something IS going on around here! (poachers part 3)

i decided to head back out fossil hunting today, and TRY to out do my last find in badlands. not that a lost quarry of francis slate is something that can be easily outdone!

i just picked a random stretch of badlands this time, and didn't bother looking around an old coal mine as i had been lately (slate seems to have operated around coal mines a lot in drumheller). to make sure i was somewhere not looked over lots, i hiked a fair distance into the badlands to get off the beaten path.

it took my about an hour to feel i was in a relatively unexplored section. with that i got right into prospecting, but within 20min i made a startling discovery...

a recent excavation!
this wasn't the first of these i'd found during my current field work either, it wasn't even the second! this was the third such quarry, and according to my checking with the museum none of them should be here.
whoever was doing this digging, was doing it illegally! all excavations need to go through the tyrrell before they are allowed to proceed. whoever was digging around drumheller at the moment had definitely not done that!
that put a dampener on my whole trip!
in fact, once i did a quick site assessment, my fossil hunting was over for the day. (so, not so much a dampen as a outright kill!).
whatever they were digging it was BIG! just based on a rough measurement i did using myself as the measuring device (i'm about a metre long... so if i am careful i can use myself as a crude metre stick!) the quarry was about 16-17 meters long, 5 meters wide, and 2 meters deep!
that's huge. especially for around drumheller! the biggest thing your going to be finding is an edmontosaurus and they're "only" 13 metres long... this quarry was more then a quarter larger then that!... which even if it was disarticulated (that is to say its bones were all scattered apart) that seemed too big a dig site for just one...
this whole quarry was a lot like the first poaching site that me and tony had stumbled across. they'd left a lot of expendable tools and materials behind here and there.
only this time there were less tools at this site, as though they'd sorted out a set of gear that now worked. i hazarded a guess that the first site might well have been the poachers first dig, as they had found much of their first gear was substandard, and had to be replaced. which now they had, and thus they weren't leaving behind broken bits of it.
once i'd done a run over the site and noted everything i saw, i raced back to the museum!
i needed to report this at once. two quarries could be chalked up to random petty fossil thefts. three was pointing to a serious fossil poacher on the loose!
arriving at the museum i needed to get to the resource management office which was on the farside of the building. for whatever reason i decided to take a short cut through collections. which in hindsight would have made things in my life a whole lot easier if i hadn't!

the first bit of collections is the unprepared stuff. what unprepared means (apart from obviously not being prepared... prepared being a technical term in palaeontology) is that it houses fossils that have not yet been removed from the rock in which they were found. they haven't even been taken out of the protective field jackets that palaeontologists put on them in the field to safely move them back here to the museum.

to be honest it's not the most exciting section of the museum or even collections. it is basically just a warehouse of field jacket upon field jacket.

however a handy short cut... or so i thought

however when i went by the geology collection, i was in for my second big shock of the day!

the normally neat and tidy cabinets that held the museum's rock collections, were all in disorder. it didn't take a large brain (fortunately for me!) to realize they'd be ransacked!!!

i had the sudden tummy churning suspension that this tied to the poaching i was here to report...

curiosity got the better of me, as i stood there examining the mayhem that was the geology cabinets... i probably shouldn't have looked, and rather reported this too... but can you blame me? how often do you encounter a possible caper, except on TV?

i checked all the opened drawers, and quickly it was obvious one had been the center of attention. the horseshoe canyon geologic sample drawer... many other geologic formation drawers had been opened, but i'd guess they were just opened to check if they contented the horseshoe material.
plus it made sense that the poachers, (whoever they were?!?) would want to look at the horseshoe canyon material. after all so far they'd been doing all their digging around drumheller, and of course one of the major rock units here was the horseshoe...
they'd been looking at rock samples taken from throughout the valley, and not just any rock type. fossil bearing sand and mud stone samples.
i was confused though, most of the samples they'd pulled out of the catalogued order (i assume, to write down information about them) had a ton of snail and clam shells in them. in my experience only areas where glacial lake drumheller had washed over the area or the marine formations, were you going to find those. the glacial lake areas and marine layers were no good for dinosaur fossils though?
i thought the poacher(s?) must have pulled these out to throw anyone off their trail. what better way to keep from being caught then by having everyone looking in the opposite area to where you were going to be!
before i could investigate any further there came a loud and distressed "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?" from behind me... oh man, i knew the voice. it was julia. one of the museum's staff, and in her eyes it looked like i'd just torn her workplace apart!

"julia," i started, but was very unsure how to assure her this wasn't me. my (very tiny) brain wasn't helping either. "i didn't.. this isn't how it looks... it was just like this when i..."

fortunately or unfortunately she wasn't really listening to my babbling anyway...

in a really old skool manner (in that it reminded me of when i used to live and work here at the tyrrell) she proceeded to chew me out on the "use" of collections.

she didn't even remotely catch on to the fact this wasn't me... which she should have. due to the tiny proportions of my arms there was no physical way i could have opened the lower drawers. i'd pretty much have to press my chest up to the drawer handle to grab them... which being so low to the ground i couldn't do!

as julia continued to rant at me, i grew nervous. she was starting to make some pretty serious threats, like reporting me to the collections manager and the museum's director. if that happened i could get banned from the tyrrell for life... not to mention it possibly effecting my museum work back in new zealand.

from behind us, deep within unprepared collections came a loud commanding call "that won't be necessary young miss," i knew the voice... it was professor paradigm.

julia stopped in confusion, realizing the professor was referring to her reporting me. paradigm continued to walk towards us. "if you would please leave the drawers as they are now, i would very much like to inspect them," paradigm instructed. julia looked very annoyed.

despite not being able to see paradigm, or by extension him not being able to see me, he then addressed me anyways. "as for you traumador, i will meet you in the staff lounge in a few minutes. make sure you are waiting for me!"

despite having the wind taken out of her rather harsh lecture, julia was still fuming. "you heard the 'man'," though through her voice, i could tell that julia didn't really know who paradigm was. only that he had an in with the museum's director, and this bugged her (i think she'd been looking forward to avenging her organization by turning me into the director herself!). "get out of here!"

she then added in a quieter tone, so that paradigm couldn't hear her "i better not catch you in here, ever again!"

i did as i was told. julia was really upset (as one would be if they found their carefully organized and sorted collection torn apart like that), and i sure didn't want to see paradigm mad too. so i did as i was told.

as much as i didn't like paradigm, i had to admit he'd gotten me out of a big mess there. i'm sure i could have convinced the director and julia eventually that it wasn't me, but this saved me the trouble (in every sense of the word!).

at the same time i was going to have to contend with paradigm... something i wasn't looking forward too either!

according to the rumours i'd heard, the professor was part of the top secret organization palaeo-central, whose sole mission was the protection of fossils and the science of palaeontology. based on these same rumours, paradigm was not someone you wanted to get on the wrong side in these matters. matters like the potential poacher(s).

after an anxious wait (of about half an hour), paradigm finally showed up. behind that breathing mask of his (i wonder why he has it come to think of it, for the first time?... it makes him look and definitely sound scary!) and his very tinted sunglasses (which i've never seen him take off, again why?) i had no idea what his expression was. if i had to guess not happy, but that's how he always is...

"would you mind telling me exactly what you were doing in the geologic collections this afternoon?" he demanded, but not in a pointed way... if i had to guess, the professor didn't suspect me of ransacking the place.

i told him how i stumbled into it like that, and wanted to take a closer look. "has anyone told you of how unfiltered curiosity will almost certainly get you into trouble?" paradigm grumbled.

"yeah craig has actually," i thought out loud. in fact those had been his exact words... as my legal guardian had told me, if constructive and well thought out curiosity was a most admirable trait in a person (filtered curiosity. filtered by rational thought), but curiosity for no purpose was not only a bad thing, but could be dangerous (unfiltered)... i was beginning to see what he meant.

"has he now," paradigm said in a matter of fact manner. which wasn't just acknowledging what i'd said. it seemed to imply that the professor know my guardian somehow?

then it occurred to me to get back to the situation unfolding this afternoon. paradigm thought i'd just randomly wanted to look at those cabinets. which wasn't the case. i told him how i was trying to report that 3rd poached quarry.

"so it has been you whose been finding those quarries," the professor noted.

"yeah," i stated proudly. "so what are you going to do about the poachers?" i eagerly inquired.

"i beg your pardon?" paradigm said taken aback. "what makes you think it is poachers?"

"uh because they are unauthorized," i stated... thinking that much was obvious.

"that would assume they are all connected. so far there is no evidence in these cases to indicate this," i couldn't believe my ears as paradigm said that. how could it not be clear that they were connected?!?

then came the best part of the whole discussion. "why would you think i would deal with this matter?" the professor asked me honestly... or at least he was acting like it was honest i thought.

"uh, because you run palaeo-central," i retorted, and added. "besides why else would you be here in drumheller? especially coincidentally when a series of poachings was going on?"

"not this palaeo-central nonsense again," the professor groaned, as though he'd heard this a million times (which i'd beat he had!). "i'm only going to tell you once. this supposed organization protecting the world of museums, you and so many others keep associating me with, does not exist! how am i supposed to manage, on top of my already large existing list of responsibilities, the running of an entire international intelligence agency exactly?!? that alone one for whom funding would be next to impossible?" he angrily challenged, i remained silent unable to answer. at least with anything that would have satisfied a big brain like paradigm!

"i'm simply here in drumheller to do some research on some of the vivus-dinosaurs that live here in town." he claimed.

okay, as far as denials go that was a pretty lame one, and i would know. i have to give them a lot when i get into trouble (which as you know is a lot, for some reason!).

sure it was common knowledge paradigm was the expert on us vivus-fossils, but i guessed if i'd pushed the matter any further he'd tell me the key dinosaurs among his test group would be a certain lambeosaurus and styracosaurus, both of whom i knew travelled around with the professor a lot.

then came the part that proved the professor was just trying to cover his tracks. "regardless, i highly recommend you avoid this whole "affair". the tyrrell's director has assured me that the most capable people are looking into these "mystery" quarries of yours, and we would most certainly not want you to get in their way," he leaned in towards me, and pointed his finger at me.

yeah right! i thought to myself... that's what i'd do is just drop my second big find of the trip... an actual genuine fossil poaching caper!

it was as if the professor read my mind (or that i sometimes give myself away when i'm in deep thought through acting things out... stupid non multitasking brain!), and warned me in a very menacing voice. "our next encounter will not be so 'civil' if i catch you poking your snout where it doesn't not belong again, traumador THE tyrannosaur!" oh man my full name! "do i make myself clear?"

"yes sir," i found myself answering... not that i disagreed entirely with my instincts answer!

with that paradigm bid me a good rest of my visit to drumheller, and walked off.

well that confirmed it for me. the question of whether there were poachers or not was answered as far as i was concerned. someone most certainly was stealing fossils from around here, and even more omniously as of the collections break-in they seemed to have access to the museum too...

however if there was something i didn't want to do was run a foul of the professor. i'd had enough scary encounters with his bodyguard lance the lambeosaur to know paradigm wasn't kidding when he implied he could make my life unpleasant if i got in his way.

sadly i was just going to have to stay out of this one, people of the web wide world. even if it would be cool to catch the bad guys and save the day... that sure would have out done finding my slate quarry! i wasn't going to get on the bad side of professor paradigm!

to be continued...

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