Scouting trip: Day 2

15 May 2009. Xilinhot to Abaga Qi, Inner Mongolia

0730. We left "Jinbihuihuang" hotel, had a quick breakfast (I must remember not to eat the cold preserved vegetables). We got ~10 L of #97 gasoline for the generator, and drove on west towards Abaga Qi (~90 km). We stopped at a brick factory on the way, where we found a few bone fragments (Hongjiang said rhino teeth were found here years ago).

After our arrival in Abaga, we saw that the Abaga Hotel is under renovation. We were led to a smaller motel by Hongjiang's colleage Wu Baoliang (director of the local cultural survey). We then headed to the general store (on the same street as the old Abaga Hotel) to buy shovel handles, pick-ax, nylon bags for matrix, water jugs, face masks, and asked around for plaster (we won't buy any burlap and plaster until the excavation in June).

1430. We drove to IM0704 to check out the current state of the exposures, and there are three or four possibilities for the full scale excavation. We visited IM0703 shortly after. Now I have a better idea about what to accomplish in June.

[The site of an ancient stone-covered grave which was probably sacked during the past decade by a one of the many groups of grave-robbers]

-IM0703 is very restricted in area, and the sediment is soft. Unless there is nothing further at IM0704, we should not spend too much time (if any) there.

[Field vehicles driving towards the Baogeda Ula tableland]

-the north side of IM0704 is clear (not covered by large basalt chunks) but steep; the fossilifoerous layer is thin, and a lot of grey overburden is present. The southeast side where I dug into two femoral heads is geologically complex, with potential sliding of edge sediment downward. The fossils there are large in size but appear scattered on the suface. The other possibilities are near where the Hipparion was extracted in 2007; the degree of fossil concentration there is satisfactory. I would like to concentrate on that part for the excavation. The surface overburden is soft, but the layers immediately above the fossiliferous stratum are hard, and will probably require the jackhammer which needs to be carried up the wash (it's too difficult from the top because the basalt chunks are very slippery).

[Crew digging a test hole in the southeast slope of IM0703]



Scouting trip prior to the 2009 excavation: Day 1

14 May 2009. Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia

0730. We took the whole day on the 13th driving from Beijing (left at 0700 and arrived at 1620). We had lunch in Taipusi Qi, as in 2007. We had dinner at Yinghe duck restaurant with Hongjiang and his colleagues from the cultural station.

After discussion with Li Qiang, we concluded that we will first visit a new locality south (~56 km) of Xilinhot, where Teilhard de Chardin may have visited in the 1920's.

1010. N 43º35' E 116º37' elevation 1197 m. "Gunaimiao". This was our first stop; we found fossil fragments weathered on the surface of red clay (alternating with layer of grey clay).

[The site of the Gunai Temple, at the center of the photo to the right of the farm houses; the Xilin River snakes through the valley where the French priest and geologist Teilhard de Chardin once visited]

1133. After driving further west, we came to a large exposure. We decided to spend some time prospecting here. The beds are alternating red and white, each being several meters in thickness. I did not find any fossils; the sediment is fine and silty.

We wrapped up our work around 1700, and headed for Dalai Nor. We paid 40 RMB each to get into the reserve. After a few photos by the lake, we went back to Xilinhot. On the way we had to stop in the village of Bayanxihe to get our Jitian SUV fixed. The coolant had drained out from a crack in one of the tubings.

[Li Qiang strolls down an abandoned deck on the northern shores of Dalai Nor, another site described by Teilhard de Chardin during his travels in Inner Mongolia]


LACM not in 2009 Tibet expedition

10 August 2009. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada:

After a long hiatus, I can finally access the blog site again and post updates!

Blogspot has been unavailable within China for the past three months, thus we have not been able to post field updates from our Inner Mongolia excavation project (which was a big success!).

We have been on hold since July to learn the outcome of our permit application to conduct an expedition in the Zhada Basin (western Tibet) with the IVPP. My application was just denied, thus there will be no LACM participants this year on the expedition (Gary and Xiaoming are busily working on the new exhibits).

I will try to post the backlog of field notes and photos from our recent Inner Mongolia project to give you a sense of the day-to-day excitement we experienced while opening up a hole in the ground full of fossils!

Writing from the University of Alberta,