August 31, 2010

Dig-Dig #8: U-Dig Fossils, Utah

Delta has a big green park in the middle of town. A picnic table was the perfect spot for a quick breakfast. Not so quick that we couldn't enjoy our espresso, of course. We were looking forward to a day of fossil digging, out in the Utah desert.

View Dig! Dig! August 2010 in a larger map

We followed the clear instructions to U-Dig Fossils, about an hour west of Delta. The dark "C" shape to the right of the dirt road is the quarry.

A smattering of wind and rain-damp shale made a refreshingly cool start to the morning, but the sky cleared quickly. By the end of the day we could feel the heat radiating from the black rock.

Aya got right to work, splitting slabs of soft shale with the chisel end of a rock hammer.

What's inside?

Trilobites! Extinct sea-bugs!

The rock splits at all kinds of unpredictable places, quite unlike the fish fossil site in Wyoming. Hearts were also broken many times as one hit too many resulted in unrepairable smithereens.

But there were many sweet victories!

This little sea bug was lost for millions and millions of years until... now. Each time a layer peeled back to reveal a treasure, it was like a sudden connection with an extinct era; a time capsule, opened at last to reveal a ghostly memento mori.

Yet still lively! This, our biggest find, popped out of its carbonite and disappeared into the rubble around us, leaving us with only the negative impression. That could mean two things, but it only means one.

Here's one that came out of its hiding place with a gentle poke from our new shale-splitter (old paint-scraper).

Aya came prepared with a carrying-case, which she managed to fill with trilobites and other small fossils. Bevan, the very friendly and educating host of U-Dig Fossils, helped make the day even better with his gentle guidance and advice.

Some of the ones that managed to make it home. We are going to take our Dremel tool to them and polish them up a little, as demonstrated by Bevan.

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