Harold Wellman Prize

2023 Harold Wellman Prize:

Derek Batchelor


This prize goes to Derek for his discovery of a shark’s spiral valve. The spiral valve in a shark is essentially its stomach which has a spiral pattern on its exterior. 

To preserve soft tissue structures in the geological record one needs a fine-grained sediment to record an imprint of the shape. In this instance the sedimentary rock in which the spiral valve was found was Whangai Shale, at a location south-east of Dannevirke near Pongaroa.

It is the only shark ‘spiral valve’ fossil found in New Zealand, and one of few anywhere in the world.


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Past Harold Wellman Prize winners

Year Person From Fossil find
2022 Thomas Stolberger and Nathan Collins Auckland The discovery of several new species, including two new species of bulimoid land snail discovered during the construction on Watercare’s Central Interceptor wastewater tunnel in Māngere, Auckland.
2020 Jonathan Dale Canterbury For a decade collecting specimens of penguin, whale, dolphin and fish bones from the Hakataramea Limestone Quarry which have been generously donated to the University of Otago collections.
2019 Peter Shaw Hawkes Bay For his work on fossils in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, including the largest mosasaur tooth on record in New Zealand.
2018 Helen Bint  Chatham Island Chatham Island Palaeocene fossil sponges.
2017 Ian Geary Otago University Rich Pliocene plant fossil beds Beachlands, Auckland.
2016 Sue Maxwell Otago Museum Discovery of fossil material which was identified as the holotype of the extinct leatherback turtle Psephophorus terrypratchetti.
2014 Leigh Love   Discovery of a new species of Paleocene bird (Australornis lovei) in the Waipara greensand deposits of North Canterbury.
Adrian & Thomas King Discovery of a very well preserved flatfish fossil from the shallow marine-deposited Titiokura Fm, Te Pohue, western Hawke's Bay. 
2013 Julian Thomson Otago Fossil partial lower jaw of a large baleen whale.
2012 Barry Douglas & Jon Lundqvist Otago University 1978-79 discovery of the "St Bathans fauna" in the Manuherikia Group.
2011 Leonard Bloksberg Auckland Late Cretaceous mosasaur coprolite.
2010 Greg Browne GNS Late Cretaceous dinosaur footprints NW Nelson.
2009 Uwe Kaulfus Otago University New fossil insects in New Zealand.
2008 Dave Allen New Plymouth Marine bird skulls in Pliocene sediments near Hawera.
2007 Robert Holmes Chatham Island A Mid Pleistocene marine fauna raised 200m above sea level on the Chatham Is
2006 Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club Hamilton Paleogene fossil penguin, Kawhia Harbour
2005 Jane Hill Whangarei Fossil marine turtle
2004 Richard Kohler Otago Late Cretaceous fossil fish, Pitt Island
2003 Jennifer Bannister Otago Tertiary fungi and flowers
2002 Bill Lee Oamaru North Otago Miocene mollusca, dolphin, whale locality
2001 Don Haw - Initial discovery of reptile bones in Mangahouanga Stream
2000 Liz Kennedy Wellington Oldest NZ fossil flowers (Late Cretaceous)
1999 Brendan Hayes Auckland First Jurassic dinosaur bone in NZ
1998 Malcolm Simpson Auckland First Cambrian fossils in New Zealand
1997 Al Mannering Canterbury Museum Paleocene penguin fossils from Waipara area
1996 Bruce Dix Wellington Fossil intertidal invertebrates, Cape Turakirae
1995 Phil Ford Otago First NZ Permian conodonts
1994 Rodney Grapes Wellington Late Triassic radiolaria in Torlesse rocks, Orongorongo River
1993 Graeme Dodd Southland Dactylioceras cf anquinum, first Ururoan indicator in South Island
1992 Chris Carey Nelson First fossil sulphur-reducing black smoker-type fauna in NZ waters
1991 Stuart Owen Otago Amrnonoids in the top of the Maitai Group
1990 Phil Moore Wellington Fossil discoveries on offshore islands and in eastern North Island
1989 Richard Cotton Canterbury Mid Permian fusulinid foraminifera, Canterbury

Harold Wellman

Harold Wellman (1909-1999) was a scientist unrivalled in the remarkable contribution he made to our understanding of New Zealand earth science.  He had a varied and colourful early career as a gold miner, surveyor and geophysical survey assistant.  In 1937 he joined New Zealand Geological Survey's coal resources survey in Greymouth, which began his most productive period of research.  His intense geological debates with colleagues at the bar of the Albion Hotel in Greymouth are now legendary.  

Harold is best known for his recognition of the Alpine Fault, but his major contributions to advancing New Zealand earth science are many.  They included establishment of the New Zealand Fossil Record File, recognition of major displacements of rock in Northland, development of biostratigraphic stages for subdividing the New Zealand marine Cretaceous based on field observations and collections of fossil Inoceramus.

In the mid-1950s Harold had a short stint with British Petroleum in Gisborne before taking a position in the Geology Department at Victoria University of Wellington in 1958, an attachment he maintained even after his retirement in 1974.  Harold's international reputation in pioneering structural and tectil tonic geology was highlighted in a 1992 BBC Horizon documentary on him, titled "The Man that moved the Mountains."  

Harold and his wife Joan provided the funds for the first Harold Wellman Prize for an important fossil find, because in the 1980s he felt that the role of paleontology in geology was losing its former significance.  In 1998 they established the Wellman Research Awards to assist young geology researchers.