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Narrative Essay: Resurrecting the Cretaceous


The Amateur Paleontologist

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The Amateur Paleontologist

Looking through @KansasFossilHunter's blog, I saw one of his posts was a "narrative essay" (you should check it out, it's really good! :)). This gave me the idea to write an account of one of my MKFE fossil hunts. I hope you guys enjoy it!

 

 

Resurrecting the Cretaceous

 

            The fine, almost mist-like rain fell gently in sheets and imbued the skin of my face. Despite the lack of intensity, this slow downpour had been going on for the past half hour, and water was starting to seep through my clothing. I was beginning feel very cold.

A loud metallic clank (presumably from a hammer) brought me back to the task at hand. I looked around. In front of me, the white chalk cliffs of Møns Klint towered, shrouded in a veil of thick fog. I could hear behind me the sound of waves ploughing through innumerable pebbles of flint. The entire atmosphere felt… otherworldly – I was almost expecting to see the large head of a mosasaur, breaching through the turbulent waters of the Tethys- no, the Baltic sea. Indeed, this cliff was highly fossiliferous – it could almost be considered as some marine “graveyard” from the Late Cretaceous.

 

            I got back to work. I was currently excavating a tubular and hollow fossil. At the time, I couldn’t identify it. With the aid of small dental tools, I chipped the soft rock encapsulating the fossil. I felt the fragment come loose, and tensed in anticipation as I gently pried the fossil from its chalky tomb. As I began to safely wrap it in kitchen paper, I looked momentarily back at the excavation site and saw something rather unexpected: the same pattern of the fossil I had just pulled out of the rock. There was more of this fossil. Armed with my small metallic pick, I continued working around the unidentified invertebrate fragment. What was it? Some weirdly preserved crinoid? Focus, Christian. You can ID it later. This was getting very strenuous. The cold, the exhaustion… I toiled on, nevertheless, with grim determination. Shortly after, I got another fragment out of the chalk. This stuff was really brittle, it was already starting to crumble in my hands as I was wrapping it. If only I had taken some PVA.

 

            As I thought that that was the end of it, I went back to the cliff wall to gather my tools. I looked back up. Don’t tell me… The fossil was still continuing!

Alright then. Time to get out the big guns. Ignoring my family’s requests that I speed up a bit (fossil excavation takes time, alright?), I picked up my hammer and chisel. Small wet bits of chalk flecking my coat, I started hammering off chunks of chalky overburden. I repositioned my chisel so as to slightly modify the angle at which I was striking the rock.

I soon saw a thin crack appearing, meaning that the piece of rock containing the fossil was starting to come loose. I gave a few more taps with my hammer, and then pried off the matrix-surrounded fossil.

 

            It really wasn’t surprising that there was still more of the fossil in the cliff face. Let’s hope this is the last bit. After all, the visible diameter of this invertebrate seemed to have decreased as I uncovered more of the fossil.

Reiterating the work I had been doing up until now, I pried rock from around the “calcareous tube”.

Just as I was asking myself if this fossil would ever reach an end, the rock started to come loose. Once the fossil was wrapped in kitchen paper, I looked back at the cliff wall. There was no more trace of the fossil. Finally. I used my dental pick to scrape a bit around, just to make sure.

 

            We packed up the fossils and gathered the tools, ready to leave – and say goodbye to Møns Klint :(  I was going to miss that place.

Just as we were about to head up the long cliff-front staircase to get back to the parking, my mum picked up a large block of chalk for me to work on – once back at home. Why hadn’t I thought about that before?

 

            Safely seated in my parents’ car, I looked out of the window. The atmosphere still felt “prehistoric”: the slight hint of fog, the damp trees shivering in the wind, even the bumpy dirt road… At this moment, I really wouldn’t have been surprised to see a flock of small velociraptorine dromaeosaurs, crashing through the undergrowth and rushing to the opposite side of the road. It was almost as if my fossil excavations had brought back to life animals long gone, from the Late Cretaceous.

 

 

N. B. Subsequent research indicated the fossil I was excavating was a serpulid polychaete

 

 

5b000a0c707fa_ScreenShot2018-05-19at13_26_03.png.c727b003d561a2779eb8c087ac8316d0.png

Field photography of the in situ serpulid (in the black circle). The end of a chisel is in the left

 

 

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FossilSniper

This is great! I love the imagery.
My english teacher would give you an A. :) 
Can we see the fossil once the excavation from the matrix is done? I am very interested!
FS

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The Amateur Paleontologist

Thanks for the kind words, @FossilSniper!

 

Here are some pictures :)

 

5b0175088e249_ScreenShot2018-05-19at22_19_34.png.a6bfd300f242df95708b61749e1c5e79.png

The "fog-shrouded" cliffs (photography taken from the excavation site)

 

5b0177c972d09_ScreenShot2018-05-20at15_25_39.png.dd382db30b0b3a2577def9bef40e3a29.png

A view of the excavation site; the black circle denotes the approximate area where the fossil was found

 

5b017a536d627_ScreenShot2018-05-20at15_29_44.png.a03194f8ea0e2782c9108bf465c9c54a.png

Large extremity of the serpulid (what was visible before excavation)

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The Amateur Paleontologist

5b017b6cce0d6_ScreenShot2018-05-20at15_41_41.png.521d7b23f68f068b3264578b402d5948.png

Small extremity of the serpulid

 

5b017b9b809d6_ScreenShot2018-05-20at15_42_10.png.18c1420861bbb22d8ad9f57653cecd60.png

Complete view of the fossil (small extremity in black circle and large extremity in yellow circle). Note the brachiopod fragment near the serpulid

 

 

->The fossil was discovered and collected on the 12th August 2016 at the Echinoderm Quarry

->Preparation of the specimen begun on the 18th of May 2018

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FossilSniper

The scenery is very beautiful, and I like how you put it into words.
Thanks for sharing. :) 

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KansasFossilHunter

This is great! Excellent pictures and story. I wrote that post you mentioned way back when I was in high school but I've recently been meaning to expand on it or do something more recent. Maybe I'll have to give that a shot. Thanks for the inspiration!

 

 

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The Amateur Paleontologist

@KansasFossilHunter Glad you liked it! Maybe you could write an account of the day you found that amazing Ichthyornis specimen?

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gwestbrook

Love the essay! I felt like I was right there as I read it. Thanks so much for sharing! 

 

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