A peaceful walk on the beach, a deep blue sky, a stunning erosion-shaped landscape, and mesmerizing birds swirling above me.
And here it was: a 500 million years old fossil.
I initially mistook it for a butterfly on the water, but as I approached, I realized it error. It lay beneath the water. It was monochrome. It was a fossil!
While I had seen fossils before, it was the first one I discovered on my own, in an unexpected setting. It wasn’t displayed in a museum nor pointed out by a guide. I was not looking for anything, except peacefulness and fresh air.
It made this discovery even more special and surprising to me.
Having lived in the area for two years now, I was aware the coastal mountain range forming the Gaspé peninsula once was kilometers underwater. Hikes in the UNESCO Global Geopark of Percé are a good reminder that the ocean floor can also be found above us.
Yet the possibility of stumbling upon a fossil walking on the beach had never crossed my mind.
But here it was: a 500-million-year-old trilobite.
The trilobite I had picked up amidst the waves captured the attention of several tourists who had been preoccupied with other rocks moments before. They were looking up until the word spread that I had found a fossil.
With the iconic Rocher Percé standing above us and the Bonaventure Island sitting on the horizon, the adults around were oblivious to their feet and the waves crashing on the beach. A mistake I had made myself too obviously.
But there were kids observing a crab nested in the nearby rocks, so I got closer to them and shared my discovery.
”Mum! Look she has a fossil” they yelled as I reached them.
Suddenly, eyes turned onto me and people started to cluster around this ochre and yellow rock.
A quick WhatsApp later, we had a name for this fascinating rock: a trilobite. I googled this used-to-be marine animal, and I’d rather hold its fossilized form than see it alive climbing onto me…
My peaceful walk on the beach turned into a paleontology discovery. And I couldn’t be happier with the scientific thrilling turn taken by my quiet alone time.
We had great chats with the tourists who were just discovering Percé’s sublime coastline erosion and wildlife. They were captivated by the Rocher Percé and Northern Gannets, and became astonished by the unexpected trilobite fossil.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rocher and the Gannets are outstanding and worth the trip to Percé. They even deserve a separate publication in the future. But the fossil stole the spotlight.
For once, I directed my gaze downward, and to my delight, I wasn’t disappointed.