The UGS paleontology field program, Jim Kirkland, Don DeBlieux, and Scott Madsen, recently complete 2 weeks of field work at our Stike’s Quarry dinosaur site in eastern Utah. This spectacular site has been the subject of news reports earlier this summer and is the site where a episode of the Discovery Channel television show Dirty Jobs was filmed in 2011. This site contains the well-preserved remains of numerous dinosaurs, including adult and juvenile Utahraptor skeletons. We have had difficulty removing the bones from this site because there are so many clustered together. Because they are packed so closely together, we have had to use plaster and burlap to jacket a large block with the hope of one day using a large cargo helicopter to fly the block – now on the order of 5 tons – off of the large mesa on which it is located. The large number of bones at this site, along with the nature of the sediments that they are preserved in, leads us to hypothesize that the animals were trapped in a dewatering feature (something similar to quicksand). Our work this September focused on further excavating, isolating, and pedestaling the main block. Work was initially hampered by several days of rain which pinned our team in camp unable to work or leave because the ground and roads became muddy and impassible.
As the weather cleared,
we were able to make good progress with an electric powered jack-hammer and pneumatic chisels to remove rock from around and under the block. This was not the fine-detail, dental pick, and paint brush paleontology that many picture – but back breaking manual labor more akin to highway construction!
Many tons of rock where removed by hand and a tunnel was completed under the jacket leaving it on two large pedestals.
The exposed rock around the bone was covered in plaster to protect it from the elements. Our final task to ready the block for transport, is to construct a wooden timber frame and box around the jacket to reinforce and stabilize it. We hope to complete this work in the Spring of 2014. We were assisted in the field by several volunteers from the Utah Friends of Paleontology. The excavation was conducted under a permit from the State of Utah. The BLM allowed us access to the site.