Thursday, 3 March 2011

Still Producing

The following post is one of the final two entries regarding field trips to Quarry 4 before its eventual closure.

During November, it was obvious that Autumn was fading away and that the full effect of winter was on its troublesome path. The amount of rain was increasing and the temperature was dropping rapidly. It had been hard to visit Quarry 4 for some time because we all had other commitments but we all knew that trips would become extremely limited this winter.

Firstly, now that the quarry was no longer being worked, water build up would be considerable since there were no new trenches and there were no pumps to keep the water level under control. Secondly, it was now that the quarry was due to be flooded anyway. Although the date was not cast in stone, it was always a possibility that this could happen. So we planned a trip for early November.

The weather in the immediate couple of weeks leading up to the trip was a bit of a mixture. Although there had been quite heavy rain, this was interspersed with some dry days and I figured that conditions would not be too bad. Mark couldn’t make the trip because of a back problem so it would be Cliff, Carl and myself.

The weather was forecast to be kind to us on the day and sure enough it was a bright sunny morning as I pulled up to the quarry. Cliff was already there and it was only 5 minutes more when Carl joined us. We quickly kitted ourselves up and made our way into the quarry. Initially the quarry looked fairly water free but looks can be deceiving.

As we dropped into the quarry it became obvious that the quarry was extremely wet and cloggy underfoot but still there was no surface water. We headed to the area that was the most productive throughout the year as I wanted to look for more teeth and this area had produced several teeth during the last few trips.

However there had been a natural breech in one corner of the quarry wall and a fair torrent of water was gushing in. It brought down with it some of the surrounding clay and discarded bricks that lined the edge of the quarry. The main tooth bearing area was flooded and the fish bearing strata was also under water. Not much but enough to be a pain and the water was interspersed with little islands of clay that could be searched.

Undeterred we started to prospect. Cliff had already picked up a delightful little digit bone from a plesiosaur when he spotted a piece of rib sticking out from one of those little dry spots, only a few yards away from where the water was pouring in. As he cleaned it off, Carl pointed out that he actually had a massive Liopleurodon tooth.

We could hardly believe it! Although the tip was missing the tooth was truly massive, as big as some tyrannosaur teeth. Although it wasn’t as pristine as Carl’s tooth (see here), what it lacked it completeness it made up for in attitude. A truly wonderful example. We all busily returned to the hunt.

Cliff really started to produce the goods finding a super Hypsocormus jaw with a few in situ teeth and yet another nice vertebra from the ichthyosaur bed. There is obviously a disarticulated specimen somewhere in the area but finding it is impossible although the odd bone keeps popping out and further recovery seems unlikely if the quarry is flooded.

He also found yet more scrappy Leedsichthys bone and another superb belemnite. While he was doing this Carl and I were struggling although Carl slowly started to get his eye in and found a small plesiosaur tooth and metriorhynchid tooth. I, on the other hand, was finding it hard but that’s how it is sometimes.

As the day wore on we slowly covered a large area of the quarry although nothing of significance could be found. We returned to the Lepidotes bed and sure enough recovered yet more scales although it was apparent that this area was becoming exhausted.

We called it quits later in the afternoon and made arrangements to meet again. We hoped to get down during December for one last trip before Christmas – flood waters permitting. Every trip to Quarry 4 may be the last one now so we intended to make the most of it.

But admittance to Quarry 5 really was edging closer now and we all hoped to move onto pastures new in the new year.


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