Katie Tremaine with Femur
New finds and new finds. As usual, more well preserved dinosaur bones have been found at the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry. We have been focusing on a sub-adult (teenage) sauropod called Barosaurus. Barosaurus is a relative of Apatosaurus (although not as stocky) and Diplodocus (not quite as long). Barosaurus had an extremely long neck, four column-like legs and a whip-like tail. An adult Barosaurus might get to 80 feet long, 15-20 feet tall and weighed (in life) about 20 tons. This specimen is beautiful and in some places partially articulated (bones still connected).
For several days, Lab Preparator Mindy Householder has been excavating a partially articulated tail. Near it are the hips, femora (upper leg bones), tibiae (lower leg bones), fibulae (shin bones), ribs, humeri (upper arm bones and some forearm material. I think that we also have some neck material. So needless to say, this is going to be a mountable dinosaur. A rough estimate based on its 5 foot long femur would indicate this Barosaurus might have been 50-60 feet long when it died…..so a teenager??
Rain. Rain for paleontologists can be a good and a bad thing. Without rain, erosion does not take place. Without erosion, new bones cannot weather out to be found. However too much rain can obliterate a specimen over time. So finding a good dinosaur specimen requires just the right amount of rain/weathering and good timing. Also rain can be a good “excuse” to take a few days off.
When doing field work in Utah or Montana, rain can make life miserable. The high clay content in the soils can turn roads to axle grease and make walking a near death experience. the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry is in a basin or bowl, so another concern is flash floods….another hazard to avoid. So when it rains, we retreat to higher ground and pavement. This was the case last Saturday and Sunday, when after several days of 100 degree temperatures a cold front pushed in, dropped temps to the 60s and brought lots of rain.
We drove out Saturday morning to view the road only to find part of it was now a river. We snaked our way about 2 miles in and found new rivers forming, wash rock moving and even a water fall. After getting some cool
pics of the Burpee Crew on one of the water falls, we decided to retreat. More rain was coming and the bowl might fill up. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Arches National Park and Sunday was spent in the LaSal Mountains. So rain can be good (softens up the ground and provides much needed days off) it can also be bad (washes out roads and delays schedules). /sigh.
Willem Dafoe with Scott & Katie
One of the added bonuses of working for Burpee Museum aside from travel has been getting to meet new people. In this regard 2010 did not disappoint. Not long after opening the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, the BLM told us that a major motion picture was going to be filmed near us and for a few days on the same road we work on. Disney-Pixar was going shoot major scenes for John Carter of Mars. This live action meets CGI movie is based on a Edgar Rice Burroughs series of novels written in the early 1900′s. Needles to say this excited the whole Burpee crew. By pure luck our public tours began as filming was still in our area. Almost immediately cast and crew began coming to the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry.
Betsy Carlson tours with the crew
A couple of the visitors; Paki Smith (art director) and William Todd-Jones (actor-puppeteer) came multiple times and sent more and more crew to us for tours. In a few days we probably had 50-60 visitors from the movie. Katie and I made a quick trip to the Movie basecamp to pass out fliers and promote the museum. As soon as we got there, we were mobbed by people showing us agate, petrified wood and other fossils. We were intoduced to the Director, Andrew Stanton (he also directed Finding Nemo and Wall-E). Andrew was very kind and interested in what we were doing and encouraged everyone to come to the quarry. Over the next few days movie and museum crews became frequent visitors to each other’s “set”. On Sunday, Burpee was “called” to the movie set after eager crew members were playing paleontologist and found dinosaur bones. In between takes Burpee worked on the dinosaur bones found by the crew.
Samantha Morton with Scott & Betsy
We even got to meet actor Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Mississippi Burning, Spiderman) and actress Samantha Morton (In America, Minority Report). Samantha had a real interest in dinosaurs and spent over an hour excavating a rib that was found. Samantha eventually came to our quarry for a personal tour with her family. Burpee crew even made an appearance at the wrap up of shooting. Emails were exchanged and new Burpee Paleontology shirts were given to some of our new friends. It was an amazing experience and now hundreds of movie professionals now know of Burpee Museum!! ……John Carter of Mars opens in 2012! Go see the movie so there will be a sequel and Burpee can be the “unofficial” paleontology crew!!