Monday, June 6, 2011

Collecting a Xiphactinus: Kansas trip 2

Last week we went on a short trip to our Niobrara sites to collect a large specimen of Xiphactinus that was located by a 4H club member. Unfortunately the member had her boundaries confused, and found it on private property that she did not have permission to scout or collect on. Luckily though, we did. We still decided to nickname this fish "Lois" after the lady that discovered it.

Mike and Jacob in the hole, early in the morning
There was a lot of overburden to remove (volume-wise) because though the specimen wasn't deeply buried, it was spread 3 feet deep into the outcrop, along an exposure 9 feet long. A stirred up 15-17 foot fish is going to require a big hole, there's just no two ways about it. Hand tool digging was difficult, and we quickly escalated the equipment, first to an electric jackhammer (BTW I firmly believe everyone needs one of these things, they're awesome) and later to a bobcat excavator to knock down the bulk if the overburden.

The hole from another angle. Notice back-saving jackhammer!
We did this while it was still cool. Keep in mind this was one of the hottest days of the year. We awoke at 4:30 to get an early start. Funny thing: it doesn't get light this time of year in Gove County till 6:00 or so. Oops. No worries, we were pretty sure we could still get it out in one long day of work.

After bobcat work, expanding the hole to find the perimeter of the specimen

The fish itself was stirred up pretty severely, with the caudal fin exploded, spines everywhere, and the skull and pectoral girdle spread across the length of the excavation. On the bright side, this pile of bones will be a great basis for the restoration of the entire skeleton in a nice panel mount.
Dirty chainsaw work, with Jacob for scale

The stable pieces were removed and 2 jackets were carved out of the chalk with a chainsaw. 8:00 pm and we had it done. Only hit 95 degrees too. Much better than the 108 for a high the next day. I'm still exhausted from the experience.
Cleaning the undercuts in preparation for jacketing

No comments:

Post a Comment