GEOLiteracy Tour 2019

Plumbing the Depths of the Kimmeridge Clay

14-16 May 2019

Event phone: 020 7408 2000


Plumbing the Depths of the Kimmeridge Clay
With Steve Etches MBE

Although the Kimmeridge Clay is one of the most highly studied of the World’s hydrocarbon source rocks, over the past 100 years its macrofossils have been somewhat neglected. In fact, the Kimmeridge Clay Formation was once described as the ‘least interesting suite of rocks’ to collect from for palaeontologists studying the Jurassic Period. Dorset, home to the complete Jurassic succession, is a mecca for fossil collectors and many of the major national natural history museums contain material collected from this area.  But 35 years ago, when Steve Etches first began collecting from the Late Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay, he soon realised that these strata had been underexplored, underrepresented and specimens had been poorly documented and recorded. His great journey began.

Kimmeridge Bay, East and West, has the finest suite of Kimmeridge Clay rocks anywhere in the world and the Upper Kimmeridge Clay succession has been assigned the International Type Section for these strata.  The bay lies along one of the most remote areas of the Dorset Coast.  Access may only be made at beach level within Kimmeridge Bay itself, and for 2.5 miles to the east, sections of the beach are cut off at high tide by sheer cliffs and steep headlands.  West of Kimmeridge Bay, the coastline falls within the MOD ranges and access is restricted much of the time by live fire practise. There is no vehicular access and the logistics of collecting along this section are difficult and dangerous. For all these reasons, it was apparent to Steve, that collecting from this locality had not previously been carried out in a scientific, ordered, bed by bed manner.  He made the decision to collect from these strata exclusively, to fill this palaeontological void.

Steve’s talk focuses on the diversity of his collection: the stunning specimens, with many world firsts and specimens still undescribed, and their scientific importance. And, more importantly, the stories around the finds, their painstaking extraction and preparation, to reveal the secrets of these amazing fossils, how they lived, bred and died in the seas of Kimmeridge, 157 million years ago.

Steve Etches bio

Dr Steve Etches MBE is an English plumber, fossil collector and preparator in Kimmeridge, on the Isle of Purbeck. He was born in 1949 and, from an early age, he began to find, collect and restore the fossils he found on the Jurassic Coast. His collection, exclusively from the Kimmeridge Clay,  is now housed in a purpose-built museum and educational learning centre in Kimmeridge Village called The Etches Collection, Museum of Jurassic Marine Life. Steve Etches has won prizes for his contribution to palaeontology:  in 1993, The Palaeontological Society Award to Amateur Palaeontologists; in 1994, The R. H. Worth Prize of the Geological Society; in 2005, The Mary Anning Award of the Palaeontological Association; and in 2006, the Halstead Medal of the Geologist’s Association. Steve was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 2014. On 24 July 2016, Steve Etches was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, by the University of Southampton.

Tour dates

London – Stoneley Lecture

Tuesday 14th May
Venue to be announced

Birmingham – Keith Palmer Lecture

Wednesday 15th May
Venue to be announced


Aberdeen – Stoneley Lecture

Thursday 16th May
Venue to be announced

Registration and Sponsorship

Keep an eye on this web page in the New Year, for registration details and sponsorship opportunities.

Venue Information

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