Fossils on the move

Published 8:23 pm Thursday, May 9, 2013

Aurora’s fossils are on the move this weekend as Aurora Fossil Museum Educator Dr. George Oliver Jr. takes a road trip to the Wayne County Museum in Goldsboro.

“We have a pretty active outreach program — I go to schools, festivals, libraries, to give talks,” Oliver said, adding that while Goldsboro is a little farther than usual, he did make a recent visit to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to give a fossil talk.

His trips are all about education and letting the people of eastern North Carolina know about where they live: in a former ocean. Oliver explained that the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean was once in the Raleigh area and coastal Carolina was under water, thus the abundance of marine fossils that are regularly mined from the ground by PotashCorp-Aurora.

“The fossils are from 5 to 25 million years old,” Oliver said. “We find marine fossils like sharks teeth and whalebone and anything that was in the ocean that long ago.”

Some of those Oliver will take on his trip to the Wayne County Museum, along with a bucket of material dug from the ground by the phosphate-mining company. The aim is to let children elsewhere get a feel for digging through dirt, looking for fossils to take home, just like visitors to the Aurora Fossil Museum get to do. Oliver said it’s a favorite with kids, because they’re the dinosaur experts.

“Children are usually more up on these things than adults are,” Oliver said. “They know the names of the dinosaurs and Megalodon sharks. The adults, either they didn’t learn it or they’ve forgotten it,” he laughed.

Oliver works three or four days a week at the Fossil Museum, a second career the retired OB/GYN picked up, to follow his passion for fossils. While Oliver might be on the road this weekend, he said he’ll definitely be manning the museum the weekend of May 24, as the 20th anniversary celebration of all things fossil — the Aurora Fossil Festival — kicks into gear.