Tracking down a duckbill

On Monday Eric and I ventured back to the Book Cliffs in order to find the location from which the bones of a new duckbilled dinosaur were excavated about 20 years ago. We drove to Thompson Canyon, parked, then started our climb.

image

The site was supposed to be about 400 feet up the cliffs, only a quarter mile from the road. Piece of cake right?

image

The first 50 feet of the climb was easy, then the grade went to near vertical. It was an awesome climb as we passed through an ocean then beach and ended up in an estuary.

We never found the site, but got some good prospecting in, finding some bone scraps.

image

We did not want to go back down the way we came up so an adjacent canyon was the route. Easier it was, but easy it was not.

image

In addition to narrow slots we had to squeeze through, the wildlife decided to pay us a visit out of bush, only 6 inches from my boot. Luckily Eric and I descended unharmed and with hope that our next locality will be just as inspiring.

image

Deep Freeze

The field team reports that it has been wicked cold on the plateau in southern Utah for the first part of their trip.  I thought they were just exaggerating until I received this photo yesterday.

I’m all for frosty beers in the field, but frosty backpacks??? It’s a tough way to wake up in the morning.

I guess it really is 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night.  Believe it or not, these guys have been sleeping outside in this, no tents.  Now that’s dedication!

At least it hasn’t all been bad.  Aside from the stunning views they have been afforded so far, Bucky and the team had a close encounter, with some elusive bighorn sheep.  Bighorn sheep populations were once a mainstay for Utah natives, but populations declined dramatically mid-century, and by the 60’s it was though that the species was extinct in Utah.  The culprit was thought to be diseases carried by domestic sheep.  Later biologists located the sheep in some of the most “inaccessible, most hostile country in Utah” according to the Deseret News.

Yeah, we know how they feel.

The team spots a bighorn sheep while prospecting. What a treat!

Hanging Out

Bucky and the team are out looking for dinosaurs and other ancient animals as we speak.  Cell phone reception is pretty spotty in the area they are currently prospecting.  Footholds are pretty spotty too, it would seem.

Bucky tests his resolve on a sandstone slope. The only way to find dinosaurs is to get right up to the rock and have a look!

Ask any paleontologist how many times they have gotten themselves stuck, clinging for their life on some rock or scraggy near vertical hillside covered in gravel and they will just laugh.  Usually a day doesn’t go by when I gaze up to the top of a cliff, sigh, and say to myself… ugh, I have to go up there?  It’s all part of the job!

Whispers of Flit Canyon

There is a strange juxtaposition as one stares at the Book Cliffs.  They look so small in the distance,  five miles away.  Yet at their feet you feel so small staring up the five hundred foot edifice.

image

The dinosaurs we are hunting lie at the top of the cliffs with a confusing labrynth of roads criss-crossing the valley and only one leading to the top.

image

After provisioning in Grand Junction,  Colorado we headed out toward the Book Cliffs for the night.  Tonight we are sitting by the camp fire between Green River and Grand Junction on our way to western utah near a lake narry looked at by paleontologists for dinosaurs.

image

Visit tomorrow for pictures of our next field site.

Claw-o-Rama

Finished the molding of the two claws with success.  Was kind of a nail biter when the Vinac did not initially appear to be working as a separator between the two halves of the mold, but with a little bit of coaxing, the two halves opened up and the claws were perfectly in tact on the in inside.  Casting went quickly with 7 casts of each claw finished in one day.  See below for the final steps in this process and a little bit of art at the end.

First side done. Ready to pour second side after a coating of Vinac (B15) as a separator between the two sides. Wouldn’t want the next pour of rubber to adhere to the first pour. The claws would then be trapped inside.
Mold is complete and specimens are undamaged. Success.
Plaster is in and the cast is curing. Using a little light bulb heat to help promote the curing process.
Just like the original but in albino form. First of seven casts. Still a few more to make, but definitely a good start.
Getting crafty with the final products. Next step is painting then we will be sending them out to our generous sponsors. Thanks everyone for helping to make a successful 2012 collecting season at the Crystal Geyser Quarry!

Claw Molding

Finally getting to the molding process of two of the Falcarius claws collected at the Crystal Geyser Quarry.  Reconstructed the missing tip on one and added just a smidgeon at the end of the other to complete it.  Looking good so far.  We’ll see in 24 hours how the molding material set up and get to pouring the other side.  Then on to the casting.

Two claws set up for molding. These specimens have been carefully surrounded by clay along the flat edge of the claw. This is the best spot to have a seem in the two-part mold.
Claws and mixed rubber ready to go. The clay base has been surrounded by a clay wall and sealed. A groove has been created on the flat surface of clay surrounding the claws. If you look closely you will see pointed numbering that will be a permanent marking to identify the specimens.
The mixed rubber in liquid form was first painted on the surface to ensure that no air bubbles will be trapped. The remainder of the rubber was then poured into the mold, with a little bit of giggling to release any additional bubbles. Now the mold will sit for 24 hours (the curing time of the rubber).