Wildlife

Spitsbergen Expedition: More Fossil Finds and a “How-To” Lesson

2011 Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum is currently leading a fossil-finding 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 7

A busy day today, full of plaster and new discoveries.

A panoramic view gives a sense of the vast distances visible in every direction. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

 

We opened up one of the Konus Valley ichthyosaur fossils nicknamed “Virgin”. This fossil includes the front half of an ichthyosaur and it is in good shape. Julie, Aubrey and Lene uncovered its skull and the second front limb. The jaw bones in particular are in very good condition.

Long converging ridges in the rock clearly mark out the shape of an ichthyosaur skull, to those with a trained eye. Photo courtesy Jørn Hurum.

 

Over at the Konus valley we finished plastering and flipping the plesiosaur. The plaster is put on the fossils for protection and transport. The method we use is as following:

1. We apply 4 to 5 layers of wet toilet paper, to prevent the bones sticking to the plaster’

2. We cover the toilet paper with a thin layer of runny plaster to make sure that the plaster gets into every nook and cranny.’

3. We then soak wet burlap in the plaster mix and wrap around the fossil. We add several layers of burlap and sometimes steel bars to stabilize it.

4. After the plaster has set, we undercut the jacket and hammer in meter long chisels.

5. To flip the plaster jacket we attach ropes to the chisels, and pull.

Back near the camp, Nille found a new ichthyosaur. This fossil looks very promising and we will start uncovering it to tomorrow. So stay tuned!

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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