Lab Report: “where are they now?”

This post is an update on one of the fossil specimens collected during the AP3 2016 field season. Check back again next week for more updates on 2016 results & ongoing research! 

Nearly one year after the AP3 team left Antarctica, at the end of our 2016 field season, the fossils we collected have made it back to Carnegie Museum of Natural History to be studied. Prep work on the plesiosaur shoulder girdle has begun, and our hard work at stabilizing and securing this beautiful fossil seems to be paying off!

In case you’ve forgotten: the last time most of the team saw this specimen was mid-flight, during its dramatic removal from Sandwich Bluff. We spent several days at work chiseling away the surrounding frozen rock and soil, stabilizing any crumbly bits of fossil bone with consolidant (special reversible glue), padding the surface with a layer of toilet paper and paper towels, and finally slathering the whole thing in plaster of paris and burlap. This cast would keep the shoulder girdle safe on its journey from the Antarctic Peninsula to Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here’s the view of the jacket being lifted by helicopter from Sandwich Bluff, captured by AP3 team member Steve Salisbury:

photo by Steve Salisbury

[Image: fossil in plaster jacket is suspended beneath a helicopter, being lifted from the site where it was found on a snowy mountaintop. Two people in helmets and orange survival suits are standing below the helicopter.]

And here’s a picture taken this week by AP3 principal investigator Matt Lamanna, in the prep lab at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The jacket has been cut open to reveal the precious fossil cargo within:


[Image: the fossil in its plaster jacket, in the CMNH prep lab. Part of the fossil is now exposed and being prepared for study. A scale bar indicates that the length of the jacket is approximately 140 cm (55 inches).]


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