The final push

The penultimate day of the excavations finally arrived, and it was a race to the finish. We started the day shortly after dawn, in order to maximize the daylight (it’s winter right now in Angola, so the sun sets around 6pm). Luckily, Carla, the wonderful helper who makes our meals, sent us off with a thermos full of hot Angolan coffee. After a quick cup on site to kick-start our work, the day continued to fly by in a flurry of stone-carving to further isolate the blocks full of mosasaur bones, followed by round after round of wrapping the blocks in protective paper and plaster jackets for transport.

Isabel and Alex using plaster bandages to jacket fossils in the Globidens Quarry.

Finding the raw materials that are needed for these kinds of tasks, when in remote places in foreign countries, is sometimes quite difficult, and you never quite know if the quality of what you have purchased is actually up to the task at hand. It turned out that the plaster we had purchased cured slowly and was not very strong. So today started out with a bit of experimentation, mixing the plaster with Portland cement to find the ideal consistency and hardness needed to keep the bone blocks intact. Eventually we arrived at a suitable recipe, and the fossils were all safely enveloped on one side, with burlap strips dipped into the mix and wrapped around the exterior of each block. The larger blocks also had lumber incorporated in the jackets for additional strength. Once the plaster mix has dried overnight, we will flip the blocks and wrap the other sides tomorrow morning.

Jackets ready for flipping at Globidens Quarry. Gray color is due to Portland Cement mixed with plaster to provide strength.

We also had quite an amazing surprise toward the end of the day, when a seemingly-small and inconspicuous bone remnant, partially dug out of an outcrop yesterday, turned out to be an absolutely enormous pterosaur wing element! It just goes to show how absolutely amazing this locality is, and also the importance of never underestimating the hint of a fossil weathering out at Bentiaba!!

Partial wing of a huge pterosaur. Copyright Projecto PaleoAngola.

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