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Triceratops expedition 2018 #2

Posted on 19-09-2018 by Sander van der Deure

The first days

For two years Naturalis Biodiversity Center has been excavating fossilized bones op Triceratops in Wyoming. Every time a bit more mysteries are uncovered. This year, will be the last year. One of the excavators; Sander van der Deure tells you about the process.

The journey went well. Because of the clear weather and the fact that my flight was over Paris I could still see my favorite excavation spots from the plane during the flight.

Folkstone seen from the plane

After the departure of Anne on Monday the camp consists of five men. After 17 hours of travelling, we were pretty well turned off. Yet enough has happened. We were able to get started immediately in Rapid City. Straight away things were running differently than we would have wished for. The pick-up car appeared to vibrate violently at 50 miles per hour. Off we went, straigt to the rental company. We got a luxurious suburban, but we are still not really happy. Because we now lost the pick-up for a few days and that gives problems later in the week with collecting heavy plaster and water. We'll just have to make it work...

There is also good news! The first day in the field we discorver that the big block has passed the winter well. We also see the effects of just a year of erosion: No less than seven bones have 'emerged' on the site. Including two very nice phalanges and an ulna. One of the phalanges gives Dylan Bastiaans reson to doubt: the form is different. It could possibly be an Edmontosaurus bone. This is a big herbivore dinosaur from the same region and time. Whether we can take them with us is something else. We have only got agreements with the landowner about the big block for this year. This will become a discussion...

The joke is that the day after we find it, we find that the phalanges are not phalanges at all. The one appears to be a (broken) Triceratops jaw joint. The part where normally the teeth are located is 20 centimeters onwards. It seems that a large part of it has been flushed away. The other "phalanx" is clearly not a phalanx, but what might it be then?...

The mystery bone...

The usefulness of ERO training has also been shown immediately on the first day. An incident happened that scared the ... out of me: I came back from returning a RVO colleague and her husband and it seems my car is on fire! Due to heavy rains the vegetation is higher than normal this year. I probably picked up some grass or a tumbleweed under the car against the catalytic converter. There is now a lot of smoke coming from under the car. The greenery was scorching or burning. This is not a confortable situation in the open prairie...

Fortunately, we had a variety of fire extinguishers and I recently received ERO training. Before we started extinguishing, I first moved the car a bit to a spot with less vegetation. Luckily there was no fire left in the grass at the old spot. Nice, now the car is left burning! With the extinguisher under the car the smoke decreases considerably. Anne throws a bucket of water against it and then it's done. Pfffff .... The peace returns.

Every time I've driven a bit now I check for smoke. 

Life returns to normal. There must be excavated! The first part of the block is exposed fairly quickly and the washed-out bones are plastered.

During the excavation of the block, a special salamander is revealed. Sorry buddy, you mot moving!


If you would like to read more about the excavations, take a look at Twitter for English, or at Sanders personal website: opalsonly.nl for updates in Dutch.

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