Saturday, 6 February 2010

Eric the Leptocleidus!

Above; my reconstruction of Eric; the short necked Cretaceous Plesiosaur found partially opalised in South Australia.

In 1986 opal miner Joe Vida finds the extraordinary specimen of a Plesiosaur partially preserved in opal. A businessman called Sid Londish purchased the damaged specimen and then employed Australian palaeontologist Paul Willis to reconstruct this sea beast. The miner who had recovered the fossil damaged and lost many bones in the process, but the result was an almost complete 6ft long skeleton of this remarkable creature. Paul nick named it Eric.
Above; a tunnel in the South Australian Coober Pedy opal mine. Here people made their homes as a town formed around the mine and even dug underground churches in convenience to the miners.
After loosing all of his money Sid put Eric up for auction. At an estimated 300,000 dollars Eric did not go un-noticed. Its incredible value was not necessarily due to the fossil itself, but the precious opal from which a lot of its skeleton was composed.

Above; the partially opalised skeleton of the Plesiosaur nick named Eric can now be seen in the National Opal Collection in Pitt St. Mall, Sydney, Australia.

Alex Ritchie of the Australian Museum was concerned that Eric would be bought up by a jewellery company to be broken up and sold in necklaces and bracelets across the globe. Therefore he began a television campaign, objectively raising enough money to buy the monster and save it for further study. Alex managed to raise 340,000 dollars to purchase Eric and describe him as a hither unknown species of the genus Leptocleidus.

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