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The Floating Egg

Richard Bell’s nature diary, North Yorkshire, Thursday, 4th September 2008


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ROGER OSBORNE’S The Floating Egg, Episodes in the Making of Geology makes perfect holiday reading as almost all of it is set on this stretch of the Jurassic Yorkshire Coast. I can read about alum mines or Captain Cook then see the places associated with them the next day. The floating egg of the title was a well-kept secret in the process of crystallising alum salts.


In chapter seven, Osborne tells the story of a fossil crocodile, Teleosaurus chapmani, found in the alum shales at Saltwick, near Whitby; ‘The fossil . . . is now cleaned and back on display in Whitby Museum. It awaits your visit.’


How could I resist an invitation like that? After a morning walking on the Maybeck Farm Trail, an afternoon browsing around Whitby (today’s bargain book; Blood & Roses, The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century) followed by tea and scones at Sherlock’s, I had an hour to call in and draw it.


Should you want a souvenir, the museum shop has bookmarks and mugs featuring this celebrated fossil, described as ‘the most perfect specimen known’.

Teleosaurus appears on the cover of the book, along with duellist, journalist & meteorite man Edward Topham of Wold Cottage, near Scarborough.

Lizard basking during a sunny interval this morning on stile between plantation and moor, Maybeck Trail.