Monday, July 27, 2009

Part Three of The Jurassic Journals

Tuesday, July 7
After our short stop at Devil's Tower, Greg, Chuck, Zack, and I high-tailed it on down to Hulett, WY where we were to make our fortunes as bona fide paleontologists at the Waugh Dig.

The first thing that struck me about the dig was the scenery, and in particular the greenery. I expected a dinosaur dig to look a bit more like the one's I'd seen on Jurassic Park and Nova specials: dusty, dry, and treeless. The Waugh ranch, however, was beautiful. Because it sat on a hill, we had a fantastic view of the unspoiled region that spread for miles in each direction. The ponderosas filled the air with the fresh smell of pine and, more importantly, provided ample shade for diggers who needed a break from the heat.

Our mess hall, which quickly became my favorite area of the dig since it meant food and shade.

Here's our camp, which one of the diggers affectionately named "Pixar Plaza."

After Zack had set up his tent, Chuck noticed this little beauty nestled in her hole, just a meter away from his tent-opening. She's a funnel-web, the species of spider Return of the King's monster Schelob is modeled after.

Here's the head of the dig, master dinosaur hunter Pete Larson. You may remember Pete's brother Neil in the first installment of The Jurassic Journals. Fossil hunting runs in the Larson family, Neil's two sons Tim and Matt are also seasoned paleontologists and BHI staff members. We calculated our arrival at the ranch to co-incide with lunchtime, so we got to know Pete and the other diggers for a while before they put us to work for the afternoon.

Our first day of work consisted of training our eyes to spot fossils. Not all of them are as clearly defined as this gorgeous Allosaur tooth (one of many found throughout the week by our new friend, Bob Lindsey). We were assigned to dig through the talus piles (mounds of excess dirt set aside by other diggers) for any fossils the previous diggers might have missed. As you can see, fossils are darker than the dirt around them. They're also smoother, and often have imprints of fibrous marrow-like texture.

Here's a look at the skull this Allosaur tooth belongs to:

1 comment:

Heather V. said...

k so just so you know this is really cool.