In the heart of Fernie’s Coal Valley, nestled among coal seams, lies a remarkable relic from the past. In July 1947, geologists mapping the area stumbled upon a “fossil truck tire” encased in sandstone by Coal Creek. Intrigued, the British Columbia Geological Survey dispatched Chuck Newmarch to investigate. What Newmarch discovered was not a truck tire, but a colossal ammonite fossil—a testament to an ancient and fascinating species.
Ammonites, which roamed the Earth’s seas for 140 million years before going extinct 65 million years ago, were closely related to modern-day nautiluses. Part of the cephalopod family, they shared traits with octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish. The Fernie fossil, identified as a Titanites sp., possibly Titanites occidentalis, is thought to be the largest ever found in Canada. However, it remains to be confirmed, as the specimen has yet to be officially shipped to a museum or university for examination since its discovery in the 1940s.
In 2019, a team from Strata GeoData Services (SGDS Hive) and non-profit society Below BC visited the site (Photo below). The team has been working closely with local government and mining offices to explore parts of British Columbia’s geological heritage through a grant from Geoscience BC. Utilizing various methods, the project aims to digitize collections and sites for educational purposes and make the province’s geological treasures accessible to people worldwide.
Nice find by the team today! Titanites sp., a giant ammonite fossil from south eastern British Columbia! This site is known, just crazy awesome to see it for real!#geology #consulting #exploration #minerals #BritishColumbia #gold #silver #teamwork #sus… https://t.co/lBzOZQuJJh pic.twitter.com/RIHYdA1Ss0— SGDS Hive – Andy Randell (@StrataGeoData) June 19, 2019
Though ammonites shared their extinction fate with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period, their 140-million-year reign saw some species evolve into large, formidable predators. The Fernie fossil, while impressive, is not the largest ammonite fossil ever discovered. That distinction belongs to a 78-million-year-old Parapuzosia seppenradensis fossil found near Munster, Germany. The specimen, though incomplete, suggests that the animal would have had a diameter of over eight feet.
The Fernie ammonite’s size and rarity underscore its significance within Canada’s geological heritage. It serves as a vivid reminder of the wonders waiting to be discovered beneath our feet. While the Fernie ammonite may not hold the record for the largest specimen, it remains a striking example of the incredible diversity and scale of prehistoric life. And as more individuals and organizations join the quest to uncover the hidden treasures of our geological past, the insights gleaned will undoubtedly enrich our understanding of the Earth and its remarkable history.