I make no secret of the fact that I can be a bit of a geek. Two of my favourite ‘geeky’ subjects include geology and wildlife, things which are both in abundance on Skye.
Put these both together and you get something else, something that this island is also well-known for…
Alongside the usual ammonites and belemnites there is some more unusual, charismatic evidence of a prehistoric era; the Staffin dinosaur footprints.
With Staffin being only ten minutes away from my new home I couldn’t wait for my chance to see these famous fossils. A couple of days after moving in I waited for the late low tide then set off for the beach.
The black and white sands of Staffin Beach at low tide
Pulling up in the car park above the beach I looked down over the boulders and scanned the rocks below.
Luckily I’m familiar with the appearance of fossilised sea bed and I spotted the section of tell-tale yellowish ripples from the rocks above before I’d even got down to the beach.
I raced down to them and searched…
I couldn’t help exclaiming out loud.
It was ridiculous, the most unrealistic-looking thing.
A huge, great big footprint that looked like cartoon or prop from a B-movie. Had someone been filming the next Jurassic Park and forgotten to take one of the set pieces home?
If it looks unreal in my photos believe me, it was more incredible in real life.
Looking down at 165 million years.
(The erosion between the toes is what makes it look more ‘cartoonish’)
A few steps further and I came across more. Three-toed, of all different sizes pointing in all different directions.
Seeing them reminded me of something I’d read online that said the prints looked like the dinosaurs were playing a game of Twister. It’s a pretty apt description!
Three toes indicates that this was some kind of raptor. It’s thought that they might be from a Coelophysis, a fast-running carnivore of about 2-3 metres long.
I was surprised to find that, unlike other important sites in the UK, these rocks aren’t protected and sectioned-off. In fact, they’re barely marked at all bar a small diagram on the sign in the car park.
Because of this (plus factors such as the tides and shifting sands) a lot of people arrive and leave having never found them.
-In fact, when I brought the Ranger family to see them they had been completely covered by a thick blanket of sand that would have been impossible to dig through. That time they were not to be seen.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have found them either if I hadn’t already known a little about the rocks to look for.
Vicious looking claw-prints
When I posted a photo of my wellies being dwarfed by a print on Facebook one of my friends was incredulous. It couldn’t be real, surely?
His reasoning that they couldn’t have withstood millions of years of erosion was a fair point. However, as they were only discovered in 2002 (by local B&B owner, Cathie Booth), they haven’t actually been exposed for that long.
You can read more about the discovery here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2210169.stm
Are there mini dinosaurs here too?! A three-toed reminder of the progress of evolution…
Soon enough they’ll disappear again properly, permanently eroded by the moving tide and feet of visitors. Maybe the rocks behind them will give way to reveal more, maybe they wont. I suppose this is just our short space of time where we can look back at prints made in another, far-away short space of time.
Geeky or not, I think that’s pretty frickin cool.
I wonder what else is hiding in the rocks at Staffin beach…