Amateur Paleontologist attracts attention

REBECCA GIBSON
Last updated 09:36 03/11/2011
BLANTON SMITH

Fossil hunter Dave Allen has one of the most extensive marine fossil collections in the country, possibly the world. On Wednesday the Taranaki Daily News took a look around his shed.

tdn fossil
ANDY JACKSON
Fossil hunter: Amateur Paleontologist Dave Allen works on a Petrel bird he recently discovered along the South Taranaki coast

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It's no shock for Taranaki fossil hunter Dave Allen when the country's best paleontologists chase him down wanting to know the secret to his success.

Te Papa Museum's best often ring the complete amateur for advice and to discuss their findings, the self-made fossil hunter says.

He also gets phone calls from as far afield as the Untied States and Europe to help identify fossils and has the opportunity to discuss some of his own.

With the next step being to send some of his discoveries to overseas museums, finding unique fossils is the top priority.

''I have given stuff to Te Papa but nothing is on display at the moment. I have been approached recently to send some of my fossils there and that's quite exciting,'' Mr Allen said.

The amateur paleontologist discovers most of his fossils off the South Taranaki coast and said he has a following of people who help him with his discoveries.

All of the fossils in his extensive collection, including crabs, birds, marine mammals and a recent discovery of an unidentified albatross, have been found within a few hours drive of New Plymouth.

Exactly where he won't say.

Although he has no training on preparing fossils, Mr Allen received the Harold Wellman prize from the Geological Society of New Zealand for his bird discoveries in 2008.

Mr Allen said having an interest in dinosaurs as a child was the beginning of his hobby but he had only taken up fossil hunting on a more regular basis in the past eight years.

''I started looking for fossils after I had an injury at work. It was just a hobby to begin with, now it's almost an obsession,'' he said.

Mr Allen said his findings often blew him away .

''You just never know what you are going to find. I have never been taught how to find fossils so when I do I rely on scientific manuals to help me identify them. Some of my fossils are 200 million years old.''

Naming the favourite was impossible as he said they are all unique and he knows the history of them all.

''I don't have a favourite but I have so many I almost need an extension on my shed to store them all.''

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- Taranaki Daily News

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