On the ground in Angola

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.

Professor Olimpio Gonçalves (second from left), Head, Department of Geology, explaining Sea Monsters Unearthed to students in the Agostinho Neto University Geology Museum.

Mike interacting with undergrad students at the Geology Museum, Agostinho Neto University, here demonstrating an augmented reality Sea Monsters application.

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.”

Louis and Octávio with US Ambassador Nina Maria Fite at the July 4th Celebration in Luanda.

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!!!!.

Field Season 2019 Begins!!

Flying to Angola tonight.  Looking forward to getting back to the outcrops and continuing our work at Bentiaba.  There are a number of important specimens to be excavated this year, (and many more to find), as well as refining the stratigraphy of the rocks above the famous Bench 19 locality which produced so many of the spectacular specimens featured in the Sea Monsters Unearthed exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.  In 2017 we collected part of a gigantic Prognathodon well above Bench 19, in sediments we believe to be Late Maastrichtian in age, so this year we will test that idea and also continue up-section, in search of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.  

Projecto PaleoAngola

The PaleoAngola Project is a scientific programme in collaboration between various international institutions in order to research and promote the Paleontology of Angola. The results of fieldwork in Cretaceous sites have been extraordinarily spectacular, with the discovery of the first dinosaur of Angola, dating from the Late Cretaceous, and mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites and fossil turtles. Besides the scientific objectives, we aim to create a strong and lasting institutional and scientific collaboration that has a multiplier effect in Angolan academia.

O Projecto PaleoAngola é um programa científico entre várias instituições internacionais com o objectivo de investigar e dar a conhecer a Paleontologia de Angola. Os resultados de missões nos terrenos do Cretácico foram surpreendentes, com a descoberta do primeiro dinossauro de Angola, datado do Cretácico Superior, além de vestígios de mosassauros, plesiossauros, amonites e tartarugas fósseis. Além dos objectivos científicos, é nosso intuito criar uma forte e duradoura colaboração científica e institucional que tenha efeitos multiplicadores no meio académico angolano