Thursday, 21 April 2011

A New Field Season & Other Snippets


As we went into April this year the weather really took a turn for the better and the unseasonably warm weather heralded in the start of the new field season. The Bluff beckoned and I was soon heading south and back into the Weald.

I was looking forward to seeing how my “cultivated” areas of clays and shales had fared throughout the Winter and to see if my raking up of the sediments had helped to expose any new fossil material. It really was a beautiful morning and, after signing in and talking to a few colleagues, I was soon heading into the quarry.

As I arrived at the top of the Bluff and looked down, the first thing that struck me was how high the water level had risen again – even higher than last Winter. This was disappointing and made travelling around the quarry awkward and long winded and I was surprised that the water had not been maintained at a lower level.

I stepped onto the bone bed on the south east face and began to prospect. Yet again it was obvious how we desperately needed new scrapings to facilitate our search for fossils. Undeterred I began the search in earnest and carefully worked my way to the first of my prepared areas where bone had occasionally cropped out over the last few years.

The first thing that occurred to me was how different the prepared bed looked from before. The raking up and natural erosion of the last seven months had certainly made a difference. But was there any new bone to find? Despite spending a considerable amount of time on the area, I failed to turn up a single fossil. I was quite disappointed.

Still it was worth a go and I then crossed the dirt track and continued the search in the same bed. This was another spot that had turned up crocodile teeth and scutes over the years but there was hardly any difference to the clay and sandstone from last Autumn and, unsurprisingly, nothing was found.

It was time to visit my second prepared area, the fish beds on the western bank. The high water was slapping right in to the base of these shales although it hadn’t actually reached the fossil bearing beds. Despite the previous raking of the shales, I have to say that they did not look all that different and, as I began the search in earnest, I knew in my heart that there would be very little to find. Unfortunately, I was proven right and found nothing.

I have to admit to feeling a little despondent and as I sat down for a bite to eat, I actually wondered, for the first time, if it was worth the trip. But the feeling soon passed and it was time to start the search on the northern face. This too was a struggle but at least I managed to winkle out a partial croc tooth which was something at least.

A little later I was having a chat with one of my colleagues who told me something that may be the turn around in fortune we all need. It seems that one of the maintenance crew has revealed that the owners of the brickworks, at long last, are looking to reopen the site late 2011 or early 2012, provided economic conditions are favourable.

This has still to be confirmed of course but if this turns out to be the case then it will mean much needed employment in the local area and, of course, fresh clay will be needed from the Bluff for the works and thus new exposures for us to explore. I cannot stress enough how much this is needed and I hope to confirm this news later this year.

Quarries 4 &5

Those of you familiar with this blog know that Quarry 4 has featured in many posts over the last couple of years and I have enjoyed sharing the story of my times there. Equally, you will also recall that the quarry is now closed and we were hoping to gain access to Quarry 5.

I can confirm that the contractors have almost finished landscaping Quarry 4 and the site is already being slowly flooded and great parts of it are now under water to some degree. The site is strictly off limits with no exceptions which is a shame since it would have nice to see if there was any more Liopleurodon material weathering out of the clay.

I can also confirm that we have gained extremely limited access to Quarry 5 now and the first field trip has taken place with some good finds. However, I am unable to provide any detail or images just now since I have been made aware that there have been one or two issues at the quarry which will need to be resolved before I am able to resume posting and it is possible that there will be a publicity ban regarding the venue.

This is unfortunate but necessary just now and I hope that I will be able to resume posting again in the near future even if it is in some form of reduced capacity. I will keep you informed of any developments.

More Media Issues

Brian Switek’s excellent article “Everybody Loves Tyrannosaurus highlights an issue that has always aggravated us palaeo-types, namely the constant referral of every new palaeontological vertebrate discovery to Tyrannosaurus in one way or the other. This is always under discussion somewhere in the blogosphere or other palaeo-themed websites and it has become a particularly hot topic this year.

Every prehistoric discovery in the news, it seems, has to relate to Tyrannosaurus in one way or another even if it is clearly unrelated. Even if it is a fascinating mammalian discovery from 125 thousand years ago, the writers would normally say that the animal was “….walking around the landscape some 65 million years before Tyrannosaurus.” Why? Completely unrelated.

Everything is related to the tyrant king. All other discoveries are as big as, as powerful as, lived at the same time as etc etc – the list goes on and on. A combination of not understanding the science, headline grabbing and disrespect for the intelligence of the public in general are the main causes for this proliferation of nonsensical comparison.

Brian's article therefore can be considered very timely. Click on the link and go and check it out.

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