Student Finds Mysterious Golden Cannonball On Beach

by : Charlie Cocksedge on : 03 Feb 2019 21:10
fossil/beachfossil/beachKennedy News and Media/Geography.com

A 22-year-old fossil hunter struck gold as he explored a beach for interesting rocks in Whitby, Yorkshire.

Aaron Smith, a medical student, was scouring Sandsend Beach, hoping to find a fossil of some sort when he stumbled across a shiny, ‘golden cannonball’, a bit smaller than a regular football.


He quickly realised the unusual rock showed all the signs of containing fossils inside it, as well as its eye-catching exterior.

When he opened the ‘golden cannonball’, Aaron discovered a huge Elegantericeras fossil inside, and believes it is from the Jet Rock Shales of the Upper Lias, from the Lower Jurassic period.

The medical student said the limestone rock was coated in iron pyrite – otherwise known as fool’s gold – which gave the stone its shiny appearance.


Aaron said, as per Mirror:

The limestone nodule is coated in Iron Pyrite, meaning we can polish it to become golden.

It still impresses me that these 185 million-year-old fossils are along our beautiful Yorkshire Coastline waiting to be found.

Albeit, this particular prestigious example is found only once every few years.

aaron smith holding fossilaaron smith holding fossilKennedy News and Media

Aaron, who is from North Yorkshire, usually uploads videos of his finds to share with other enthusiasts.


He added:

Generally when people see the video, or see these fossils in real life, they absolutely adore them.

They love them much more than our marine reptile fossils in many cases which is quite annoying because the marine reptiles are my favourite.

Fossil hunting is a hobby of mine, or perhaps more like a serious passion.

Speaking about how he got into fossil hunting, Aaron explained:


I got into it because my dad was very interested in fishing and fossil hunting too, so we had lots of exposure to this amazing coast.

I remember very distinctly searching for our very first ammonite, when we cracked it open we were all so excited! This lit the fire for our future passion to develop.

Often we can tell that a rock contains a fossil because you can see the edge of the fossil around the outside of the rock.

As was the case here, it didn’t take long for Aaron to realise the ‘golden cannonball’ had a hefty fossil inside it. Happy fossil hunting!

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Charlie Cocksedge

Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist and sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.

Topics: Life


  1. Mirror

    Students finds 'golden cannonball' on beach with 185-million-year-old secret inside