The first evidence of dinosaurs in Australia was discovered by field geologist, William Ferguson at Eagle's Nest, near Inverloch in 1903. The town of Inverloch is located approximately 135 kilometres south east of Melbourne, on the beautiful Bass coast.
It is a popular tourist destination and its population explodes every school holiday. However, there are few visitors to the area who are aware of the palaeontological significance of Inverloch and, in fact, the whole Bass coast.
After the "Cape Paterson claw", as it came to be known, was identified as belonging to a carnivorous dinosaur, it was tucked away in the Vertebrate Palaeontology Department of the National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne and basically forgotten about for the next 75 years.
It was not until 1978 that two students, John Long and Tim Flannery, under the guidance of geologist Rob Glenie, decided to retrace Ferguson's footsteps to see if they could find more evidence of these enigmatic animals. Fortunately for Victorian palaeontology, they did just that!
Over a short period of time the two students found more than 30 fossil bones in the rocks along the Bass Coast. The fossils were collected and stored at Museum Victoria.
In 1984 Lesley Kool, who was learning fossil preparation at Museum Victoria, noticed some of the fossil bones found by Tim and John. She decided to recommence the search along the Bass coast and found more fossils on the shore platform around Inverloch. She was joined in 1989 by Phillip Island geologist, Mike Cleeland and together they encouraged friends and family members to join them in the hunt.
The result of their search over the last 28 years is documented in the DD book. Their greatest discovery was finding the richest Early Cretaceous fossil locality in Victoria, if not Australia.
The Flat Rocks site, near The Caves, Inverloch, has divulged a treasure trove of fossils since its discovery in 1991. Other fossil localities along the Bass Coast are not as rich, but some have revealed the remains of animals that are found nowhere else in Australia. Lesley and Mike were rewarded for their efforts when project leaders Pat and Tom Rich named the giant temnospondyl amphibian in their honour - Koolasuchus cleelandi.
The Early Cretaceous sedimentary rocks along the Bass Coast of Victoria, from San Remo to Inverloch are being constantly eroded by the sea and sand. This means that new fossil bones become exposed as the rock enclosing them is worn away. The erosion process is slow but steady and means there is plenty of opportunity for many years to come for searchers to discover something new.
Similar aged sedimentary rocks outcrop along the Otway Coast to the south west of Melbourne. It was at a then un-named cove near Apollo Bay that the first Victorian dinosaur dig took place in 1984. Later named "Dinosaur Cove", it became famous for producing Victoria's first two dinosaur skeletons as well as evidence of a tyrannosauroid theropod dinosaur. Excavations at Dinosaur Cove continued until 1994, when the fossil layer became exhausted and the focus turned to the new fossil locality near Inverloch, on the Bass Coast.
It is great to return to the Otway Coast after 20 years to take up where we left off and we look forward to many years of exciting discoveries.