National Geographic

VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers

Menu

Spitsbergen Expedition: Plastering Fossil “Sea Monsters”

2011 Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum is currently leading a fossil-finding expedition to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, continuing the work that has yielded many spectacular fossils through the years (Giant “Sea Monster” Fossil Discovered). Follow the expedition here on Nat Geo NewsWatch.

Day 4-5

Today we started plastering our exposed fossils, which is always a fun job. Getting into big jump suits and playing around with something  that has the same consistency as mud, you get the feeling you are back in kindergarten. It was especially amusing how, as a result of our plastering, ″Gully″ started to look like different continents.

The plaster that was poured over the exposed parts of Gully's fossilized skeleton took on the appearance of a map of continents of a different era. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

In the Konus valley Tommy and Nille excavated more of the ribs and the vertebrae column of an ichtyosaur making their way presumably towards a tail (again). Pat, Espen and Krzysztof had already plastered up parts of another ichtyosaur further up the hill. So all in all we have had a lot of progress the past couple of days.

Camping out on Spitsbergen, polar bears can be a dangerous issue. We have several methods of insuring our safety: To start with we have all our food and drink in the mess tents about a 100m or so away from our sleeping tents. Polar bears can be curious if they smell food, so avoiding keeping food were we sleep is vital. We also have a tripwire system around our sleeping area and the mess tents. Tripwires can be tricky, and there have been incidents were tripwires didn′t go off. Yesterday Nille kindly tested our tripwire system for us, and it worked perfectly. As we have a polar bear that’s been observed recently only a few kilometers away from the camp, we organized polar bear watches all night. We have to take every precaution necessary to avoid getting into a situation where we have to shoot a bear.

A low and moody sun-and-cloudscape captures the sense of beauty and danger so palpabale in the far north. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.