Dynamite and Dinosaurs
Contact: Carla Beasley, 435-781-7700
What do you do when you have a fossil quarry that has yielded some of the most important and rarest of dinosaur fossils in North America, but the fossil-bearing layer of rock is tilted at 70 degrees and there is so much rock that not even jackhammers can get you to the fossils any longer? That was the problem facing Dinosaur National Monument at a Lower Cretaceous dinosaur quarry - the one that has produced the only complete sauropod skulls to date from the last 80 million years of the Age of Dinosaurs in North America. The site is so scientifically important that excavations cannot be stopped, yet there was no way to reach the bones.
Dave Larsen, Steve Bors, and Tim George, a blasting team from Rocky Mountain National Park, rode to the rescue in mid-April. Over several days these skilled employees, using their expertise with explosives, blew away the rock covering the fossils and exposed a significant amount of the fossil-bearing layer so that excavation can begin again this year. Without their talents, scientifically important fossils would have remained locked underground in their stony mausoleum.
Fossil excavation often uses small tools, either pneumatic or manual, to carefully remove rock from delicate fossils. However, in some instances, instruments that are more powerful are needed. Although explosives might seem extreme, in the right setting and in the right hands, they are the right tool for the job --- staff at Dinosaur National Monument can certainly testify to that. Many thanks to the staff at Rocky Mountain for their assistance.
Did You Know?
Paleontologist Earl Douglass first came to Utah looking for mammal fossils. He returned in 1909 and discovered an immense deposit of dinosaur bones, now protected at Dinosaur National Monument. Although made famous by dinosaurs, Douglass died preferring his beloved mammal fossils over dinosaurs.