Syncrude is celebrating the anniversaries of the first two fossils discovered at site.
25-years-ago, on April 1st, 1992, Operator Willie Brevant discovered an ichthyosaurs, which first appeared in the Triassic period.
Two years later, Greg Fisher, who worked alongside Brevant, found one of the oldest and most complete Cretaceous plesiosaurs in North America during his night shift at around 3:00 a.m.
“When you finish up a cut with a hydraulic shovel, you’ve basically worked your way into the bank into the material. The face was around eight meters high. The layer of shale I found it in, it’s like limestone hard rock, it was about a meter and a half thick. It was really thick rock I found it in,” said Fisher. “When I walked up close, I could see the segments in it, so I could see it was bone. I called the supervisor to let him know what I was seeing. Then, of course, he got a hold of the Syncrude supervisor and they came down and we did a quick risk assessment.”
When a fossil is found on site the Royal Tyrell Museum is called in and they isolate the area. Fisher notes it took officials at the museum seven years to get all the bones out of the rock.
“When they were exposing the bones and going through it, they started to see characteristics in it that were unique to its species.”
He adds both fossils were found in the same area.
“The geology was quite different over there because we were stripping over it and the overburden was getting a lot thicker and the shale is actually what was preserving these things.”
Fisher says the actual fossils are housed at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, however, you can see a replica of them at the Oilsands Discovery Centre.
In total, 11 fossils have been found at Syncrude, with the last one being discovered in May 2012.