Otago Daily Times

Fos­silised moa prints dried out safely

City prox­im­ity pro­motes sur­vival

- JOHN GIBB john.gibb@odt.co.nz South Island · Ranfurly · Michael Johnston · Otago Region

OTAGO Mu­seum con­ser­va­tors can put some of their anx­i­eties aside af­ter learn­ing that rocks pre­serv­ing rare moa foot­prints have suc­cess­fully dried out.

The only moa foot­prints dis­cov­ered in the South Is­land have for many months been slowly dry­ing out in hu­mid­ity cham­bers while on dis­play at the mu­seum.

Once hid­den be­neath the Kye­burn River, 15km from Ran­furly, the foot­prints were dis­cov­ered by trac­tor driver Michael Johnston in early March last year.

Six of the foot­prints, about 30cm long, were later ex­ca­vated and brought to the mu­seum in May last year af­ter a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort which in­cluded di­vert­ing the river and cut­ting them from the riverbed.

Mu­seum con­ser­va­tor Shan­nah Rhy­nard­Geil said on Thurs­day that ear­lier CT scans had shown a few in­ter­nal cracks in the rocks.

‘‘We were con­cerned about tak­ing some­thing so wa­ter­logged and dry­ing it, and then more cracks oc­cur­ring.

‘‘We are re­ally re­lieved to see how good they are look­ing, and hope­ful at this stage,” she said.

Mu­seum con­ser­va­tion manager Nyssa Mild­wa­ters was pleased and ex­cited at the good con­di­tion the rocks were in af­ter they were re­moved from pro­tec­tive cases yes­ter­day.

‘‘We’re pretty happy that they’re al­most 100% dry.

Af­ter fur­ther month of care­ful dry­ing, it was hoped to have fur­ther CT scans car­ried out early next year, per­haps in Jan­uary, to check again on the in­ter­nal con­di­tion.

‘‘That’s go­ing to be the sec­ond ner­vous bit for us,’’ she said.

It was hoped to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with Otago Polytech­nic to de­velop suit­able pro­tec­tive cases for the trea­sures.

Mu­seum cu­ra­tors were be­com­ing ex­cited about pos­si­ble dis­play op­tions, and the mu­seum would also con­sult care­fully about these, she said.

 ?? PHOTO: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON ?? Pro­tect­ing the past . . . Otago Mu­seum con­ser­va­tor Shan­nah Rhy­nard­Geil ex­am­ines an an­cient moa foot­print be­ing held at the mu­seum.
PHOTO: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON Pro­tect­ing the past . . . Otago Mu­seum con­ser­va­tor Shan­nah Rhy­nard­Geil ex­am­ines an an­cient moa foot­print be­ing held at the mu­seum.

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