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The Discovery and Excavation
In 1996, Graham Young and Bob Elias began a long-term field project investigating the geologic record and fossil life along a spectacular Late Ordovician tropical marine coast exposed near Churchill, Manitoba. They are particularly interested in the abundant and diverse coral fauna. For the 1998 field season, the team included trilobite specialist Dave Rudkin, Janis Klapecki (collections manager, Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature), Ed Dobrzanski and David Wright (volunteers, MMMN), and Curtis Moffat (student, University of Manitoba).
On the third day of the 1998 expedition, Rudkin discovered what would later prove to be the world's largest recorded complete trilobite fossil. "I can recall my first words but I can't repeat them," he laughs. Rudkin quickly brought over the rest of the team. Elias remembers: "There sure was a lot of excitement! There was also a lot of suspense because only a small portion of the trilobite was visible. We didn't know if the specimen was complete or if it was what I call 'trilo-trash' - the usual fragmentary remains."
Adding to the suspense, the advancing tide of Hudson Bay submerged the trilobite before it could be collected. The team returned that evening, waiting impatiently for the water to retreat. By the time the fossil reappeared, however, there was too little sunlight to permit collecting!
Following a seemingly endless night, the team arrived for low tide the next day. "This time, we knew we had to get it out. The minute it was exposed we went in and got the whole thing out in an hour and a half," recalls Young. "And as the trilobite was uncovered during excavation, we realized we had the whole body of the beast," adds Elias.
A lot of hammer and chisel work is needed to uncover the fossil.
The specimen is levered and lifted out in four large pieces for transportation to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The world's biggest trilobite can be seen at the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature in Winnipeg. A replica will be on display in the department of geological sciences at the University of Manitoba, beginning September 2000.