End of Day 1: new locality

7 August 2010. Zhadagou

On our morning excursion we drove to a dead end where a storm during the previous night had washed away sections of the trail. We then turned back and stopped at a promising outcrop which jutted up 200 feet above the road.

Everyone packed their lunch and began tackling the steep hike up to the platform. It took Jack and Gary 18 minutes to get to the top, with falling rock hitting Gary in the right knee once along the way (he is ok).

No sooner had we walked a few ridges over the edge did the first discovery happen: Juan Liu (University of Alberta) had found some vertebral and limb bone fragments which led her to a hillside littered with fossils of all sizes and varieties.

The entire team eventually gathered at her locality, and spent the day prospecting and excavating at ZD1001, the first locality of the season.

By 1700, we had recovered ten different mammals and one kind of small fish. Among the mammals are three-toed horse, rhino, two bovids (one spiral-horned, the other smaller and straighter-horned), a hyena, a cat, a badger, a rabbit, a pika, and a squirrel.

Tomorrow we will split the team, one to continue excavation of the bonebed, the other to explore adjacent hills.

A great first day full of new findings to boost our morale! The weather held up nicely, although ominous clouds caused a brief period of panic when snow was dumped on the peaks just east of us, within an hour's reach by foot-hike.

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Day 1: Zhadagou

7 August 2010. Zhada, Tibet

We finally had a good night's sleep at our home away from home.

Gary and Jack set up the preparation laboratory in their room; acryloid glue was made, curation table was set up, and supplies (plaster bandages, wrapping paper, stationary, specimen bags, etc.) were tallied.

This morning we are driving along Zhadagou in rainy weather (muddy too!), on the western trail of the two routes to the north of town. The Sutlej River is muddy and rapid, indication of continued precipitation in the area.

We hope to revisit the locality ZD0701, where abundant fossils were recovered in 2007.
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Arrived in Zhada

6 August 2010. Zhada County Seat, Tibet

We finally arrived in Zhada today at around 1730. We left Holy
Mountain in the morning, driving west through the village of Menshi,
passing Baer Military Station, and over the hills into Zhada County.

In response to some inquiries (sorry, but limited access here in Tibet
means we cannot successfully post your comments; we really appreciate
the attention though), we did drive most of our journey to Zhada on
G219, sections of which seem to have been under construction for

We encountered a slight mishap on the mountain pass leading into
Zhada; our head vehicle was stopped by a road construction crew which
was paving the one-lane road; our driver got into an argument with the
foremen, and a scuffle ensued which ended peacefully with both sides
backing off. We saw it as a lesson for our city folks to adapt to the
slower way of life in these remote parts of China. Patience is a
prerequisite for this line of work!

This post was sent from an Internet Bar in Zhada; we are staying at
the Chongqing Motel for the duration of our stay in the Zhada Basin.
There are plans to camp out in the remote northwestern area of the
basin sometime within the next 20 days, weather permitting. Thick
clouds passed overhead as we drove in today, and we hope tomorrow the
weather will hold as we begin the first day of fieldwork in Zhada

-The LACM team


Glimpse of Holiness

6 August 2010. Holy Mountain

Two photos from the streets of Holy Mountain. Use of oxygen is recommended when in a hot bath.

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Holy Mountain

6 August 2010. Holy Mountain

After another 18-hour day of driving, we arrived at the foot of the "Holy Mountain" in the county of Pulan. It was already midnight by the time we had a quick dinner.

Road construction made it slow on the go, and the wet weather all around made river crossing detours difficult. The IVPP team, which had previously spent two weeks in the Lunpola Basin, is fatigued and impatient. One can only hope arrival in Zhada will bring morale back up.

The damp night in Holy Mountain was a bit uncomfortable, but the LACM/FSU group is in good spirit. We hope the weather holds up for our half-day trip to Zhada, where we could prepare glue and equipment for fieldwork tomorrow.

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Slow but steady

5 August 2010. Zhongba, Tibet

After being stuck at a road construction blockade for 2.5 hours, and being delayed at a border checkpoint for more than 3 hours, we finally settled down in Saga near midnight.

To make up for lost time, we got back on the road at 0630, only to find snow in our path. Maneuvering the mountains was difficult before dawn because of low visibility, and snow turned to rain in the river valleys and plains.

We stopped in Zhongba to have brunch, and to patch leaky tires. The thick fog clouds the road ahead, and the team leaders are eager to began fieldwork.

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Field Dispatch: Lazi ahead

4 August 2010. Lazi, Rigaze Area

After a good night's rest at Shenhu Hotel in Rigaze, we got on the road again at 0730, riding in the rain through a mountainous terrain of metamorphic basement rock.

The weather is overcast with occasional drizzle; a light breeze brings a chill through the caravan. Temperature lingers around upper 50's, cold enough for Xiaoming to bring out his jacket.

We passed several sleepy villages, stopped for gasoline, and pressed on.

Everyone is still healthy, even under ever-increasing altitude.
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Field dispatch: leaving Lhasa

3 August 2010. Lhasa, Tibet

We spent the whole day yesterday filling out applications for border travel permit. Everything went relatively smoothly except for the withdrawal of our 4th vehicle.

After finding a car at the 11th hour, we set a call time of 8 am for loading the vehicles.

After half a day of more permit paperwork, we are driving westward out of Lhasa and towards Ali, a good three days away.

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Field Dispatch: Lhasa, Tibet

1 August 2010. Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region

On 31 July, we set foot for Tibet from a small roadside hostel in the area of Budongquan (meaning "never frozen spring") at 0600, and had breakfast in the village of Wudaoliang (elevation 13800 feet). We met several teams of cross-country cyclists there, sharing the thin air.

We pressed on without much stopping, except at Tuotuohe (the source of the Yangtze River) and Tanggula Mountain Pass (at 15693 feet elevation) along the way. We met an outcoming team of paleontologists from the IVPP and Nanjing in the city of Naqu; they had just finished up excavation of fossil fish in Lunpola Basin, and were driving towards Kunlun Mountain for additional fieldwork. We had a quick bite to eat while there, and received stories and advice from the Lunpola team.

After several hours of driving through restricted speed-limit zones and navigating in the dark with busted headlights, we pulled into the Tiancheng Hotel in southwestern Lhasa at 2345 (almost mid-night!). We unloaded our gear and settled down for a few hours of much-needed sleep.

For the rest of the day (still 1 August), our vehicles are being serviced, while several small groups of team members go out to buy last-minute supplies for the upcoming trek to the Zhada Basin, in southwestern Tibet. The overall health of our team is excellent, as would be expected for a seasoned expedition crew. The LACM team spent about one week in the lower-elevation Tsaidam Basin, in part to acclimate ourselves for working conditions above 13000 feet. From an elevation of "sea-level" in Beijing, we spent some time working at 9000-10,000 feet elevation; we will travel through terrains at 13,000-14,000 feet elevation for the next 4 days.

~Gary and Jack