Our most difficult prospecting spots in this area are up in the Cliffs of Insanity, our term for a very steep section of outcrop that rises 1000 feet above Last Chance desert. These beds are only accessible from the bottom in most areas and so it takes a fairly intense hike (long and sometimes treacherous) just to get to the prospecting area, let alone the hike up and down the steep hillsides in search of fossil bone. The past few days we’ve had teams hunting for fossils in the Cliffs of Insanity and collecting from some sites. We’ve also borne witness to the start of the rains and an end to the intense heat and dryness of the past two weeks. Although, the temperature drop is welcome, the storms have been intense, and dangerous for those of us up in the cliffs when the thunderheads roll in each afternoon. It’s made for some scrambling out of the back country and a few muddy drives, not to mention some mucky crew members.
Meanwhile, the bone at Last Chance quarry continues, and continues to dive deeper. We pulled out around 100 bones from this site and the overburden continued to rise as we went further into the hill. We pulled our biggest jacket containing several dozen elements on the last day. It was about a mile hike to the truck with this 250 lb jacket and the crew did well bringing her down the slopes safely. We also had a bit of fun with summer movie madness, since the jacket reminded us of Slimer from Ghostbusters. We didn’t manage to clear the entire quarry this year, and several croc bones turned up near the back wall, so we have at least two individuals here and will have to reopen the site next season.
With our Cliffs of Insanity prospecting finished for the year and our two quarries closed down, we are headed south to hunt around in some new areas for the final week of our expedition. Stay tuned for some amazing landscapes and hopefully, some great finds.
This afternoon we were hit by a massive thunderstorm. I was happily scampering about on the edge of a road cut when Bucky came pealing down the road shouting that the sky was falling (literally) and we better get off the mountain. We loaded the gear, I jumped on the back and we took off. Within seconds the skies opened and we were pelted with sheets of rain, high winds, and 10 minutes later… pea sized hail. unbelievable. Bucky did a stellar job, especially because we were loaded up with three people now that we are short one ATV. I took a backseat on this one, being the lightest to sit over the axle. This worked out well because I was able to take an awesome video of the lunatic ride down the mountain in the storm.
I will upload the video later but here are some photos.
Made it across the river.
The scariest part–the hill that where our crewmember flipped his ATV last week. The hill is made of Mancos Shale, a rock that was deposited when a shallow seaway covered this area around 90 million years ago. When this stuff gets wet, it can be very slick.
This is one of the reasons we were racing down the mountain, to get across this hill before it became impassable. In the end we all made it ok. This morning we head back up the mountain to put plaster caps on the bones we found. Collecting them will have to wait until next year!
This morning we spent three hours pulling the lost ATV up the cliff. The good news is, it was still drivable and we were able to get it back to camp, sort of in one piece. The handle bars and the frame are bent up so this one is out of commission.
Nonetheless, one rider down, we trudged on. We stopped to prospect a basin with spectacular views.
After several hours of prospecting we finally hit paucity–an area of the basin with ancient river channels and overbank deposits. Inside of these sediments we found lots of bone: turtle, dinosaur, and crocodile. The bone was a rare and beatific shade of peach on the outside and black on the inside. Here’s a shot of a pelvic bone from a plant eating dinosaur sticking out from beneath a sandstone.
We were into some pretty heavy riding today. One of our crew lost control of his ATV and rolled it down a very large hill and into the river. He was pinned under for at least one roll, but the good news is that he escaped with minor injuries–mostly bruising–no breaks. Tomorrow we have to figure out how to salvage the ATV (if possible). Stay tuned.
Last month, Expedition Live! launched its first digital expedition—to Botswana.
The goal of this trip was to survey field localities for a long term study on animal carcasses and decomposition. But it is always wise to test *cough, cough* your field vehicle’s capabilities pronto to make sure they are up to par. (Who said science is boring?!)
Here we kick off our blog series on Expedition Botswana 2012 with a few of our favorite driving moments.
Big surprise… Third Bridge in Moremi Game Reserve is down again. Time to test our 4×4’s field readiness.
Bridge?! Who needs a stinkin’ bridge?! Watch Dr. Z go mono y mono with the Khwai River.
Sand. Its smooth as silk to drive on. Except when it is three feet deep, 30 kilometers long, and washboarded to all heck… but who’s complaining?
Can’t get enough sand? Apparently, neither could we (even if we wanted to). Here we are on route to Nxai Pan.