Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain,.....and mud!

The raindrops in South Dakota seem to disobey the laws of physics when it comes to the fundamental hydrostatic bonds that define and constrain a single falling drop of from the skies. Here, or so it would seem, the drops coalesce into bucket-sized ‘orbs’ that have the ability to disinter whole dinosaur bones from their Hell Creek tombs…maybe we should replace our geological hammers with water cannon?  The frustrating cycle of thunderstorms with intense rain, followed by a brief blast of sun, is making access to our field sites impossible…or I should say impassable. Once you step-off the prairie onto the series of inter-bedded sands and muds…the muds seem to be instantly attracted to your boots. The cumulative effect of successive steps results in 50-pound buckets of mud attached to each limb, making walking a cumbersome and exhausting process. I look over my shoulder at our tracks and it appears that a 400-pound animal has been dragging its huge feet slowly through the Badlands…no doubt a Sasquatch-type legend will soon be born of the Hell Creek. The once crackly popcorn surface of bone-dry mud is now replaced with glistening streams of mud and sand, gently ebbing into larger hollows to help mire any unsuspecting cows, antelope, deer or palaeontologists. We often include in our lectures how mobile the Badland landscapes and environments can be and that erosion and weathering are the worst enemies of fossils…I never thought I would be stuck in the very processes that carves and shapes the very same landscape. It is August…the supposed driest month of the year.

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