Field Blog 2013 - July 18

Malanje Trip

Octávio Mateus and Michael Polcyn drove to the Malange area while Louis Jacobs, John Graf, and Ana Marques went to Cabinda. In Malange (also spelled Malanje) and Lunda Norte provinces are in the north central part of the country and previous reports in Baixa de Cassange have shown a rich fauna of Triassic fossil fishes. These areas haven't been visited by paleontologists since the 1960's so we decided to give it a try.

We arrived to Malange on the evening of the 16th and met with our friend Pedro Vaz Pinto, a biologist that studies the giant sable, the Palanca-Negra-Gigante, the national symbol of Angola.  He has been capturing sables to fit them with radio tracking collars and told us that while they were darting a sable from a helicopter that day, a large male lion tried to take the sable. Fortunately the helicopter scared the lion away and the sable was safely collared. This sighting is extremely significant, being the first large predator in the area since the war ended.

Yesterday (the 17th) we drove to Xá-Muteba (Lunda Norte), the closest town to the Triassic fossil localities. The local authorities alerted us about the possible presence of landmines in the area we wanted to visit, so we met the de-mining team who informed us that the area surrounding the fossiliferous sites has not been completely cleared, so we headed back to Malanje to regroup and plan for the next day.

Today (the 18th) we decide to see the continental Cretaceous formations near Kiwapa Mzoji (former Brito Godins). There are good rock exposures along the  road cuts as the road expansion works progresses. The rocks are a varved mudstone and sandstone with some ripple-marks.... and no fossils. Although we were not able to find any fossils on this leg of the expedition, we did learn a lot about the area, the people and the rocks. In a few years, we expect the mines will be cleared and we will be able to go tot he Triassic localites. Tomorrow, we head back to the coast and plan to base in the port town of Benguela.