Field Work Travelogue: Days 15 and 16 – Last Days at the Trap #NTCave15

I didn’t write yesterday, because it was such a full day. Because today was full of driving and otherwise really dull, I’ll fill you in now on what kept me so busy yesterday.

I hadn’t planned on going back into the cave yesterday, but suddenly we were short-handed and there I was, quarrying again.

Caver Juan Laden finally got to spend some time today with scientist Justin Sipla, and they spent a long time discussing hypotheses involving paleokarst (ancient cave systems that are now filled in) and the potential former existence of other holes that led to the surface. This idea had been suggested by another scientist, Trevor Worthy, who had visited early in the season.

Such a hypothesis requires testing, so Justin and Juan dug a test pit (now called the JJ Pit) in a spot that would not be expected to yield vertebrate fossils if the current opening were the only opening by which fossils could drop in, but would be loaded with fossils if their working hypothesis was true.

Juan and Justin marked of an approximately one meter grid and started digging. Eight inched down, they started finding things, including a sheep toe, a horse tooth, and a coyote foot bone. These findings support the hypothesis of older, now clogged entrances into the cave.

Justin (left) and Juan (right) excavating a metapodial bone.

Justin (left) and Juan (right) excavating a metapodial bone.

The horse tooth. The fossils from the test pit must be Pleistocene.

The horse tooth. The fossils from the test pit must be Pleistocene.

This is seriously cool. It made my day.

One might think that was the peak of a great day, but no… There’s more, but not so much on the science front.

Last night eight of us headed out to a local cave to do some caving for fun. (I know. Crazy right?)

An evening excursion. Sounds like a good idea, right?

An evening excursion. Sounds like a good idea, right?

How did that New York truck get there?

How did that New York truck get there?

None shall enter the cave without the key...

None shall enter the cave without the key…

Stowing the climbing gear.

Stowing the climbing gear.

Justin conjurs gypsum mustaches...

Justin conjurs gypsum mustaches…

Reminds me of Cthulu.

Reminds me of Cthulu.

Stalactites and stalagmites.

Stalactites and stalagmites.

No words.

No words.

The end of the field season.

The end of the field season.

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About Penny

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.

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