THE DINOSAUR COAST
BROOME and the DAMPIER PENINSULAFinding a footprint or track (the term used by scientists) made by a dinosaur 130 million years ago is a special experience, and there’s no better place to search than on the beaches of Broome and the Dampier Peninsula’s DINOSAUR COAST in the Kimberley region of WA. In fact, the Dinosaur Coast is the only place in Australia where Sauropod tracks can be seen.
Since 2011 scientists have identified thousands of dinosaur tracks and numerous discrete tracksites in the Broome Sandstone rock on the beaches from Roebuck Bay 80 km north towards Cape Leveque at the tip of the Dampier Peninsula.
Tracks range in size from small (20 cm) to very large (>1.5m). Over 20 different types of tracks exist. In March 2017 the scientists’ research findings were published in the prestigious Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology which revealed that the diversity and number of tracks are unparalleled in Australia and globally. Most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils come from the eastern side of the continent, and are between 115 and 90 million years old. Research in the Kimberley has also revealed that tracks in the 127 to 140 million-year-old Broome Sandstone are considerably older.
In recognition of the outstanding heritage values associated with the dinosaur tracks, the intertidal zone along the Dampier Peninsula coastline from Roebuck Bay to Cape Leveque (excluding the area from Dampier Creek to Entrance Point) was included the West Kimberley National Heritage List on August 31 2011. Click here to see the area covered by the listing.
Of course, the dinosaur tracks have always been known to the Aboriginal custodians of the land. For thousands of years, dinosaur tracks in the 130-million-year-old sandstone have been part of the cultural heritage of the people of the Dampier Peninsula and greater West Kimberley.
The tracks are integral to a ‘song cycle’ that extends along the coast from Bunginygun (Swan Point, Cape Leveque) to Wabana (Cape Bossut, near La Grange) then inland to the southeast over a total distance of approximately 450 kilometres, tracing the journey of a Dreamtime creator being known as Marala or ‘Emu Man’.
As Dr. Steve Salisbury, a palaeontologist at the University of Queensland who has been working with the Aboriginal custodians documenting and identifying the tracks, says:
These trackways are of international significance. The glimpse of a 130-million-year-old world that they provide is awe inspiring. But it is the linking of these track sites into the songline and associated indigenous culture that adds a whole other dimension to their significance.