4: Fireworks and Feathers

Wyoming, USA
© A. Shinya
Happy 4th of July!

Last night, the crew took a break to watch the towns of Kemmerer and Diamondville blow themselves up. Well, not completely. Every 4th of July, the twin towns of Kemmerer and Diamondville put on an official fireworks display (see photos above and below), but this display pales in comparison to just watching the towns themselves. Fireworks are legal in Wyoming, and every man, woman, and child arms themselves to the hilt with explosive delights that they shoot for about five hours straight.

We bring our camp chairs into the hills overlooking Diamondville to watch the glorious mayhem, and receive the ultimate pyrotechnic experience. All the town's police cars and fire trucks are out in force. Being mostly from Illinois, we first assumed they were there to take fireworks away from people, but in fact, the police were actually helping people light fuses. Fire trucks were put to good use when one of the town firebombs blew up prematurely about 20 feet above the ground, simultaneously setting off eight different ground fires. Man, what a Fourth of July treat!

Today we had an exceptionally important find in the quarry. We found a fossil bird skeleton with feathers attached! (See photos #2 and #3 below.) Well preserved Eocene birds are exceedingly rare, and I'm anxious to get it back to the museum to x-ray the rock to see how much of the skeleton is preserved. It looks like it could be a new species. We'll include this specimen in a current National Science Foundation research project on the fossil birds of Fossil Basin. The project will contribute significantly to what we know about the origin of the modern North American bird fauna.

We continue to move great quantities of rock as we prospect for more fossils. We've found over a hundred fossil fishes, a number of fossil plants and insects, and the fossil bird. Our group is at its peak now, with 31 people, and the quarry is a very busy place. We'll all be feasting on buffalo stew tonight, (with the exception of Allison Augustyn, our camp vegetarian). We will, of course, have something for Allison to eat, too, although it'll be something far less exotic. Tomorrow we'll have elk and moose chili. Wyoming is a tough place to be a vegetarian. Time to go.

More later,
Lance

© A. Shinya
Light up the Night
© A. Shinya
Bird Discovery
A. Shinya
Fossil Bird