 31 mile long tunnel constructed between England to France. The entrance point at England is close to Folkestone, and at the French end at Calais. The Tunnel consists of three tubes, two for rail and one service tunnel and runs at an average depth of 150m below the seabed. For most of its course the Tunnel cuts through the Cretaceous period chalk underlying the English Channel

Fossils were occasionally found during the construction, but the fossil attached in the first photo was by far one of the most spectacular. This is the original press cutting from February 1992 from LINK, the official magazine produced by TML, one of the contractor companies engaged in building the link.


Fossil Find on Show at Natural History Museum

Currently on display at the Natural History Museum in London is the huge fossil discovered in the UK Tunnels in early Spring last year. It was found by 21 year old Chain Man, Chris Sneddon, 11.2 kilometres under the present seabed, during which had previously yielded several smaller fossils. When we published the find in LINK 24, published in April, we correctly identified it as a Nautiloid, an aquatic creature related to the many species of squid and octopus. However, in reporting the name of the sub-species as the impressively long Cymaroceras deslongchampsianum, we were in error.

Mechanical Chisel

“It was an easy mistake to make especially with all that chalk covering it” Ron Croucher, Head of the Palaeontology Laboratory at the museum told LINK. Meticulously chipping away at the material with a pneumatic engraving tool – a sort of fine chisel – it took him and his staff some fifty man-hours to remove the chalk to reveal what is known as the matrix of the fossil, which still retains a slight mark where a miner’s pick hit it.

Eventually it became obvious that the nautiloid was, in fact, Cymatoceras elegans, and, although not new to science, the example found in the tunnels was a particularly large example of its type. 30.5 centimetres in diameter, the original shell including animal would have lived in the warm sea which covered much of Northern Europe 95 million years ago, much like the modern Nautilus does today in the Western Pacific, adjacent Indian Oceans and around Australia.

Special Exhibition

The special exhibition showing the fossil and its relation to modern nautilus living in the seas today was opened in December. It will remain on show for the foreseeable future but the ultimate destination of the find is thought to be the Eurotunnel Exhibition Centre at Folkestone.
The Exhibition Centre closed five years ago, so the fossil has probably gone back to the BMNH in London, but if anyone has any other information, please drop me a line.

The Cymatoceritidae were strongly ribbed nautiloids and this particular nautiloid has a vast time range; it is known from the Middle Jurassic right through to the Oligocene. In total contrast to the ammonites, the Nautilida were very slow to change and adapt, many species of Cretaceous Nautilus are remarkably similar to today’s animals. A second photo attached below is of another specimen of Cymatoceras elegans from the archives which gives a better impression of the animal itself.

Great find, Mr Chris Sneddon, even if we are 14 years too late! (And thanks again Martin!)
 

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Scouse

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#4
how cool is that!!

i want one!!!

found the best ammonite in a shop over the weekend but it was sixty odd quid an thought hhmmm bit expensive for the desk i need to go out an scamper round some cliffs one day!!!

still never managed to get out there since you directed me where to go Phil!!!
 

Phil

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Scouse said:
found the best ammonite in a shop over the weekend but it was sixty odd quid an thought hhmmm bit expensive for the desk i need to go out an scamper round some cliffs one day!!!
Yep, that is quite a lot of money. Of course buying a really nice specimen is never as much fun as finding an inferior example yourself!

I've some more pictures of other chalk nautiloids around here somewhere, I'll see if I can dig out (pardon the pun) a few images in the next couple of days.
 

Naomi&Joe

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#7
Hey Scouse- theres a beach I know on north Yorkshire coast (between Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay ) and last time I was there you could literally pick ammonite fossils up everywhere you looked.

Don't tell anyone tho!!! :jester:
 

Phil

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#8
Naomi&Joe said:
Hey Scouse- theres a beach I know on north Yorkshire coast (between Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay ) and last time I was there you could literally pick ammonite fossils up everywhere you looked.

Don't tell anyone tho!!! :jester:
Hang on in there, Naomi&Joe. We might just have a little surprise for you in the Fossil Articles section in a few days......please check back soon!
 

Scouse

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#9
eh blindin nice one!!! :D :D

Im up that way around christmas time....hhmmm

Always wanted to see whitby bay and that area, im told its georgous over there an for the Dracula story thingy-madgjy.....whhhhaaaaa hhaaaaa hhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!

Can you give me directions please??

I'll take some pics of my loot and the place for here if Dracula dosent drain me or I dont get swept out to sea!!!!
 

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