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Fossil Expert

Guy DiTorrice really digs hunting for stone souvenirs of the past on the Oregon Coast.

Guy DiTorrice with fossil
Photo caption
Guy DiTorrice shows off one of his fossil finds.

For Guy DiTorrice, the best time to go to the Oregon coast is in winter when storms nail the beaches, scraping the sand out to sea. Then, huge piles of rubble lie exposed, offering up everything from ancient shark teeth to petrified wood. The self-proclaimed Oregon Fossil Guy, the manager of a Newport credit union who leads weekend fossiling trips, sees treasure everywhere.

Q So you've amassed 70 milk crates full of fossils. Any favorite rocks?
A I think I'd cry if I lost my first dolphin skull fossil. It's almost intact and even has nasal passages. And there's the 11-inch-wide nautilus I found after sawing open a rock the size of a basketball. I also have clams and snails and whale vertebrae and . . .

Q Is it difficult to find such things?
A Fossils are sitting on every Oregon beach that's beneath a sandstone bluff. If you can't find them, your eyes must be closed.

Q And is it the same all along the West Coast?
A Washington's coastal bluffs are rocky, usually. In California a lot of the beaches are private or offlimits, except in the Big Sur area.

Q When's the best time to go fossiling?
A A day or so after a big storm clears the beach. I wait until the storm dies and two or three tides wash the sand away. Then I go at low tide.

Q In the howling winter wind? Is it really worth it?
A Yes. Fossils are rocks that tell stories. If you're holding a fossil, you start to have questions about the past: Why was this animal here? Why isn't it fully intact in this rock? You're looking at something that's 17 million years old. If you're coming up on your 50th birthday, it kind of puts things in perspective.

Photography by Don Frank

This article was first published in March 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.