Changing Planet

Spitsbergen Expedition 2011: Day 2

For the next two weeks, 2011 Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum will be leading an expedition to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, continuing the work that has yielded many spectacular fossils through the years (Giant “Sea Monster” Fossil Discovered). Follow the expedition here on Nat Geo NewsWatch.

Day 2

The fun has started! Today we went to a new excavation site in the Konus valley, walking distance from the camp at the Janus mountain. Some traces of marine reptiles had been observed, but we did not know anything about how complete the fossils would be.

The first days of digging out a fossil is heavy work, at this site we removed approximately 5 tonns of stones today, and we will continue like that for a couple of days, before we get down to the fossils and the “fine” digging and brushing will start.

Moving a few tons of highly refrigerated earth is no small task. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.
A dark line marks the initial progress of the year's first dig. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

Some part of the fossils are close to the surface and it is exciting to find out what the new findings could be.

Team members Pat and Espen discuss the first items of interest. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

Although the most exciting finds are to be found underground, there are also some beauties on the surface of the Polar desert. The colorful flowers of the Boreal Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium boreale) are a pleasant discovery while anticipation builds over what we will soon find below.

Boreal Jacob's ladder is a tiny and delicate discovery, contrasting greatly with the enormous bones to be unearthed in coming days. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.


Jørn Harald Hurum was born in Drammen, a city on southeastern Norway. Since childhood he has collected fossils and minerals in the Oslo region. Since 2000 he has been employed at the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo where he works as an associate professor in vertebrate paleontology. At the University he teaches paleontology and evolutionary biology and supervises masters and Ph.D. students. One recent outreach effort brought him on stage before a general audience interested in his Arctic island project excavating fossils of ancient sea monsters. “There was a four-year-old in the front row and he couldn’t stop asking questions, really good questions” Hurum remembers. “This little boy was so excited to know there was somebody else who understood the things he was wondering about. He made my whole day! As a child, I felt very alone with my interest in fossils. Finally at age 13, I discovered there was a museum in Norway that actually employed people to study paleontology. I started corresponding with those scientists and it was such a relief, such an inspiration. I hope I can give some of that spirit back to the next generation.” Learn More About Jørn and His Work

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