Our plane landed early this morning in Luanda, the capital of Angola, as the sun was rising. As with all field seasons, there are a lot of tasks that need to be accomplished; from reuniting with our Angolan colleagues to managing logistics and field supplies, and of course spreading the word about Projecto PaleoAngola. One of the most fun and rewarding things today was the spontaneous mini-conference with students in the Geology Museum of Agostinho Neto University. We had stopped in to show some of the new additions to our field crew the skeletal reconstruction of Angolatitan, and other fossils that have previously been returned. There happened to be a group of undergraduate students receiving a lecture on mineralogy there, but our host, and department head of geology, Olimpio Gonçalves, approved us showing the students some of graphics and videos from the Smithsonian exhibit “Sea Monster Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas”. It was a huge hit! We also showed a prototype augmented reality phone application that allows them to visualize what these ancient animals looked like and how they moved. The students were incredibly enthusiastic to hear about the exhibit and to learn about the international visibility the fossil heritage of Angola was receiving.
In the afternoon part of the team moved to southern Angolan to stage equipment and supplies and the other to manage meetings and some logistics in Luanda and attend the 4th of July celebration at the American Embassy. The celebration was held on July 2nd to give Embassy personnel the day off on the 4th. In her speech, the American Ambassador Nina Maria Fite highlighted the work of Projecto PaleoAngola, the international scientific cooperation within this group, the Sea Monsters Unearthed exhibit at the Smithsonian, and its centerpiece, Prognathodon kianda. In her words, “The exhibit, which has attracted international acclaim and justifiably has provided a cohesive sense of national pride here in Angola, will be exhibited in Angola in the coming years.”
By tomorrow night, the southern group will be at our base camp, just a few kilometers from the wonderful outcrops at Bentiaba, where we will begin excavations of previously discovered fossils and of course find many many more new ones!!!!.