Tag Archives: photography

Southern Utah Team Split Off

With things going great at our main Mussentuchit localities this year, and an abundance of crew, we decided to carve off a handful of our team and hunt for new dinosaur sites in southern Utah for three days.  Our target area consists of poorly mapped Late Cretaceous sediments near Bryce Canyon National Park.  Yesterday we did our first prospecting run and came across a few microsites containing croc, turtle, and fragmentary dino material.  Today, we took it up a notch, deciding to trek down a 900 foot section from the top of the stunning Claron Formation, to sediments of the Kaiparowits and Wahweap formations below.

At the base of the canyon was a creek bed with a clear flowing stream. Fragments of the Claron Formation lining the creek bed, made for a beautiful site.  We named it Rainbow Creek and sat for lunch under some pines before working up the energy to prospect the steep terrain in front of us.

"Rainbow Creek"
“Rainbow Creek” dotted with rocks of the pink, white, orange, yellow, and gray Claron Formation

Fueling up before hitting the outcrop.
Fueling up before hitting the outcrop.

The outcrop here was no picnic, in this image you may be able to make out two of the team clinging for dear life to a grey patch of sediment on the left side of the picture.

Bucky and Chris cling to the grey outcrop on the left side of the image.
Bucky and Chris cling to the grey outcrop on the left side of the image.

After scrambling around the hillsides for a few hours, we had very, very little to report, two croc teeth, a gar scale, a gastropod impression, a bit of eggshell, and some trace fossils.  The best things we’ve seen on the prospecting trip so far were alive!  We’ve stumbled on mule deer, pronghorn, gopher, prairie dogs, snakes, and some horny toads.

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On our way to the outcrop, we drove by a whole field of prairie dogs, many of whom chirped at us.
On our way to the outcrop, we drove by a whole field of prairie dogs, many of whom chirped at us.

It was a tough and disappointing prospecting day. But that is how it goes.  The best way to tell if an area is good for fossils is to get out, climb around, and look with your own eyes.  With the news that no one had had much luck came the joy of the ascent 900 feet back up to the top of the plateau.  The views here really were worth the climb, sore feet, sore shins, backs, lungs and all!  Boy are we a tired crew tonight.

Nearing the top of the plateau again, on the hike out... still a lot of hill above me.
Nearing the top of the plateau again, on the hike out… still a lot of hill above me.

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Celestial ghost

Tonight I started driving back to NC.  2000 miles alone in my truck.

Luckily, the world is full of any number of wonderful things to keep me occupied.

For instance,  tonight as I passed through Vail, Colorado I saw what might be the most beautiful moon rise of my life.  Without pictures I will try to use words.

The Rocky Mountains are amazing at anytime of the year, but especially while the leaves are changing.  Indeed, as I came up over the small summit at Vail, the mountain sides were draped in a soft fleece of aspens so golden that Jason would have traveled the world to steal this peak. Rising above all other rocks was a sheer wall of rock reflecting the pink glow of the setting sun.  And just above the grand sentinel were puffy cumulous clouds flirting me with rain, each colored the bright pink of the sun on top and dark purple below.  As with every sunset the lower light dimmed the sharpness of the world, leaving a drowsy impressionist hue to this majestic landscape.  Yet behind the clouds, an astronomical razor blade had cut a perfect circle in the dreamscape.  With edges as sharp as laser cut glass the moon cast its ghostly light.  All of the grey freckles were perfectly seen on the pure white lunar plains.  As I drove the Earth became jealous of the moon and wafted the mounting cotton candy clouds across the celestial ghost. 

Nephrtiti rock

We split the team today, me, Ryan, and his wife Tara going to prospect north of Green River.  Here the two are showing their excitement for finding fossils beneath Nephrtiti Rock.

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The rocks we were in were deposited in ocean environments except for a small section.   Luckily in this small section we found a coal that contained a volcanic ash we will attempt to date the Neslen Formation.  Dating of these rocks has never been done so this date is really important.

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Eventhough we did not really find fossils, we did find lots of cool homes and trails made by sea creatures such as shrimp.   Here is one example of the ancient homes.

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Finally we finished the day with a beautiful sunset.

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Mile high crocs

Lindsay told everyone about the amazing rescue of the atv and the good news for our crew member.  I wanted a few other highlights.  First we got a new crew member today, David.  Here he is with Eric before our hike today.

We looked for fossils in a small basin that we soon found was made of rock formed by shallow ocean water complete with beach, clams, and sharks.  Here is a picture of the opposite side of our basin…what a view.

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Here’s a picture of the large bed of clams and some crazy calcium carbonate deposit.   Look at those pretty paralellograms.

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In the excitement of yesterdays events we forgot to mention the coolest fossil find.  This is a picture of a fossil crocodile track as it scraped the bottom of a tidal river swimming through shallow coastal swamp.  This animal would be over 20 feet long.   Think of a salt water croc.

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With one atv down, tomorow i will take a group up to a cretaceous fossil lake with algae deposits.  Cool!!!

Paydirt

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.

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Nonetheless, one rider down, we trudged on. We stopped to prospect a basin with spectacular views.

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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.

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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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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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