Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Break, Part 2

Upon a triumphant (and daresay dry) return to the San Francisco bay area, it was time to visit my Master's Thesis field area - the Purisima Formation of Central California. Fortunately, unlike usual visits, I had two lackeys to follow me around and find stuff too - L. Hall and A. Poust.

Here are Lee (left) and Ash (right) scrambling over some boulders of the Purisima Formation. Note all the fossil shells.

Here I am, at a difficult to get to locality, about 30' above the beach.

Here's a gigantic concretion with a partial mysticete skull inside; I first spotted this two summers ago. The concretions here are ridiculously hard, and seeing as this skull is over four feet wide, I doubt this will ever get collected.

Here I am, pouring some vinac on a large piece of calcified cartilage (likely a complete Meckel's Cartilage from a skate, Raja binoculata. I use an aluminum flask because the acetone in vinac has the annoying tendency to eat through plastic bottles. Aluminum is a great choice; aside from thermite and acidic alien blood, few substances can destroy metal (at least those that a humble field paleontologist come across).

Later that day, climbing around in a cave with a flashlight. The flash makes it seem way lighter in there than it really was. The ceiling of the cave is an exposure of a bonebed where I have collected several important fossils such as a handful of mysticete and odontocete earbones (tympanics), and a complete skull of the enigmatic, undescribed 'skimmer' porpoise (more complete remains of this taxon are on display at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and are under study by Ms. Rachel Racicot).

A. poust, struggling to keep from sliding down the cliff. This is an important but challenging locality, and footholds that I carved in several years ago are now totally gone.

Here's a large whale vertebra, exposed in the bottom of a large, overhanging boulder.

Lastly, a view of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (right), the Santa Cruz Pier (left), and Point Santa Cruz (behind the pier).

1 comment:

Antagonist Jason said...

Please forgive my ignorance. I have no training, but I'm interested in paleontology.

How can you tell that the partial mysticete skull in the concretion is a mysticete skull? I honesty can't even tell that it's a skull at all :(