Tag Archives: Offroading

Wrapping Up

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Our second prospecting area was near Muddy River, beautiful, but buggy.

After three weeks, we closed our active quarries, left our main field area, and headed somewhere new to search for promising areas further south.  If our primary areas seems remote, this new place was really isolated.  Our base camp was approximately 50 miles from anything with no cellular service, which is why we had to cancel our last Skype session with the museum and why, this blog comes to you after the end of our trip.

To reach camp we drove up a wash that cut into the badlands forming a steep walled canyon in certain areas.  The road is prone to flash flooding, making our drive in and out of camp an ever-interesting “who knows?” And we had to drive over long stretches of road that would turn to impassibly slick muck with just a bit of rain.  Thus, we tried to just stay put and prospect near camp, hoping it wouldn’t rain the day of or the day before our scheduled departure.

Temperatures here were more extreme than our previous camp and the team struggled to prospect all day in the sweltering heat.  Despite our best efforts, and despite ten boots on the ground for several days, we found only a few scraps of fossil bone here and not enough to warrant an excavation.  Some folks might view this as a failure, but it’s just part of the process for paleontologists.  Someone has to expend the effort and the funds to go to places where there might be good fossils and search.  Sometimes that means you find amazing things and others will come back to those same areas for decades, sometimes it means you’ve just “cleared” the area for future scientists.  I’d say we pretty much “cleared” these badlands.  Fortunately, we found bone in some other areas nearby to hear (about a two-hour drive) and it’s likely we’ll return and set up camp a bit closer to the promising area in future years.

There was some amazing stratigraphy here and a great marker bed full of marine oysters. so if you tired of hiking for hours on end in the heat finding absolutely no fossil dinosaur bone, you could sit and search for pycnodontid oysters or Ptychodus (hybodontiform) shark teeth.  Or bear prints….

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Fossilized pycnodontid oysters litter the surface in this area.
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Surprise! A bear and I had the same idea for a hiking route down the Muddy River this afternoon.

All in all, it’s been a great, and long field season for us with trips to New Mexico, Montana, and a few places in Utah between April and August of 2016 and we’ve made some great discoveries.  Check in with our Zanno Lab news page, our research blog, and our Twitter feed for real time research and preparation updates until next year’s field season.

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That’s all for now folks!

 

 

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The Cliffs Close In

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.

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The hike to the Cliffs of Insanity begins far below the red cliffs in the right of the photo… the outcrop we prospect is the rolling grey hills at the top of this rise.
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As is usual for our Utah expedition, the trucks and the crew are laden with mud.

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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.

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Last Chance quarry getting deeper and deeper.

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Slimer is all strapped up and ready to haul.

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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.

 

 

Storms Greet Us Back In Camp

On our first couple of days back in camp we were pummeled with massive storms… lightening that nearly took out a few of the crew as they crossed the high hills and then an awe inspiring hail storm.  These videos say just about it all!

Grape-sized hail anyone?
Grape-sized hail anyone?

Stormy Mountain

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.

The hail.

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Made it across the river.

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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.

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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!

Life On The Edge

Right now I am standing on the edge of the world… or at least it feels like it. In front of me a hundred miles of terrain splay out like an ocean of desperation.

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It took us all morning to get up here. Three hours on a few wicked ATVs. Frankly, I am surprised we made it, what with the rockfalls, river crossing, boulder climbing, and general lack of a trail most of the time. In fact, a little while back it got a little too hairy even for us and we had to leave one of the ATVs behind. In general I question our sanity. Only Bucky and I made it up here, probably because we have no sanity left. Now time for a look around!

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Time to Test the Field Vehicles…

Expedition Botswana June 23 – July 8 2012

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.