Into the dragon's lair

28 August 2008 Xining to Wulan, Qinghaoi Province
0730. We had breakfast and headed to the Xining Airport to pick up our fearless leader Xiaoming. The day began with a steady rain shower throughout the city, with temperature lingering at around the mid 60's degrees Farenheit.

[Gabriella overlooking the shoulder of Ning Wang, who navigates Xining traffic going out of town]

Xiaoming's flight arrived on time in Xining from Beijing. Our crew is ready to go. We drove west into the mountain ranges marking the gateway to the heart of the Tibetan Plateau. We passed Qinghai Lake, the largest lake in China, along the way.

[Xiaoming riding a yak on a mountain pass near Qinghai Lake to start off our field season]

The people of Qinghai Province are composed of Han Chinese, Muslims, Tibetans, and other minor ethnicities. Yaks and sheep are the main livestock of the local herders, and many of them are found along the side of the road as photogenic spots for passing tourists.

[our caravan traveling along a railroad traversing a mountain range on the northwestern edge of the Tibetan Plateau]

We rode into the town of Wulan at around 1830. After finding a hotel along the main (and only) street, we had beef and lamb for dinner. Around the dinner table we discussed the plan for tomorrow: we are only 174 kilometers from our first field area, Huaitoutala. We will drive to the nearby city of Delingha, buy food and fuel, and head into Huaitoutala to set up our base camp.

Our morale is high; everyone is looking forward to starting our work, after almost a week's worth of driving across China.



The peaceful city of the west: Xining

27 August 2008. Xining, Qinghai Province

We set out for Xining from Lanzhou around 0800 this morning, after enjoying the symbolic beef noodle soup, a specialty of the city. The broth recipe is passed down as top secret, which is enjoyed in the tummies of generations of local Lanzhou residents. Be careful of the cold dishes in the noodle houses, though; they can provide a less pleasant gastrointestinal experience if consumed too liberally.

[breakfast time at a local noodle house in Lanzhou, Gansu Province]

After a 2.5-hour drive of 174 kilometers to Xining, we settled down in a motel next to the main square. After some excellent dumplings in a local restaurent opened by a couple from Shandong Province, we went shopping for acetone. We are spending the night here in the city. Tomorrow we will drive to the Xining Airport to pick up Xiaoming, our fearless leader, before heading west into the Tibetan Plateau.

[a landmark site in Xining, Qinghai Province: the observation tower where the head of the Nanliang State inspected his army in 414 A.D.]

We purchased a case of acetone to use in mixing glue necessary for stabilizing fragile fossil specimens. Xining is the last major city where acetone is available before we head into the Chaidamu Basin, where we will begin our fieldwork. We will purchase gasoline cans and water jugs once inside the Basin, before we go deep into the desert to camp.

[a medicine shop in Xining, Qinghai Province where we got some medicine for the field]

Our expedition team is relative small this year:

Dr. Xiaoming Wang (LACM)
Dr. Guangpu Xie (Gansu Provincial Museum)
Dr. Qiang Li (IVPP)
Dr. Ning Wang (IVPP)
Fuqiao Shi (IVPP)
Qiuyuan Wang (IVPP)
Min Zhao (Beijing University)
Jack Tseng (LACM / USC)

The weather in Xining is overcast, with dark rain cloud looming in the north, with light breeze at ~5 miles per hour, and daytime high of 70 degrees F.


Day 4: reunion in Lanzhou

Lanzhou, Gansu Province

After traveling more than 1600 kilometers (994 miles) from Beijing, we pulled into the Gansu Provincial Museum, our expedition crew meeting point. The museum is in the city of Lanzhou, in the northern Chinese province of Gansu. Tomorrow we will set out west for Xining, Qinghai Province, and purchase supplies.

This is the first message sent with our laptop, equipped with a fancy antenna to connect to the World Wide Web using local cell phone signals.

[our nifty field computer, seen here in Lanzhou]


Jack 志杰