June 11, Bentiaba, Angola; June 3, Lubango, Angola

Today is the morning of the 11th of June. We have not had access to internet so we have been unable to update the blog. Last night, wildlife biologist Pedro Vas Pintos, drove the remaining part of the field crew, Octavio Mateus and Ricardo Aruge, from Lubango to our camp at Bentiaba. I was able to send a USB drive with this entry with him, so our colleague Anne Schulp in the Netherlands could update the blog for us. Louis and I along with the outfitters we hired in Namibe to supply logistics support (and most importantly, the cooks) arrived at Bentiaba late in the afternoon on June 5th.

2012 PaleoAngola Field Camp at Bentiaba

 

Our fantastic support crew... Lionel, Chilombo, and Cici

 

 


Breakfast with Pedro Vas Pintos and family and the PaleoAngola 2012 field crew - June 11, 2012.

After making camp, Louis had to return to Lubango to pick up another of our team members, Tyrone Rooney from the Michigan State University at Lancing. Tyrone is a geochemist specializing in igneous rocks. He has joined us to examine the geochemical characteristics of the abundant basalts in the region. The coast of Angola is a rifted margin, and Tyrone specializes in studying the igneous rocks of rift to deduce what happened during continental breakup.

Tyrone Rooney

Below is a summary of highlights of the 6th-10th of June… On June 6th I left camp early and hit the outcrops to do some prospecting and walk off nearly a week of sitting in airplanes and cars. I decided to prospect higher in the section, in rocks that are somewhat younger than the beds we have worked in previous years. The morning was very productive to say the least. In a mere few hours I had found a string of semi articulated plesiosaur vertebrae, a relatively fragmentary mosasaur skull, an interesting fish, a turtle, and a huge mosasaur skull of the genus Prognathodon! After a lunch break, I began to uncover the Prognathodon skull, and although it was pretty badly weathered, it did preserve enough to warrant excavating and preparing for study.

June 7th I continued to work on the large Prognathodon skull. Much of the work at this stage is carefully removing enough rock to define the limits of the fossil to determine how it can be removed as safely and as compactly as possible. We try to avoid exposing more than we need to avoid damage to the fossil. Working into the afternoon I was able to defined two relatively small blocks for removal. I will complete the remainder of the excavation later, when I have some help moving the generators into place to drive the power tools. At that point we will trench around the specimen

Excavation of fragmentary Prognathodon skull.

Detail of an isolated tooth of the specimen.


By late afternoon I was ready to do a little more prospecting and found a very nice turtle carapace preserved intact in relatively hard sandstone. No skull or limbs are visible, but given the nice preservation of the portion that is showing, I am hopeful more will be there. Since June 8th I have been primarily focused on excavating a large mosasaur specimen that I found the last day of the field season in July of 2011. At the time I found the 2011 specimen, only the shattered remains of a single tooth and a short segment of a jaw was showing. We were getting ready to leave the field the next morning, so with limited time, Anne Schulp and I uncovered only enough to confirm that there were at least three jaws with teeth in place, and came away confident that that we had a semiarticulated skull. It was also obvious, given the size of the teeth, that this was a huge animal. Over the past few days I have been able to uncover most of the skull and now have a good idea of the limits of the block. This will be one of the largest single blocks we have taken out in Angola.

Excavation of 2011 specimen of Prognathodon in process. You can see the jaws converging at the bottom of the picture. From left to right –right dentary, left dentary let maxilla, right maxilla. Isolated teeth in lower left picture.

Now that I have had a few days with the specimen, it is clear that this is another large Prognathodon, the same species as the skull I discovered a few days ago. We currently have a paper in press reporting the occurrence in Angola of Prognathodon saturator (A species previously know only form northern Europe). The specimen that we reported was a small fragment of jaw and a single badly preserved tooth. These new specimens will give us a much more complete view of the anatomy and relationships of this animal and will tell us for certain, whether we have that species here in Angola.

 

JUNE 3, Lubango

Just a quick update to kick off the field blog for this year.  Louis and I arrived in Luanda On the 1st of June and with the help of many friends and colleagues here in Angola, we managed to get all of our required supplies, vehicle, and our travel documents in record time....a single day. That enabled us to leave Luanda on Saturday morning, and begin our journey to the marine Cretaceous field localities in the south.

 

 

ON THE ROAD TO LUBANGO- LUNCH STOP

We spent Saturday night in Benguela, on the coast of Angola. Sunday morning we headed inland and drove up to the plateau, then south to Lubango. We are meeting with old friends and colleagues along the way and finalizing details of schedules and dealing with logistics issues. Great driving weather both days and the scenery is fantastic. Along the way we stopped under the shade of a tree for a lunch (banana-dogs and water -see recipe below). Tomorrow, we are heading for Namibe, and hopefully will be in the outcrops by Tuesday.

BANANA-DOGS FOR LUNCH!! (figured out how to use camera timer ...finally).

 

BANANA-DOGS RECIPE

Ingredients.

A bunch of Bananas- preferably a variety of banana that grows around Bengula, within a couple hours of being cut from the tree

2 Fresh Portuguese Bread Rolls (fresh this morning, liberated from the breakfast bar at the guest-house in Benguela)

Preparation- Put a whole Banana on half of bread roll, repeat 2 times, for each serving.

Serves two paleontologists. Best eaten from the hood of your field vehicle. Serve with bottled water, recent vintage preferred.