Work has been progessing at the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry. Just a reminder, the quarry is a giant late Jurassic Period (147-150 million years ago) dinosaur bonebed. It is found within the world famous Morrison Formation. Dinosaurs like Apatosaurus (aka Brontosaurus), Camarasaurus, Diplodocus and the theropod (meat-eater), Allosaurus are found in this formation. The formation represents fluvial (river) deposits. When rivers and streams flooded, this allowed dinosaur carcasses to be buried quickly. Geology lesson aside, we spend up work once we had more help.
Now that Dr. Matt Bonnan and his students from Western Illinois University have been at the quarry more discoveries have been made everyday. In the last three days at least 20 new bones have been discovered including Barosaurus cervical (neck) vertebra, a new scapula (shoulder blade) and what might be a partially articulated Allosaurus vertebral column.
Andy & Tammy
One particular find was made by Burpee Volunteers; Andy and Tammy Prell. Andy and Tammy have several years of field work experience, first completing two field seasons with Dr. Thomas Carr, Carthage College in the Hell Creek Formation of southeastern Montana and then last year with Burpee. Andy spent three days working on pedestalling one of the big scapulae and Tammy found a very large thoracic (chest) rib. This rib was missing its distal (bottom) half, but had a huge rib head. I would estimate that this rib if complete would be about seven feet in length. This means that this dinosaur would have an enormous, barrel chest. In addition to these finds ….one of the WIU Students, Megan Luczak found a very interesting bone. I have my suspicions, but it needs to be prepped more. Once I know more….so will you! Stay tuned.
Tuesday; work continued in earnest at the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry. Several new bones were found in a short time before we were chased out by a late spring thunderstorm. Fortunately we made it out of the field before our vehicle got mired in the mud.
With time to spare, we decided to visit one of the best attractions in Utah, Arches National Park. The park sits at the bottom of the LaSal Moutain Range and I must admit this has become one of my favorite parks right behind Yellowstone. Several formations are present in the park, but two are the most prominent; Navajo and Entrada. Most of the arches form from the weathering of the Entrada sandstones. If you ever get to Moab you need to visit. Despite the rain, we were productive and saw what Utah has to offer.
After arriving in Hanksville, we set to opening the quarry. Our first day we were treated to low 80′s and a nice breeze. In a short time we re-opened the quarry from its winter slumber. I am happy to report that all of the plaster jackets we buried last summer survived and none were vandalized. After exposing and removing these winter jackets we began our excavations. Almost immediately two new bones were discovered; two scapulae (shoulder blades) to a Camarasaurus. Camarasaurus is a type of sauropod (long necked, four legged dinosaur) that lived at the end of Jurassic Period (around 147 million years ago). This herbivorous dinosaur could grow up to 65 feet long and weigh 20 tons. Interestingly, like most of our finds it appears these shoulderblades belong to a sub-adult (“teenaged”) dinosaur. We got a lot done in a short time. I look forward to more discoveries and the arrival of Dr. Matt Bonnan and his students from Western Illinois University.
Well another field season is upon the Burpee Museum. On Thursday, May 13th, Josh Mathews and I left Northern Illinois, destination; The Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry in Hanksville, Utah. In case you missed it, in 2008 Burpee discovered one of the largest dinosaur bonebeds found in North American within the last thiry years. This monstrous bonebed extends for nearly one quarter mile and is three hundred feet wide. So far we have begun exacavating several well known late Jurassic dinosaurs like, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Camarasaurus and possibly Allosaurus. In fact, since 2008 Burpee has excavated over 12,000 lbs of dinosaur bones.
This year we did not drive to Utah directly, instead we took a detour to Woodland Park to visit the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center. We met with owner/Director Michael Triebold to place an order. We ordered a mounted cast of the “bone-headed” dinosaur, Pachycephalosaurus.
This cast will end up being part of the Homer Triceratops exhibit we plan to open in May, 2012. This was exciting for me as I had the luck to collect a pachy skull dome back in 2001! After a productive day of researching some of their new tyrannosaurid specimens and marvelling over the mounted 45 foot long Tylosaurus named “Bunker” we headed out. ONTO UTAH!!
Driving to Utah is always a wonderful because you get to go through the Rocky Mountains. This year mother nature rewarded us with snow and wildlife. At about 10,000 feet we drove through a small blizzard. Of course, Josh and I had to stop and like any good tourists got lots of pictures.
Big Horn Herd
It was amazing! We ended up stopping (or should I saw swerving off the road in a semi-uncontrolled manner) because I spotted a heard of Big Horn Sheep about 20 feet from I-70!! We got some excellent pictures of a “gang” of young males and then we spotted a baby Big Horn….awww. It was ridiculously cute….so more picture taking. After adding a few hours of picturing taking we resumed our trip to Utah.