shouldn't be here (poachers part 2)

i'd made my huge find. an actual lost quarry of francis slate's! yet there wasn't anything saying i couldn't make some more!!!

common sense says we should each only be entitled to one major discovery each, but that's not how it works in real life. usually the big finds get made by the same people over and over again... so why not add me to that list?

as i knew that many of slate's operations centered around coal mines, today i set out for the site of the old newcastle mine.

i did find something after a day of looking, but it certainly wasn't not what i'd been hoping for!

a disturbed and churned section of mudstone shale...

i immediately recognized it as a sign of excavation... someone had been digging here, and recently!

which had me a little ticked off, and worried...

`we'd found a similar modern mystery quarry last week! the point of a mystery quarry is that it shouldn't be anywhere near recent or modern, but rather an dig that has been lost due to the passage of time... a mystery quarry from today means that someone wants to keep the dig hidden!

for which there is no good reason. it can only mean someone is trying to essentially steal the fossils their digging up. steal them from scientific and public knowledge, and in the case of alberta the public altogether. alberta has laws protecting fossils, and you are only allowed to dig them with a special permit...
which based on yumi's inquiring with the people in charge of alberta digs, neither last week's or this new dig site should exist. no excavations had been authorized in the drumheller region this year at all!
yet i'd just this one in less then a week then the last, and both were fresh... in fact this dig probably had only been done in the last couple days! meaning someone was out here in the badlands with me, and they weren't just looking for fossils...
who could it be? why won't they be trying to go through official channels? more to the point what are they digging up? this quarry isn't very big...
only the beginning of this misadventure...

taste of nature #5

the badlands of alberta


my cousin of the week #8

a little horde of ducklings... so cute!


fossil of the weekend! #23

a cast skeleton of the dromaeosaurid saurornitholestes.

a clue of things coming to the tyrannosaur chronicles soon! wonder what it could be?


taste of nature #4

a lovely section of sandstone in the alberta badlands.


my cousin of the week #7

a pacific gull. also known as a black back gull here in new zealand...


fossil of the weekend! #22

one of two cast skeletons of ornitholestes at the royal tyrrell museum.


a connection to the past...

i'd finally hit a break through in my field work!

on the scale of small to huge, today's discovery was ginormous!!!

it started when me and tony went exploring the old monarch coal mine site.
in his usual fashion, tony acted as a super strong "fossil magnet", and found a really good fossil spot. it turned out to be a bonebed that contained at least one (but possibly MORE) tyrannosaurid(s), as opposed to the usual duckbill contents of drumheller bonebeds!
meaning despite the fact i'd launched this expedition, it was tony who'd made our huge discovery... and that i wasn't really needed.

or at least that was till i looked up from the ground...
not to downplay tony's find, for after all is was an amazing find, but suddenly my own discovery took his huge find and turned it into a ginormous one! a find tony won't have made without me... meaning it was a real team effort!
looking up at the badlands around me, the funny feeling i'd seen them before. which was impossible. i'd never been to the monarch site before...

this puzzled me for a minute, until till i realized it didn't seem familiar in the sense that i'd been here before. rather i'd simply seen this somewhere before...
then it hit me. it was from a photo i'd seen, a photo i had a copy of in my pocket!!!
this photo right here...

one of two men; eli hexton (holding the camera) and francis slate (swinging the pick axe), taken in 1913. it is the sole record of this they worked 96 years ago, but back then they suspected contained multiple albertosaurs.
the sole purpose of my whole search across the red deer river valley was to find more sites of this the most elusive fossil hunter of the great canadian dinosaur rush, francis slate... which i had just done...
i'd found a lost quarry of francis slate!!!
take a close look at this photo from 1913 then scroll back up to the picture of me in the present, and see if you can tell how i figured out i was in the right spot. don't cheat and look at the next picture!
now sadly i was sooooo excited about all this that my attempt at taking the modern version of the slate photo didn't turn out (i was so hyper that i couldn't hold the camera still, and they all turned out blurry...). however the one photo of me looking at the site has all the clues you need to ID the site...
if you are having trouble (which isn't helped by my modern photo having a slightly different angle) than here is how i did it.
i'd matched up all the modern landmarks with the ones from the 1913 photo. funny enough despite the difference in angle, my head is covering up the same section of hills that francis slate is standing in front of in his era. you can also see the spot he is digging on to my right.

now a lot of the detail won't be clear in a small version of the diagram, so you'll want to look at a larger version. i can never tell if blogger will allow my pictures to be enlarged by clicking. if it doesn't work for you, here is a link to mega large version of this comparison diagram.

i couldn't wait till the end of the day to report this. we immediately went back to the tyrrell museum and grabbed the lost quarry expert, darren tanke, to show him what we'd just discovered.

getting back to the site, and showing him, darren turned to me "you've turned out to be quite the pupil traum," he complemented me comparing the photo to the skyline. "i never would have thought anyone could go from learning the basics of how to find a lost quarry and then go track down a slate locality a only a few days! even i have had trouble finding slate digs!!!"

if i was a mammal i'd have blushed at being complimented by the legendary tanke. good thing i'm not a mammal!

darren then turned his attention to the tony side of our discovery. the obvious remains of an albertosaur. most obvious of all were these two teeth.

at first glance a palaeontologist could dismiss these as simply evidence of albertosaur scavenging on the bonebed. after all meat eating dinosaurs shed teeth all the time (and 3 out 5ish bonebeds tend to have theropod teeth if you look hard enough!).
however that top tooth wasn't your ordinary tooth. you'll notice compared to the bottom one it is way bigger, and is thicker. that is because the top tooth still had its root attached. which either meant this albertosaur was REALLY sick or injured while alive, and thus lost tooth and root (as normally roots stayed in the jaw to be reabsorbed when a tooth feel out... no point in wasting all that energy), OR it had fallen out after the albertosaur had died (which was a LOT more likely as the soft tissue holding the rooted tooth in the jaw decomposed...).

darren was very excited by this find.
of all the slate quarrys around the drumheller area (slate operated in over a dozen areas of western canada from what we can gather) this was the one darren had most wanted found. it was not only one of francis slate's first recorded operations, but one on a find that could be of enormous scientific importance still today!

it also excited darren as it reminded him of the lost barnum brown albertosaur bonebed that he'd relocated in 1997. "the best of times," darren assured me and tony in a fond recollection, that this site clearly stirred.

darren was concerned for the condition of the bones at the surface. "the museum will definitely do a thorough excavation on this site soon, but we don't want the already exposed bones suffering any more damage. especially if this bed has been heavily eroded in 96 years, we might have lost a lot of bones to erosion since slate was here!" so he pulled out a bottle of glue.

we spent the next 20 minutes carefully pouring a few coats of adhesive glue onto the bones to help hold them together, and strengthen them against the erosional elements...

though sadly not all the (exposed) bones were in great shape. i glued this one as best i could, but there wasn't a lot of it left sadly.
darren assured me he was confident that there'd be more bones under the surface. those unknown bones, having been protected from the harsh conditions, would be in pristine condition we the museum came out to uncover them. hopefully then darren and the museum's palaeontologists would be able to confirm if this was the multiple albertosaur bonebed slate had claimed it was (and thus possibly further evidence of pack hunting in tyrannosaurids), or something else entirely.
as we concluded this rather epic day, and headed back towards the car, i turned to darren. "how does it feel? you know when you find a lost quarry?"
"what do you mean?" he asked totally puzzled.

it was hard to describe the feeling welling through me right then.
i think darren thought i was boasting or something, but that certainly wasn't it... no, but how to describe it?
in desperation i turned back to the quarry one last time, and gazing on that single spot it hit me...

just over there, two men had toiled away on the same mysteries that drew me out here a century later... yet if not for my efforts (or darren's for the hundred plus similar sites his relocated) their part in this massive scientific drama would have been long forgotten... which to me would be a tragedy. afterall i don't want people to forget what i've done after i'm gone...

"you know, the feeling of being... connected, connected to the fossil explorers of old," i started my attempt to explain. "slate and hexton have been gone a long time, and though we never met, it now somehow feels like i knew them..."

darren had an intent, i thought i wasn't making sense so kept talking. "you know, not like i knew who they were from reading a book, but i actually knew them from, at least a moment of, their lives. i haven't just seen a spot where they worked here today, i've touched something that was pivotal to who they were... suddenly i've shared in, and more like helped them in, one of the greatest adventures and discoveries that they ever had. just from find this spot again after so long!"

darren now had a soft look on his face, and after a moments pause. "yeah i have had that feeling a few times, come to think of it," he winked at me, as a big smile came to his face while we walked back to the parking lot out of the past and reemerged into the present...


field journal #11

it was just tony and me searching today. due to our chilling find of a possibly illegal dig yesterday, yumi was back at the tyrrell making an offical report about the site.
despite this set back, we pressed on in trying to find either the lost quarrys of francis slate, and/OR a significant fossil find (a partial, or for that matter complete skeleton, how about a skull... i'd take anything at this point!!!)
after the weeks i'd been pouring into this project, and not finding anything, i was losing hope. how could i not. they say that for every 200 hours you put into the field you should make one great discovery (assuming you've been looking in suitable places... which given this is alberta i sure had been!). well i was nearly up to 200 hours when i started, and now i certainly had achieved that time investment. yet still found nothing!

fortunately for me, tony is ever the optimist (though it helps that he was only just brought into this a few days ago!), and had a feeling we were going to have a big day. somehow he convinced me of that, and so we both charged into today's hunting rather eagerly.
based on the information darren tanke had given me about francis slate, most of his drumheller region hunting had been done around the coal mines that were everywhere around here during the great canadian dinosaur rush. we'd already searched 4 old mining sites; the atlas, nacmine, star, and midland.
today we'd came to the once monarch mine. it was close to the midland, and directly across the river from nacmine. we thought this end of the valley was more likely a candidate for slate's interest, and even if not a good one for us making a modern find. this area was nothing but horseshoe canyon era rocks, and thus should be full of dinosaurs.
we had only been looking around an hour or two when tony called to me in excitement...
as i walked up, tony modestly said. "i think i've found something." now, this might sound like he was unsure, but you have to know tony to get what he was saying.
translated from tony speak, what he actually said was "i just found the coolest thing we're going to see all day." however as he is such a nice and under spoken guy, he doesn't ever say it this way... just going out into the field with him a few times i've learned...

i started to get excited.
this is why i'd wanted tony to help me out in the first place. he is a fossil magnet, which for whatever reason; better eyesight, or more patience, or he was just born with natural luck, means he tends to make huge finds where the rest of us might find the usual stuff.
taking my own look, tony certainly had found "something". it was a bonebed. however these bones were different somehow... i couldn't put my claw on what about them though.

"check out this tooth," tony beckoned to me from a metre away.

it was an albertosaur tooth. a really nice albertosaur tooth.
however i found my enthusiasm sinking. you find albertosaur teeth in bonebeds all the time, as my ancient relatives would come in to scavenge the free meals that were the animals about to become a bonebed. in the process they'd lose some teeth which you'd find mixed in with the bones.
meaning this was becoming just another ordinary bonebed...
however a moment after my hopes began to sink, tony corrected me on where i was looking. "no, not that one," and pointed at a tooth just a few centimetres away. "this one."
it was another albertosaur tooth. only it was much bigger. plus it was shaped differently.
now having very similar teeth to these myself, i knew immediately what i was looking at!
this was a big deal. this was a huge deal!
what tony had just found was an albertosaur tooth with its root still attached to it! not something you commonly find. in a bonebed or anywhere else!
we dinosaurs, unlike you mammals, continually grew new teeth in all the time to replace broken or woren ones. meaning we were shedding them all the time. however when we shed them we didn't typically lose the root with it. normally we'd just reabsorb the root back into our jaws.
meaning either something really terrible had happened to this albertosaur, and he'd lost tooth and root (it'd happened to me only ONCE {i've lost 103 teeth so far in my life} when i was younger and wanted to get some money from the tooth fairy. i tied a string to the back of craig's car and my tooth, and well... when the tooth and root followed the car and i didn't. NOT a nice feeling!). or the much much MUCH more likely scenario that (as something like my car scheme wasn't too common 70 million years ago!... if it'd happened back then it would have been a terrible illness or injury that'd knock the root loose with the tooth) this tooth and root had come out of the jaw soon after the albertosaur died...
which with the two teeth so close together in front of me (with a canadian one dollar coin, a loonie, for scale in the photo) suddenly i realized what we were looking at... it explained why the bones had felt different from normal drumheller bonebeds. more importantly we'd made a huge find!

this wasn't an edmontosaur bonebed at all... it was an albertosaur one!
though we couldn't tell at moment whether it was just one really torn apart albertosaur or a whole bunch of them, this was just the sort of find we'd been wanting to make.
i was so glad i'd brought tony along with me today!!!
at the same time i couldn't help but feel kind of useless... afterall i'd been the one out here for days and days, and in the end i wasn't needed at all! which was kind of a bummer.
still don't hold that against tony. credit is due where credit is due, afterall...

it took a while for the overwhelming joy and excitement of realizing what he'd found to wear off... then we finished analysing what little we could from the exposed bones on the surface. there was going to have to be a formal dig to unearth anything conclusive from this site. coming to that conclusion we finally peeled ourselves up from the bonebed with the intent of looking around the area a bit more (two finds would certainly be better than one at the end of the day!).
standing up, and lifting my eyes off the ground for the first time in minutes, i had a funny feeling. as i couldn't figure out why, i happily resumed talking to tony about our next direction of exploration... suddenly my tiny mind had a brain wave!
i shot my head back up... leaving tony hanging on me mid sentence.
i just stared ahead for a minute in silence.
tony asked me worriedly. "what is it?"
"we have to get back to the museum right now!" i said urgently, a million thoughts were going through my head.
"why?" tony asked in disbelief.

my stomach had just turned to butterflies, and my head was rather light (my small brain was overwhelmed by the realization i'd just made). tony might be the fossil magnet, and his find was pretty cool... but i'd just pulled my weight for today! and then some...

if it hadn't been for tony, we wouldn't have found this spot. so he was important (where i had not been). however, had i not been here the overall significance of this spot would have been missed, making me now equally important. i point this out not to boost (well okay maybe a little!) but to say, that both of us being there today lead to hopefully the biggest discovery of the year in alberta! just one of us would have missed the whole picture...
i'd tell you more right now people of the innerweb, but i have to get back to the tyrrell right now, and let them know what we just found!!!
to be continued...
Palaeo CHALLENGE... what did we just find???

field journal #10 (poachers part 1)

a new day, and a 'new' coal mine, in our search (by our i mean myself, tony, and yumi) for the lost quarrys of francis slate. we'd checked out three old mines already; the atlas, nacmine, and midland, so today we were checking out around the former star coal mine.

we didn't find anything overly exciting. nothing you haven't already seen in one of my other field reports.

that is till we came towards the end of the day, and we looking in some hills way at the back of the former star mine site. this was a really remote patch of badlands, it had taken us all day to get to them afterall (mind you at a slower pace due to our searching pretty thoroughly along the way).

we were shocked to come across signs of other people being out here recently... in the form of a bunch of abandoned stuff. which on closer inspection could have only been left by one type of person... fossil hunters!

how we could tell, the abandoned stuff was all fossil collecting field gear.

most of it was relatively expendable gear, mind you, needed for making field jackets. a water jug you see in the left hand corner, and the blue sack in the upper right was full of burlap. field jacket materials normally aren't that crucial once you've made all the jackets that you need... so one could been seen leaving it behind if they had too...

however the yellow and blue pack sack had been used to haul in more important equipment. only in this case this equipment hadn't been up to the task.

when we opened it, inside the bad were broken awls (an awl is like a chisel, that you use to remove hard rock around a fossil), mud gummed paint and tooth brushes (used to softly remove rock around fossils), and finally a jack hammer or rock saw motor. we couldn't tell which it was from, but it was certainly a motor, a very broken one (they'd ripped it apart trying to fix it!).

me and tony stared at our "find" for several minutes in stunned silence.

i broke the quiet first, by longingly suggesting this might be a tyrrell dig site, and they'd simply just left the gear here overnight for when they came back to resume work tomorrow.

of course i was pretty sure this wasn't the case, and tony confirmed my suspicion immediately. the museum didn't have any field work going on right now, and had done none this season around this part of the valley.

furthermore if it had been a tyrrell team they never would have left gear lying around like this. for one the field jacketing supplies, while not the most vital, were still usable, and thus would still have been taken out with the rest of a team's gear. even the "rubbish" bag would never have been left as it would be polluting the badlands. waste like this would be hauled back to be properly disposed of.

no, sadly the story tony and yumi came up with after looking at the stuff was a bit more alarming. someone else had come out here to dig, which would have been against the law if not done without tyrrell approval (as the tyrrell is home to alberta's fossil permit issuing officer).

based on the tools being used, these were experienced people (often members of the general public pick equipment to dig fossils that might appear to be ideal, but in reality aren't as good as what we "pros" would use instead), so we could rule out amateurs. meaning they probably had a purpose being out here. they weren't going to be just digging up random edmontosaur bones (as is often the case with casual fossil diggers in alberta).

tony, whose been on a lot of museum sanctioned digs, thought based on the broken tools and especially the motor, we were looking at our mystery diggers first excavation attempt (i didn't like how tony was implying there were going to be more...). they'd probably picked up second hand or second rate tools to avoid being noticed, but after using them in real conditions had wrecked the substandard ones (which if you're trying to buy under the radar goods would happen).

which seemed to match the facts. the awls and brushes were no longer usable. they'd taken the rest of the jack hammer or saw with them, and simply abandoned the now dead motor. it would probably be easy to replace this single part (as opposed to the whole tool).

the field jacket supplies, tony reckoned, were left behind as they were easily replaced, and carrying less out of here would attract less attention. which if you were carrying out fossils collected illegally is just what you want to do. avoid anyone realizing you were taking them!

which they so far seemed to have done. had we not been out here today, this dig site may never have been noticed. a year from now, all the run off from rain and snow could very well have washed away or buried this gear.

the big question we were left with was who had done this? and more to the point what were they after?!?

yumi said she'd file an official report with the tyrrell tomorrow, and hopefully get an investigation into the incident launched (assuming there was a problem... there was still a chance this was a sanctioned dig we hadn't heard about... but we all doubted it, given the abandoned gear). this doubled the dark ramifications of today's find. not only was there a modern mystery quarry, but now yumi was taken out of action tomorrow on account of it.

i had a bad feeling about this...


field journal #9

so far the great canadian dinosaur rush era fossil hunter francis slate's lost quarrys had been elusive. i hoped recruiting my friends/former tyrrell coworkers tony and yumi would help me track these down, or at least help make a significant fossil discovery along the search.
based on the evidence i had at hand, mr. slate had done a lot of his drumheller area work around the many coal mines operating here during the dinosaur rush. his clever strategy was to save time by investigating and following up the discoveries made by the miners in their daily encounters with the local geology. meaning slate had potentially thousands of fossil hunters at his disposal (as there were thousands of miners living here in that era... though realistically most wouldn't have been looking for fossils, but the few that did would have been huge time savers).

we'd already checked out the areas around 2 of the valley's coal mines, the atlas and midland, but with no luck. not that this was casting doubts on slate's site being out there! with over 20 more of them out there it was time for us to pick up the pace, if we were going to exhaust all avenues!

so today we popped by the area around nacmine (the north american coal mine). in modern times there is still a small community which still bears the name of the mine, but 70 years ago it would have way bigger, and right under one of the biggest mines in operation in the valley.

it was a funny day of fossil hunting though, and not what i'd expected...

i'd brought along tony, as typically he is something of a fossil magnet. on every trip i have gone on with him (including the one to DPP), tony always manages to find the best stuff.

its not that i'm a bad fossil hunter, but i have to look real hard to find cool stuff. tony is a natural though. my guess is he has keener sight and sees the differences in rocks much better than me.

however if not thinking of it as a physical difference (which i'm sure it must be), it can appear as though tony just randomly stumbles on great fossils by accident (which to be fair a few times des happen... he'll walk right past a good spot first. one that even i with less keen senses would probably have spotted).
today though i didn't need tony apparently. of all the finds we made, mine were the most impressive. sadly they weren't anything too spectacular...

this dinosaur vertebrae was our first "cool" find of the day. due to its heavy encasing in iron stone, we couldn't ID it. however as this is the horseshoe canyon formation it is a super safe bet that this would turn out to be an edmontosaur if we were to collect and prep it. edmontosaurs are STUPID common around here! you'll find 10 (some say as many of 20) edmontos before you find something else!

when tony came to inspect it, he was of the same opinion as me. we'd found plenty of broken scraps of bone so far, and this was our only in-situ bone (fancy wording for found in its original burial place). that still didn't warrant us wasting anytime on it. especially given its being encased in iron stone, and lack of other bones in association with it. this wasn't the big find we were hoping for...

at the same time tony was impressed. not that either of us thought i was bad at fossil hunting. we're both just used to him outshining me in the field on caliber of material found (i'd find the same amount, but nothing as cool as his...). i'd out done him... for now...

my last find of today had me think maybe the tables had turned. maybe i'd suddenly became a fossil magnet like tony...
i found a pretty patchy micro fossil site, with little of interest in it. except for this one fossil...

an intact hadrosaur tooth! (you guessed it, edmontosaur most likely! though there is a slight chance it could be from one of the other rarer hadrosaurs of the horseshoe canyon era).

with that conclusion, nacmine turned out to be a dead end.

which is sad. in addition to slate, there was a slim chance we could have come across another BIG lost quarry. that being the site of joseph burr tyrrell's first albertosaur. it was in this area that he recorded finding it. however that was well over a 100 years ago. erosion by now most likely had wiped out the surface layers he had been working on. coupled with his only taking the skull it wasn't a big dig (though if erosion hadn't destroyed the spot that meant the body could still be there!), and won't be easy to spot. so it isn't surprising we didn't find it.

at the same time a tyrannosaur can dream a little can't he?

fossil of the weekend! #19

an anomalocaris claw i found on mt. stephen in 2003.


field journal #8

francis slate may have gone to great lengths to hide his activities a 100 years ago, during the great canadian dinosaur rush, but the mystery surrounding him was about to be under threat. as it was no longer just me hunting for his lost quarrys...

i now had a "team"... well 2 other people, tony and yumi, but that could be considered a team after a fashion (just not a very big one)... both of whom were going to help me track down mr. slate and his past operations.

with more people in gathered to the cause, all we had to do now was go to a suitable location to apply ourselves. as i had reasonable evidence that a lot of mr. slate's exploits (in the drumheller region anyway) were based around some of the 20+ coal mines operating in the area at the time, we would need to focus our efforts around these former mine sites.

i'd already checked out the most obvious coal mine in the valley, the atlas historic site, but fortunately for us one more mine that was still easy to find...

midland provincal park.

this name might sound familiar, and if you read my blog a lot you'd be right. midland has come up before, as the tyrrell museum is situated in this park. however we weren't going to be looking around the museum as (i already had, and) it marked the outer west boundary of the park, and wasn't what the park was established for originally.

midland provincal park had been setup in the beginning to perserve the site and artifacts of the old midland coal mine.

we wanted look around this old mine, so we needed to search the park's interior (as opposed to the fringe of the mine's propery that is around the tyrrell).

within minutes of wandering the park we encountered plenty of evidence of the once bustling mining activity. there were 4 old mining carts in our first search area, this one here being the most intact of the lot.

it was cool to think that this had once been used to bring loads of coal out of the hills around us, and back out to the surface for the first time in 72 million years!

it became pretty clear why they'd been mining this area. though there were many excellent fossil bearing layers of sandstone and mudstone, there were 3 thick huge coal seams running between the fossil layers!

then as i walked around a bend my heart nearly stopped. on the hill in front of me was a bunch of junk!
why was i so excited by old timbers and random debris? because one man's garbage can be a tyrannosaur's treasure...
was this evidence of an old slate quarry?!?

turning around to excitedly call over tony and yumi, i realized the few scraps i saw on the hillside were just the tip of the... uh coal-berg. scattered all around me were yet more remenants and left overs of the coal mine's operations... definately not stuff left behind by francis slate.
i saddened a little bit. it made sense that a coal mine which operated for over two decades, and whose purpose was to tear apart the landscape around me, would leave a lot more evidence of its existence than a single palaeontologist passing through here for a couple days...
this presented me with a new problem (and no doubt one of the reasons slate had remained elusive for all these years). if i was going to find slate around these mines, i couldn't count on over half the means that darren tanke uses to find lost quarrys. (which is probably why he seldom bothers looking for lost quarrys around drumheller. the mines cause a lot of artifact pollution!)
fortunately i wasn't looking for unknown mystery quarrys. i had photographs of slate working this area. meaning i had one sure fire way of pin pointing where he was working. i'd have to find the actually spot of the dig sites and make sure i was watching the landscape around me carefully to not miss them!

midland ended up a bust, but not to worry. tony already had another site in mind for tomorrow...


the recruitment slate

i'd hit a dead end in my hunt for francis slate's lost quarrys. i had reason to believe slate did a lot of his field work around the coal mines of the valley during the great canadian dinosaur rush.

this coal mine idea would have been a great strategy... the coal miners worked around rocks for a living, and would no doubt notice stuff in their daily exploits around the badlands. using the miners would have saved slate huge amounts of time and effort... sadly a strategy that no longer exists. as all the mines went bust a LONG time ago... otherwise i might try to recruit a few onto my team today...

with no miners around to help me anymore, if i was going to pick up slate's trail i needed to track down more of the old mine sites. sadly, i'd already checked out the only really obvious coal mine in the valley. there were two more historic sites based around former coal mines... yet these were only 3 of over twenty such mines that had operated in the valley throughout the years. in other words i only knew a tiny patch of potential localities!

added to that my minor field... uh accident (stupid cactus!), the other day i was going to need someone else to help me in the field. that way i'd have someone to help me out if i ran into any real trouble.
since they were going to be coming along, i needed to pick someone who could help me while i was at it. afterall not everyone would be able up to my fast hunting pace (as i didn't have forever to look), i was going to need someone with some prospecting experience. fortunately for me i knew a few experts...
including my old friend tony.
who i took the liberty of inviting to lunch today. i figured buying him lunch would help me recruit him into my expedition (buying the lunch not being an easy feat these days as i'm funding a world tour on the side of my regular exploits).
why was i going to such lengths to get tony, you might ask? sure you might not have heard of him (outside my blog), but don't let that fool you. despite his lack of a PHD (like me), published papers (sounds like me), or any fossils being named after him (once again identical to myself) tony is a fossil hunting power house.
what do i mean by power house? well i'm not too bad at fossil hunting. i've had years of practise, and it was worth it. tony also has similar experience and skills, but unlike me he is lucky. by that i mean he is literally gifted with luck!
there are those among palaeontology who have this fossil magnet gene. it is an incredible ability to in most cases "stumble" onto amazing fossils almost by accident. in other words, they are, on the surface, identical to you and me in their prospecting abilities, but unlike us fossils almost leap out of the ground at them wanting to be found. the rest of us have to work REALLY hard to find them!
after my weeks in the field, it was clear i lacked that gene. however i'd seen tony use it many times in the past (yes i'm jealous, but at least i'm honest about it!), so it was time for him to remind me of its power!
i don't think i needed to buy tony the free lunch to interest him in my search (not that it didn't help mind you!). as i first mentioned what i was doing i could see tony's eyes flare up with exploration lust.
however yumi was another story... oh yeah, i invited yumi too! she was there in the staff room with tony, and since she is a good friend from the olden days, it would have been rude not to bring her along too. besides three sets of eyes are better than two... that was, if the free lunch would persuade her to give up a day or two to help me out.

of course the lure of fossil treasure, and possible fame (in the science world anyway) were too much for a palaeo nut such as her to resist too! plus she liked lunch :P

my day off the hunt had paid off, big time! i'd now tripled my field team, and it only cost me two lunches!

better yet i'd acquired not only one very experienced fossil hunter (yumi) of the same skill level to myself, but i'd recruited a fossil magnet who also matched us for skill. meaning if i wasn't going to find slate now, no one else was ever going to!


meddling worries (pack meddling part 1)

(From Layla Oviraptor's personal journal)

I find myself at the Tyrrell today, which is most unusual. Though it still proves useful, this museum is not the sort of place I can effective maintain my position in the Pack [of the Primordial Feather]. At least until possibly today.

Typically I like to stay close to the front lines, and monitor the war closely, though not too close and risk being caught in the trenches, mind you. I'm no hunter [in the pack hunter=warrior]. I shouldn't have to divide my attention as much as I have been lately.

The Gondwanaians have been getting ever more bold in their actions against us. Not to mention the challenges I must contend with from within the Primordial's own ranks. Normally I can't afford being side tracked by minor distractions. The worst of which must be the complaints made by Primordials about their contact with the human public in their postings as museum exhibits.

As a momentary aside, what they think is so hard about being a tourist attraction I do not understand? I served the pack in that capacity for 6 years, and it was by no means my hardest challenge. If anything it was among the easiest times of my life. It also served as a constant reminder just how inferior the mammals are to us saurians, and why we in the pack must always be alert and ready to pounce on any time they show weakness... However I digress.

When one is in my position in the pack, to give credence to such complaints is dangerous. Not only does it waste precious time and energy, but it makes you appear sympathetic to the weak and useless. Such weakness would undermine me as the current right claw advisor to the royals.

Yet here I am at the Tyrrell. Following up just such a complaint. Or at least a complaint on the surface. Had I not caught wind of a very minute detail that is. The encounter in the museum was not with a human, but rather a vivus dinosaurs who thinks he is a human. Which suddenly meant this complaint was not below me. Sadly it accelerated it to my top priority. Especially given its timing.

Thus here I am, in the Tyrrell's learning centre, to get all the intelligence on the situation I can.

The incident was reported by a lowly bull Albertosaur, which means I'm taking an awful risk in pursuing this personally.

He may be of the royal lineage of the pack
[Tyrannosaurids] and thus be of a higher pride than myself, but as a male and a splinter [Albertosaurinae] off the true royal line [Tyrannosaurus Rex] he is, practically speaking, far below my station in the pack's hierarchy. So if it turns out I am following a mere tale of fancy, and not what I fear he is suggesting, I risk losing severe face if word of my being here were ever to get out amoung the pack.

I'd gone out of my way to suppress and bury his report. Apart from my two trusted matriarchs, none in the pack had picked up on the issue's significance from what I could tell, and I had waited and watched a good week to ensure it had remained unnoticed before pursuing it.

The bull told me precisely what I'd expected to hear. Last week the runt had indeed shown up here at the museum, at least noticeable shown up. I suspect he has been here longer, but I had no way of confirming that. At least not yet! In either case it was a most annoying and potentially disastrous turn of events.

I'd already planned and put in place an entire operation against Traumador, but in New Zealand. It was perfectly designed to bring the runt to his knees, and force him to join us. It was all in place and ready, but waiting for him in Dunedin. For the longest time the runt has simply disappeared from the map after a reported presence in Australia. Only to show up here!

The runt's Australian appearance I had deemed to be a mere coincidence. Yes on the one hand, he suddenly appeared in close proximity to my other large project, the absconder Lillian, right as I was in the middle of executing my plan against her. However the fact I successful played two of the Primordial's key foes, Paradigm off Annex Co, and thus effectively ended Lillian's last remnant of stardom, was proof the runt wasn't in Australia for any true reason but rather due to pure chance. Had he been there in an effort to stop me, I would have expected the result to be better than him randomly shipping the absconder across the world.

Yet now I wasn't so sure. His timing was too perfect. For a second time no less!

The pack was on the eve of reaping untold gains from our long investment into the "14th crate" (as Razi Saurornithoides, matriarch of the Troodontid pride, had dubbed her pride project). The "crate" was not only being kept here at the Tyrrell, where the runt was now poking around, but we were in the midst of the most sensitive phase of the operation, a timing on the part of the runt I couldn't help but feel nervous about.

Did he know of our plans? In the most likely case of yes (why else would he come back to this the place of his ultimate disgrace?!?) how was it he had come to know them? Most important of all, what was he planning? Clearly he wouldn't have come all the way here unless he planned to challenge us.

I couldn't risk ruin to this operation. Razi had pegged too many of her hopes on the "crate" to have them all come to ruin. As her closest ally among the matriarchs I had no choice but to help her. Especially given the current engagements occupying her in Asia.

Again, my presence here was risking enough. I couldn't afford any more problems developing.

Fortunately being a matriarch made this situation easy to take control of. Especially since none of the prides or matriarchs had ever headquartered here. The Tyrrell was too tied into Paradigm's schemes and thus under heavy monitoring of Palaeo-Central for any of us to be stupid enough to invite his meddling.

My first order of business was silencing the Albertosaur. I couldn't risk anyone I didn't wish to, learn of my presence here or the threat that probably loomed over Razi's project.

The problem was even though we had several pack members present at the Tyrrell, I couldn't retask any of them to help me. I couldn't trust any of them with this information, and more to the point none of them were able hunters. I was going to need extremely able warriors to deal with the runt, and yet not draw attention to themselves or the "crate".

Paradigm's presence here at this time was no coincidence either after all. He clearly suspected something was going on here, but had he known for sure, he wouldn't be waiting. Paradigm as a mammalian hunter. He'd have made the kill already. The "crate" was still safe, but only for now.

None of my own pride were capable hunters or very discrete, and in most cases neither. This meant I was going to have to approach another matriarch for assistance, not a prospect I longed for, but given the situation, a prospect I was going to have to bear none the less.

As I worked my way through the potentials, I could only make one choice. Which pained me, as if I had any other choice I'd have taken it. However I had no other choice.

Swallowing my pride I contacted Desdemona. Fortunately her Dromaeosaurid temperament saw the runts actions as an affront to herself, on behalf of the pack, and thus she missed any political leverage my approaching her might gain her. Meaning I would be gaining Desdemona's assistance at no cost to myself.

More to the point, I was about to get the Crimson Talons at my full disposal. The runt was about to very much regret his decision to meddle in our affairs!

To be Continued in: The Gathering Storm


as a tyrannosaur, i just can't win!

who knew finding the nearly one hundred year old dig sites of one francis slate would be so hard? (well okay, darren tanke knew, and had tried to warn me... but apart from him...)

i needed to find some help if i was going to track down slate's long ago activities. the best place in drumheller to find such help would of course be the royal tyrrell museum.

i hadn't planned on returning to "base camp" till i'd made a find (of either a slate quarry or a cool fossil one), but desperate times call for desperate... uh, well whatever desperate times call for (their mommys?)

as i was popping in on "official" business, and not as a visitor, so i zipped around to the back door of the museum (known to most as the staff entrance). however, today there was a lot of of bodies in the way. a whole bunch of vivus-dinosaurs... which isn't actually that uncommon a sight around the museum.

however the fact they were all ornithischians was a little odd, at least these days. ever since the pack of the primordial feather had muscled their way into being the museum's star attractions, they'd gone to great lengths to kick out all but the coelurosaurian dinosaurs. yet right outside the building were these guys...

two hadrosaurs, a lambeosaurus and parasaurolophus, and a ceratopsian, styracosaur, to be precise. i thought i recognized the lambeosaur.

it was lance, a very grumpy and paranoid duckbill who worked for professor paradigm. though i'd met lance in australia (a very long way from here) it made sense that he was here in canada now, as i'd run into his boss just the other day!

not that lance was hard to remember. even from this far away, you couldn't help but notice the scars that covered his whole body. marks of at least a dozen theropod attacks on him. due to these attacks (i wonder why he'd had so many?) he bore a pretty big grudge against us meat eaters...

i called over hello to the lot of them without thinking, however i should have thought about it before doing it... stupid tiny brain!

they clearly weren't expecting anyone to interupt whatever it was they were doing, and they all reacted fairly startled.

next thing i knew lance spun around trumpeting out a hadrosaur style alarm call (that big crest on his head isn't just to make him another pretty face. it is a giant hollow instrument made of bone... very much like the horn instruments humans make out of metal!).

the styracosaur leaped into a very aggressive defensive posture, and the parasaurolophus which had been relaxing up till then leapt up, and looked ready to flee (though here in the back carpark it didn't really have anywhere to run to!)...

lance almost missed seeing me, i was so much smaller than him (as a full grown lambeosaurus he was closer in length and weight to a small sauropod than what we think of as a duckbill... as lambeosaurs were among the biggest of hadrosaurs). spotting me, lance clearly remembered that he didn't like me, or perhaps it was just hating tyrannosaurids like he does, either way suddenly he charged at me in an aggressive manner.

which was terrifying! i might as well have been in the way of traffic! at a mere 15 kilos i'd be a pancake if his multi ton frame ran over me!

fortunately for me he stopped just in front of me. the styracosaur eased in behind him, never taking his eye (or horn ends) off me, in what seemed to me like a backing up posture to lance...

i felt like i was their enemy, and they wanted to destroy me, even though i'd done nothing to them at all (though i guess in a food chain sense i am their enemy... but that was 65 million years ago, and things have changed a lot since then... right?)

"interesting seeing you here, traumador," lance stated in an accusational way.

i was starting to remember why i didn't like this lance guy much, he was very confrontational. "why is that?" i asked casually. why would it matter to him one way or the other where i was?

"the professor was under the impression you were returning to new zealand," lance said. "which would make sense for a tyrannosaur who was removed from the pack of the primordial feather, as you claim to be. yet here we find you, not a few months from our last encounter, in one of the pack's very strongholds!"

okay i had to hand to lance, wording it like that, it did look kind of suspicious. "no no," i tried to assure him. i was just going to have to explain it, and then he'd see i wasn't in the pack. "i'm here because of a hatching day present someone gave me. this is just a visit back home."

lance just responded with the equivalent of a duckbill laugh (which out of him sounded kinda like a trumpet). the styracosaur snorted through its nose, the horned dinosaur version of a laugh and said. "that has to be one of the worst cover stories i've ever heard, eh lance."

i turned to the styracosaur. he was getting on my nerves just like lance now. "it's not a cover story... uh mr. styracosaur!"

"that's sternberg styracosaur to you, primordial!" the styracosaur sharply corrected me. "you'd do well to remember it too, for when i run you clean through!" he warned flaring his nose horn menacingly in my direction.

that was it. i was done being bullied by these plant eaters. "you listen here!" i angrily pointed at lance.

lance responded completely opposite to how i'd have liked, but not unexpectedly, lunging his head towards me. enough to cause me to yelp and jump backwards... which makes sense as his WHOLE head was as long as me (i'm not even going into the rest of him connected behind that!).

"NO. you listen to me!" he growled (well not actually growled, as hadrosaurs don't really growl). "i warned you once, i saw through this charade of yours. the fact your here just proves what i already know. i'll have my eye on you, and if you so much as blink the wrong way, i have no problem sending a message back to the rest of the pack through you."

sternberg styracosaur made a sound of approval... his horn never once even remotely pointing away from me...

i won't lie, i was scared. lance along with his huge body size was scary, that along having a fully grown bull ceratopsian honing his deadly nose at me like a gun.

at the same time i was getting angry. i'm not proud of it. i like to try to behave like a civilized individual (in other words like a human), but some of my tyrannosaurian instincts were being tiggered by this encounter. i was getting uncontrollably anger at their claiming i was as bad as my cousin larry, and basically calling me a lier.

this anger prompted me to something rather brave for me. "if i was in the pack, what possible trouble could i do here at the tyrrell?" i challenged him. "they already took over this place, and kicked the rest of you out. if i'm this infiltrator you keep going on about, why would i be here where it is only pack members i could see. that would clearly break my cover!"

"don't feign ignorance," lance glared at me with full hatred. "why do you think i am here? the professor knows about this new scheme of the pack's ... you're being here makes perfect sense. what with your close personal past to the subject and all..." lance paused.

what was he going on about? obviously the pack was up to something, but as far as i could tell they were always up to something. had someone seen my bump in with that albertosaur the other day and mistaken that for a "pack meeting" or something? what this "close personal past to the subject" he mentioned? sadly his dismissing me, didn't give me any further clues...

"be warned primordial, and pass it on to your kin. surrender that which is not yours, or else central may not overlook the dominance we've allowed you at this museum... trust me when i say you'll regret coming into conflict with us!" lance stated in a stone cold tone.

i could see no use in trying to convincing these guys i had nothing to do with the pack, they had their minds set on the subject... thankfully having said that, lance and sternberg both stormed off. the parasaurolophus had slipped away unnoticed in the middle of the confrontation.

man oh man. i'm not sure who disliked who more: lance or me. i guess he won as his hatred of me has been sparked by nothing other what i am. i like to think i have the moral high ground, as my not liking him is based on who he is, not what he is!

i'm now getting worried that this, whole me being associated with the pack thing might stick. if that were the case than i'd have to avoid all other vivus dinosaurs! they'd either hate me for not being in the pack, or worse yet hate me for thinking i was in the pack!

i also had slight anxiety over what the pack might be up to? after all, lance had just said he and professor paradigm were here due to them. if the stories i'd been hearing were true, paradigm and lance were key members of palaeo central, and central only deals with BIG problems to the science of palaeontology. meaning that larry and the other coelurosaurs must have been up to something really bad for lance to be here trying to stop them...

as i walked into the museum i tried to sweep all this aside. it wasn't my problem, nor could i let it be. if i poked around, i could end up on the wrong side of either the pack (that albertosaur had wanted to forcibly take me into his custody) or lance (who'd just threatened to harm me).

no i was just going to stick to my current project, of finding a lost quarry of francis slate. it would be productive, keep me away from trouble, and mean i would still have fun!

or at least i hoped it would. as much as i'm trying to forget this whole lance/pack incident, it creeping its way into my thoughts, and causing me to stop enjoying myself, and worry...