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It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the passing of Professor Ewan Fordyce, a pioneer in the field of paleontology whose groundbreaking contributions have left a lasting mark on the geological heritage of New Zealand. Professor Fordyce's legacy is intertwined with the development of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, which stands today as New Zealand's first UNESCO Global Geopark.

The genesis of the Geopark can be traced back to the Duntroon area, where Professor Ewan Fordyce, alongside his colleagues and students from the University of Otago’s Geology Department, unearthed marine fossils in the 1980s and 90s. These discoveries, revealing the rich paleontological significance of the region, were not only scientific milestones but also ignited the enthusiasm of local farmers eager to share the stories of these treasures found in their own backyard.

In October 2000, Vanished World Inc was formed, marking the beginning of a transformative journey. This initiative laid the foundation for the creation of the Vanished World Trail, a testament to over 15 locations of geological interest spanning from Moeraki to Ōamaru along the coast, and inland through the Waitaki Valley. The Vanished World Centre in Duntroon emerged as a beacon, showcasing the extraordinary fossil finds from the local area, including those of whales, dolphins, and penguins.

During this period, the visionary idea of developing a UNESCO Global Geopark, with a focus on the Duntroon area, began to take shape. Professor Fordyce's passion for preserving and sharing the geological wonders of the region played a pivotal role in the evolution of this dream into a reality. His dedication, alongside that of his colleagues and the local community, enabled the Geopark to become New Zealand’s first UNESCO Global Geopark in May 2023.

Some thoughts from Ewan’s Vanished World family: “Words cannot describe the gratitude we feel for Ewan’s contribution to our district over many years. Although not residing in Waitaki he had become a staunch member of our local community and enabled us to grow in our understanding and appreciation of the fossil treasures, trapped by time, in our beautiful limestone landscape.

He was a mentor and loyal friend to all in the Vanished World family over many years and although his numerous legacies live on, we will all miss his vitality, love for this whenua and its treasures, but most importantly his warm friendship.”

Today, as we mourn the loss of Professor Ewan Fordyce, we also celebrate the enduring legacy he leaves behind. Trustee of the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust and former Chair, Helen Jansen, says: “The light that shone on the dark places in the depth of our landscape and brought it alive has dimmed and gone out. It is incredible to think of the lives that Ewan has changed, and indeed the course of history for the Waitaki and New Zealand.“ The Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark stands as a testament to his vision, passion, and tireless efforts. We express our deepest gratitude for his remarkable contributions to the scientific community, the local community of Waitaki, and to the broader landscape of geological preservation and education.

In honouring Professor Ewan Fordyce, the Geopark will be carrying forward the spirit of discovery and appreciation for our geological heritage that he so passionately championed. His legacy will continue to inspire generations to come as they explore the wonders he helped uncover along the Vanished World Trail and within the boundaries of the Waitaki Whitestone UNESCO Global Geopark.

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