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.
The site was supposed to be about 400 feet up the cliffs, only a quarter mile from the road. Piece of cake right?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Visit tomorrow for pictures of our next field site.
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.
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.