As the team continued the long hike in and out of Deep Eddy, we were rewarded with the discovery of more eggs within the quarry. Since it was 3-4 hrs of hiking in and out a day, we spent as much time as possible at the site, leading to some hikes where we were racing the sunset to get back to camp before dark…
But finding dino eggs has a way of keeping up team spirits.
The site itself continued to be a bruiser. The eggs were buried in incredibly hard mudstone, which meant we had to use serious tools during the excavation. Yet the eggshell was only a few millimeters thick so any impact on the fossils could be major. With this in mind, we kept our distance from the fossils, slowly chipping away at the mudstone and when discovering an egg, moving around it leaving it buried within the rock so the preparators can uncover the eggshell with microscopes in the lab.
Eventually we’d exposed a portion of at least six eggs, winding our way around a large block. Once we’d mapped all the eggs and fragments, preparations for the plaster jacket began.
Deep Eddy really did exceed our expectations. I had hoped for one or two more eggs, but it seems as if we have quite a few (at least seven) within our jacket. For now, she rests buried back into the hillside deep in the Cliffs of Insanity until we can raise enough funds to get a helicopter to lift her to the truck for transport to the museum. We can’t wait to see what what we did all that work for!
After splitting off from the CGQ crew, Deep Eddy team was excited to return to our best site from last year – a dinosaur egg site. We weren’t excited about the hike, which was as bad as we remembered… 3 miles up and down steep, mostly marine shale cliffs, and ankle breaking basalt boulder fields. The first day in was the most brutal, each team member packing in 50-70 lbs of gear including two rock saws, several gallons of fuel, some 50 liters of water, crack hammers, etc… When we finally sat down at the site it was a great moment.
Then of course, picking and shoveling the day away to clear the bone-bearing horizon for quarrying. The mudstone here is particularly hard, hence the saws, but we made good progress with the weathered upper surface. A few interesting things turned up right away here, including an unusual layer of plant material spanning a meter near the east side of the quarry and some evidence of roots on the (former) bank above the plant layer, indicating a tree or shrub once lived a happy life here in the Late Cretaceous.
On the second day one of our team members decided to brave the washed out jeep train with his truck, which was outfitted for the trail as opposed to our museum vehicles, which were decidedly not up to task. So for the next few days we were able to shave two miles total off the hike by catching a lift up the first big hill, and I’ve got to tell you we were really grateful for that!
The next few days the hiking and the quarrying continued. We found another complete egg, taking our total to three so far, and a lot of large egg fragments. the best is yet to come (we hope!) because we are just now moving into the area behind our complete eggs from last year’s digging.
As usual internet service is nonexistant out here, so look for the next post next week when we need to resupply! Until then, wake up to a Mussentuchit sunrise at our campsite. More soon…
Our full team of 11 stared out the Utah expedition with two days of picking and shoveling at the famed Crystal Geyser Quarry (CGQ), tomb of an estimated 300 Falcariusutahensis skeletons. I had worked the CGQ for five years during my graduate work and at the end of that time we had just begun hitting an area of the quarry where the youngest individual discovered (aged 1-2 yrs) was buried. That same area also housed some of the best preserved materials from the site (although not the holotype braincase!). In the years since, we had been working the alternate side of the hill periodically, but this year, with permission from the BLM, we reopened the original quarry in search of better specimens. This meant removing 1.5 meters of carbonate lenses above the bone bearing horizon. With just two days we managed to clear a 4 x 3 meter area for the CGQ team to excavate during the 2 week expedition.
CGQ is next to a beautiful, but dang hot, campsite in the Morrison Formation badlands. The dark maroon hills surrounding camp radiate the days heat back on the crew all night, meaning sometimes the temperature doesn’t drop into the 80s until early in the morning. Nonetheless, the sunsets are some of the most spectacular and there is a river nearby when the mid-day temps soar into the 100s.
After opening the site, the NCMNS team split into two, the crazy half of of the crew heading west across the Swell into an area of the desert we call the Cliffs of Insanity. Here we’ve been doing some extremely rugged prospecting in the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation for four years. Last year, a crew member found an extraordinary site and we needed some hardy souls willing to do the hike for a couple of weeks. Next up… meet the site we call Deep Eddy…