Drying moa footprints on display at museum

The only moa footprints discovered in the South Island are now on display at the Otago Museum.

Once hidden beneath the Kyeburn River, they are now drying in humidity chambers, in full view of museum visitors.

As they were officially unveiled yesterday, Otago Museum assistant curator of natural services Kane Fleury said it took more than six months to prepare the footprints for display.

''The footprints have been drying since they were excavated from the river in May.

''The footprints are drying in the humidity chambers to prevent unnecessary cracks but we're finally able to open it up to the public to see the footprints and learn more about the process behind getting them here.''

Viewing the moa feet on display at the Otago Museum are mother and son, Carolyn and Michael Johnston, of Ranfurly. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Viewing the moa feet on display at the Otago Museum are mother and son, Carolyn and Michael Johnston, of Ranfurly. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Museum director Ian Griffin said the footprints would stay on display until they dried out. They would then be moved to a permanent display.

''As the footprints dry we will be able to learn more about them, which is amazing.

''We're not an organisation that can move mountains, but we can divert rivers on occasion.''

The footprints were discovered by tractor driver Michael Johnston in early March. The discovery prompted their excavation, which included diverting the river and cutting them from the riverbed.

Mr Johnston said it was satisfying to see the display after the lengthy process.

''I was just taking the dogs for a swim so to get to this is pretty cool.''

The hat Mr Johnston wore when he found the footprints is also part of the display.

Mr Fleury used an underwater camera, snorkel and mask to examine the markings, which were about 1m under the water.

Seven clear footprints were found, each about 30cm by 30cm, and an action, preservation and excavation plan for the footprints was immediately prepared.

Permission from the Otago Regional Council, landowners, iwi and locals had to be gained before work could begin.

The drying process is expected to take at least a few months.

emma.perry@odt.co.nz

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