Been a while since I updated the blog, but winter is a slower time on the fossil front. Compared to last winter, even purchases are down as I either have most of the stuff on offer, it's too expensive, or it's not in pristine condition. But I do have a trilobite coming in a few weeks, and one other I received not long ago. This post will be a potpourri of odds and ends. Lots of stuff coming up...
Pictured here is a wee Acastoides sp. from Morocco. It was cheap and very nicely articulated, so I added it to the trilobite family. I've also had a bit more cash in the PayPal account due to selling some surplus trilobites.
I also managed to spend an afternoon adding to my trilobite sketchbook with these two Russian beauties.
It's a rock! No, not just a rock, but a Russian rock, and a Russian rock containing an asaphid I am currently preparing. Due to the nature of the matrix, and my current tools, this is a 100-200 hour job. I'll create a separate post when it's done.
Hobbling my preparation efforts has been a clogged air hose, likely in the built-in moisture trap for my Paasche AECR. One might think a basic air hose with a 1/4" - 1/16" would be a cinch to replace, but three hours of hardware store visits and plenty of time searching the web says otherwise. I finally got my part and am ready to get to the next critical phase in the prep, which involves swapping between scribing and abrading due to the stickiness of the matrix.
And that wasn't the whole of my prep equipment frustrations, either. I had just been talking with my friend Kevin, saying that I've gone over a year without needing a filter on my lines. Well, no sooner than I said that, the scribe starts acting more like a garden hose. So a trip to Princess Auto to fix that, and to locate a replacement hose (see above). I was also having serious air leak issues, and teflon tape for my big clumsy fingers usually results in my exhausting all the blue words I know, so I've gone for thread sealant instead. The filter/desiccant has already made for a much drier scribing experience. Nothing can be more frustrating than doing precision work under the scope while maintaining critical control of the tool than when it sprays water all over the fossil, turning scribing dust into cakey, opaque mud. And also pictured is a resupply of those handy nitrile gloves.
So when is the first dig of 2019? I'm hoping this weekend, weather and opportunity pending. I've got some other trips planned, too. It will be fantastic to get this season rolling and spend time with my favourite field comrades again as we swing hammers as spring clamours!
It is raining today, and looks to be mild and almost springlike going into March... But I will err on the side of caution and say it is a false spring just so I don't get my hopes up if the polar vortex returns.
A good haul of things came for me today:
A common, but welcome Gerastos tuberculatus marocensis from Morocco. Many online dealers misname this as Gerastos granulosus, but no such species is identified from Morocco.
This is Coltraneia oufatenensis, a very distinct Devonian phacopid from Morocco, and the only trilobite named after a musician (John Coltrane). Note the tall eyes on this crazy looking trilobite
I desperately needed a new fossil hunting backpack. My old one, which was really just an appropriated school backpack, had to be turfed after my terminally ill cat Portia had peed on it. And cat pee almost never goes away. But this one is extremely sturdy with loads of compartments, handles, and clips. It is going to be a great mobile kit to carry my expanding range of tools and containers.
Winter is still dragging, and so one is forced to trade in the rock hammer for the credit card, or otherwise engage in some friendly fossil trades. Today was a good one for receiving a few new delights.
This might not be exciting to, well, anyone, but I quite desperately needed this prep tool. This is a double-collared pin vice that will make any of my pin-prepping much easier. Up until now, I've been holding the sewing needle between my fingertips, and after a while my hand starts to cramp. This tool will give me much more control. This tool didn't quite break the bank at about a dollar, free shipping.
This was part of a marvellous package sent to me by Hong Chan Ui from South Korea. I had sent him a package of trilobites last month with a few other fossil goodies, and he in turn sent me two trilobite species I don't have and also perked the package with some South Korean coins and tektites. How cool is that! The specimen above is a partial pygidium of the rare Ordovician asaphid, Dolerobasilicus sp. from Taebaek, Gongwon-Do, South Korea.
This glorious Devonian phacopid in the same package is Mrakibina cattoi from the El Oftal formation Jebel Mrakib, Ma'der, Alnif, Morocco. A near cousin of Greenops. The preservation detail and preparation is just remarkable.
This large Silurian phacopid was an eBay steal. Meet Coronocephalus gaoluoensis, coming in at 7 cm, or 3 inches long. Note the impressive pygidial spikes, if not the crazy number of segments. You usually find these as pygidia only. This is from Hunan Province, China.
These new acquisitions surely take a bit of the grinding gloom out of winter. But, as always, stay tuned: six or more bugs are still on their way, and it isn't even the official start of the 2018 collecting season yet!
It begins! - Or, it should fairly shortly as more spring-like weather arrives. We are due for a major dig at Penn Dixie over Easter with some of our intrepid friends from The Fossil Forum. Pictured above are three new tools to add to my arsenal: a 10 lb sledge, a 5 lb wedge, and a mattock. The first two will be ideal for working smarter, not harder, in popping out Windom shale slabs, while the mattock will be good for chopping through overburden (if not also playing in the Arkona mud-shale).
Due to a surprise flood of unanticipated work this spring and summer, it doesn't look like Morocco is in the cards this year. However, trips to Penn Dixie, Arkona, Collingwood, and possibly Lake Simcoe look entirely doable. I have a feeling this year will be filled with new and great finds, so do come back as the warm weather sets in!
The first step is admitting one has a problem!
When Deb and I went to the Home Depot to pick up some foam to seal an area around the pipe, I found myself "wandering" over to the hammer section where I pondered whether to buy a 3' wrecking bar to supplement my smaller pry bar, a new cold chisel with a longer head, and a 4lb blacksmith sledge to go with my regular 4lb sledge. Deb played enabler by telling me I should get them. So I did. But that obliged me to try them out since we are planning to return to Penn Dixie in early October.
So we went to Arkona's Hungry Hollow. And let me tell you that lugging that many pounds of tools and supplies around through a lot of brush and tough terrain ain't always easy!
Unless one wants to be contented with surface collecting of whatever stuff may weather out of the cliff through the process of erosion, the only real and serious way to get at some very nice specimens is to carve slabs out of the wall for splitting. To do that, one has to create a "bench," which is like a long notch in the wall where one can sit and lever out slabs to the left, right, and down.
So we were ready to get started on continuing a bench in the cliff face we found some months back, that we've been steadily extending. I worked a bit on an upper bench that I eventually connected to the lower bench, and created another even lower bench than the one Deb was working on. Having the 3' wrecking bar was making this a lot more efficient (but still back breaking work!). It isn't easy making benches, or even sometimes extending them - there can be a crazy amount of overburden clumped together and slumped over. I've had to go through several feet of the stuff in depth before hitting the actual wall. The other problem can be natural underground springs that leak through the shale, making it wet, muddy, and crumbly. There are plenty of fossils in those, but they just crumble or turn to mud. One has to go deeper into the wall to find dry shale.
Once we were able to cut deep into the cliff face, we found that some of the more trilobite-filled layers were within about a 4 inch area. This picture hardly does any justice to how much rock and overburden was removed. This multi-level bench is aboout 3-4' deep, 7-8' high, and about 15' wide. At a few points I was able to exploit a major crack or fissure to send a few hundred pounds of debris and shale chips tumbling down. There are layers that are just choked with large spirifers. I found a few that had some nautiloids more commonly spread throughout.
Here you can see the bench-build from two different angles. Again, it's difficult to really convey the amount of work we did.
What does five hours of breaking rock get you? Well, for Deb, a full Greenops widderensis. Given the gazillions of moult pieces we keep finding in the Widder Formation, a full specimen is not common. And they are very delicate, so we took several precautions in transport back to the car. But, just to put the spotlight on Deb - this was her fantastic fossil find.
And I'll end his post with just some recent pics as I try to organize some of the recent and past finds. The first is a tray with bays - on the left mostly complete prone and semi-prone Eldredgeops rana; in the centre my accumulation of crinoid stems and sections; on the right a hodge-podge of mostly complete rollers with one Crassiproetus marginatus(?) pygidium since I haven't found a home for it. The final image below is my fully prepped out double roller from Penn Dixie.