Welcome to Sebei

11 September 2008 Donglingqiu to Sebei.

We are back in the sunshine again.

We are working in the hear of the Chaidamu Basin, where sand stretches beyond the imagination.

Fossils? Not so much. I had to hike 9 miles to find NOTHING. Not to despair, we shall prevail. In the past several days we have been finding mostly fossil fish fragments, and only a few mammal bones (nothing identifiable to family).

We returned to Donglingqiu because of Mr. Gary Takeuchi's discovery of a single beaver tooth in 2005. Nothing more was found this year.

We are now in the oilfield station of Sebei; we have gained access to the refinery, so we could fuel up in the middle of nowhere.

Tomorrow we will attempt the ~6 hour drive to Eboliang, the supposed mecca of fossil fishes (geologists back in the day reported rich fish fossils by the bucket).



"The Majestic Kunlun, Master of all Mountains"

9 September 2008, Geermu.

We have once again been denied an exploration of the depths of Kunlun. Unlike the car accident in 2007 that made us back off, this year it was the snow. We waited out the storm, but at the mountain pass the road stayed slick and icy, and north-bound traffic has been totally cut off.

We packed up our gear and drove back to Geermu. Tomorrow we are driving deep to the center of the basin, exploring the sandy and vast terrains of Donglingqiu, Eboliang, and Yahu.

Here are some photos of Kunlun as we attempted its snowy peaks:

[mouth of Kunlun]

[Xiaoming in front of the Yuzhu Peak]


[it's cold!]



Snowed out

9 September 2008. Kunlun Mountain

The road up to the mountain pass is treacherous. We were forced to turn back for a few miles to wait for an improvement in the weather.

14,100 feet

8 September 2008, Kunlun Mountain Pass.

The trails are too muddy for our vehicles to pass; we could not get to the microfossil locality KL0402 where we had planned to sample 150 bags of sediment to transport down to Geermu.

En route to Xidatan, our base of operations, I got video footage of the snowy peaks in high definition. Even though we do not have enough bandwidth to upload these videos, I will post them on the web once we return to Beijing.

With the microfossil activity suspended, we drove to several localities to survey the local geology and stratigraphic relationship among the known strata here: the Triassic basement rock, the early/middle Miocene Kunlun Formation, and the fossiliferous late Pliocene Qiangtang Formation.

At around 1630, we got caught in a snowstorm. We continued hiking across several areas to observe the displaced sediments along the Kunlun fault, the result of a 8.1 magnitude earthquake on the mountain pass in 2001.

We are now back in our restaurant shack, huddled around the stove and drying our pants. The owners are making dinner for us, and we are discussing the various rocks and minerals we collected in the field today.

The sky is overcast, the glaciers adjacent to Xidatan are extended far down near the base of the mountain range. The temperature is in the 40's F, but will drop as the sun sets. Overnight snow is expected.



Dizzy, but still rising towards the sky

7 September 2008. Geermu, Qinghai Province.

The city of Geermu is our last stop before driving above 14,000 feet.

We left the lower-elevation localities behind today. At the Olongbuluk Mountain area, our elevation ranged around 2,945 to 2,995 meter (nearly 9,000 feet). The largest fossil mammals found there were extinct elephants of the genus Tetralophodon.

We left fossils from 102 localities in a storage room in Delingha. We packed all of our warm clothes and containers for gasoline and water this morning, and drove around 300 miles to Geermu. After reaching Geermu, a sleepy city near the base of the majestic Kunlun Mountain range, we purchased last minute material needed for our work tomorrow.

During dinner, we hosted our associate at the Qinghai Petroleum Company. He helped us navigate the tough terrains of the southern Chaidamu Basin and provide us with gasoline deep into the desert where they have oil-fields. As part of the "proud" Chinese tradition, we had a huge dinner with plenty of Baijiu, the grain alcohol (56% alcohol by volume) served at all diplomatic and business events. Today was not particularly bad for us, as our associate only drank one cup (I had three cups, therefore I forgot to take photos of this event).

Tomorrow we will take the 2.5 hour drive upward along the Geermu River. Kunlun Pass is legendary in Chinese folklore and history, for its harsh environment. We are sure to see more snow than our previous trips here because of the late field season, but we are excited to bring footages of the highest fossil locality in the world to you all!

Our fields supplies are in good condition; we used around 35% of our plaster bandages for making field jackets in the past week, leaving us with around 78 more plaster bandages. We purchased 10 liters of acetone for the season, but have only used around 2 liters for making glue for stabilizing fossil specimens.

Stay tuned for photos of snowy peaks...

From the chilly city of Geermu, land of dust storms,