Rockin' out with mud at Port Moody show

There are a few spots in the world where rock and gem collectors are like kids in a candy store.

Harrison Hot Springs, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Madagascar are the places were Andrew Danneffel has found or purchased his treasures - all of them dating back millions of years.

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He has ammonite fossils from Hale Creek, on the west side of Harrison Lake, that he dug up with his brother this year. They date back 66 million years, when the dinosaurs died.

Danneffel also jaspers from Oregon and Africa, polished rocks that look like an artist has hand painted them. The 23- to 5 million-year-old stones, a form of chalcedony, offer lovely colours and flow patterns of volcanic activity.

And he has a complete fossil of an ancient perch fish embedded in limestone, carefully retrieved from Fossil Lake near Kemmerer, Wy. The wall display he bought is 52 million years old and is what aficionados call a "Konservat-Lagerstatten," a highly preserved deposit.

These discoveries - and many more - will be exhibited this weekend for the Port Moody Rock and Gem Club's 36th annual event titled Marvellous Mud - A Discovery of Fossils and Mud-Formed Jaspers.

Mud, Danneffel said, was a popular theme for the 60-member group a few years back and it wanted a second go for a show. "We know that mud is dirty and sticky stuff," he said, "but for geologists and lapidary artists, mud preserves the past and gives us all kinds of things to work with. Mud covers the ingredients in fossils."

Special to the event this year are Burgess Shale fossil casts from the Royal Ontario Museum. The 500-million-year-old originals were unearthed in 1991 in Field, B.C., and show the outline to an ancient metre-long predator called the Anomalocaris canadensis, which lived in the ocean during the Cambrian period.

Danneffel said the club feels lucky to have been loaned the casts for this weekend's gathering. "It was a major coup for us and something we hope to do more often."

Marvellous Mud runs on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kyle Centre (125 Kyle St., Port Moody). Entry is by donation. Visit portmoodyrockclub.com.

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