Mangya, "The vast cliffs"

18 September 2008. Mangya, Qinghai Province

[the edge of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region]

Thank you all for your encouraging feedback; we have reached the western edge of the Chaidamu Basin. We drove out to the western Kunlun Mountain, the continuation of the Xidatan area we were in over a week ago.

We ventured briefly into Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region before turning back. We were over 1,100 kilometers from the next town within Xinjiang, therefore did not have enough fuel to complete this trek. Our expedition did not plan to go there in the first place, but only to mark a new boundary to our explorations.

We surveyed the Youshashan, Shizigou, and Ganchaigou Formations. Even though mammal fossils are not known from this area in the five decade long presence of the Qinghai Petroleum Geologists, this area is nevertheless the type section of these formations. This means the strata here represent the standard with which to define other contemporaeous sedimentary deposits of the basin.

Tomorrow we will drive back east to Olongbuluk Mountain, to work a few more days in the Chuanshuiliang area, where we discovered a rich mammal fauna earlier in the season.

The weather has been overcast, with daytime high temperature around the upper 60s degrees F. The hill tops are chilly though, as the wind blows from the snow-capped peaks of the Kunlun Mountains.



Eboliang, graveyard of dreams

16 September 2008. Huatugou, stone's throw from Xinjiang.

We spent five days in Eboliang, arguably the most inaccessible hill in all of the Chaidamu Basin. We were tight on gasoline going in, so there was little room for a wrong turn or getting stuck in the rolling sand dunes.

[looking towards Eboliang, in this photo only as a dark band of rock on the horizon]

[after 11.5 hours, we finally reached our 2006 campsite, recognizing our tracks in the sand]

[our base camp]

we did not find as many fossils here as in other localities. However, in addition to more fossil fish specimens, we discovered the first small mammal skull and pieces of the large mammal known as chalicotheres. It took some intense hiking in strong northwesterly wind, and we pulled camp after exhausting our food supply.

Next, we will work in the Huatugou area for a few days, looking for Pliocene deposits of ancient lakes and the fossil animals preserved within.