Hope Resident Finds Dinosaur Skin Impressions in Tumbler Ridge
This is Michelle
Beam of Hudson's Hope alongside the dinosaur skin impression
she found on June 23.
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2003
Hudson’s Hope resident Michelle Beam
had no idea when she registered for a week-long UNBC Geography
course at NLC’s Tumbler Ridge campus she would defy the
odds and discover rare skin impressions in a dinosaur footprint.
Michelle arrived in Tumbler Ridge on Monday, June 23, for
Geography 498, under the instruction of Wim Kok, Northern Lights
instructor from Fort St. John. Monday evening, Dr. Charles
Helm – local physician, author and executive member of
the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation – delivered a slide
show presentation to the class of 11 students. Following
the presentation, Mr. Kok and his students accompanied Dr.
on a tour to view the dinosaur footprints at the Wolverine
During the slide show, Dr. Helm had illustrated
what skin impressions in a dinosaur footprint look like. On
works in the Visitor Information Centre in neighboring
Hope, said she was "standing an inch away from this thing
and just sort of staring at my feet…all of a sudden it
jumped out at me." She pointed it out to Dr. Helm, but
never imagined her discovery would amount to anything. "I
thought Charles was joking when he said it could be real. I’m
just an average joe, not a scientist - there’s no "Dr." in
front of my name."
Dr Helm said he experienced a deja vu feeling, as in 2002
a visiting archaeologist, Nicole Nicholls of Fort St John,
been on a tour with him and correctly pointed out the region's
first skin impressions. Michelle's discovery is of a much
larger area of more well preserved impressions, with less
for erosion. Dr Helm commented: "Sometimes it's amazing
what a new pair of eyes can see."
Helm immediately contacted footprint expert Rich McCrea,
who had just arrived in Tumbler Ridge to prepare for the
of BC’s first, and western Canada’s oldest, dinosaur.
McCrea confirmed the skin impressions are authentic, rare and
belong to an ornithopod, or large plant-eating dinosaur. "Certain
groups of dinosaurs have certain textures to their skin. The
prints Michelle found have a polygonal pattern typical of an
Samples of ankylosaur skin impressions, which have a pattern
of round tubercles, have been found in the Pine River area
and in Alberta. Says McCrea, "In a well-preserved footprint,
you can identify what animal made it. The Wolverine site has
shallow prints, so skin impressions provide another tool to
identify the creature."
The Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation has had the tremendous
good fortune to work with experts and scientists from Canada’s
leading palaeontological institutions and has established
an unprecedented working relationship between amateurs
When scientific information is shared - as it is each time
a tour is conducted or a presentation is delivered - people
like Michelle are given the tools and knowledge to make
discoveries like this.
The find is more significant because footprints are considered
abstract, being "trace fossils" as opposed to physical
remains, like a bone. They are difficult to find in daylight
and seldom recognized by an untrained eye. He complimented
Michelle on her amazing discovery by saying "Michelle
obviously has a really good eye…she can come and work
She has no plans to become a scientist, but Michelle is
delighted with her contribution to science. She says, "It’s
great PR, the fact that people like me can come to this area
and still find new things. Our communities should be developing
it cooperatively as a tourist attraction."