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Extreme low tides for Neuse River bring out fossil hunter

By Ellen Bacca
Published On: Mar 11 2013 02:56:04 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2013 10:10:40 PM CST
CRAVEN COUNTY -

After massive blow-out tides on the Neuse River Wednesday, a local fossil hunter hits the shores to try and score big.

John Powell has been hunting for fossils for decades.

"I used to take my dog for a walk back in Wales, and I used to find occasional fossils lying right on the ground," said John Powell.  "I would pick them up and go 'ah that's interesting,' and then I'd throw them away. And then one day, I just decided not to throw it away and I decided to keep it, and that is how my collection got started.

Powell looks for fossils in quarries, on river banks and on ocean beaches. When the water in the Neuse River blew out by several hundred feet Wednesday night, Powell says he walked out onto the exposed land and the best finds were only 20-30 feet offshore.

"I never dig. People can waste a lot of energy by digging," said Powell.

From years of searching, Powell has found mastodon teeth, giant whale vertebrae and an ancient 6" long shark tooth. One of his finds - a cheetah bone in South Carolina - was bought by the Smithsonian Institute for its collection.

John Powell's wife, Barbara Powell, says she has learned a lot about fossils being married to a fossil hunter. She says it can take a long time to find rare pieces.

"Most of it is very hard work. All of the bending and stooping and carrying," said Barbara Powell.

John Powell says one can never be sure when they will find a fossil, but it is exciting either way.