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Friend or Foe?

As a kind of “tradition” during my summer holidays I always have at least one day to do as I please, without any consideration for the rest of the family.
So this year Thursday, August 2nd was my own to schedule and guess what I did......................yep, some hardcore fossil hunting.
“What a surprise! My wife would say.
So not quite dawn till dusk, but still some 10 hours, from about 7 AM until 5 PM, I was out and about.

First, I went - in the pouring rain for that matter - to check out some quarries that I had not visited for a while to see what was going on there and at about 9 AM I was – already almost soaked to the bone - at my favorite urchin-quarry. The same one as the previous trip that is.

Now, normally I consider rain a friend who makes it possible to still find nice urchins in places uncovered quite some time ago and trampled on by many feet already. Most fossil hunters don’t seem to consider “revisiting” old(er) exposures - already covered by lichen - after heavy rains. Well, I can tell you from 1st hand experience that this can be quite rewarding as the urchins not touched and beat up by machinery with only their tops showing are in most cases only found when the rains have washed chalk from the tiny part that is exposed. But, being soaked already after two hours shifted the balance somewhat to the foe-side I must confess.

As it happened, I entered that particular quarry directly behind it’s owner, so we had a brief chat and he told me the dragline might just excavate a bit on the urchin-containing levels that day. So I went up there (those layers are right at the top of a cliff-face of about 50-60 meters high) and checked the old, lichen-covered exposures first. Trampling around I cursed the rains as my boots rapidly became twice as big and heavy with the chalk sticking to it, but ……..after already finding some goodies in the old exposures (Hooray once more for the rain), I heard the distinct rumble of the dragline coming up the ramp to the top of the cliff face. I had quick chat with the dragline operator who informed me that because of the rains he could not do what had been scheduled earlier so he would just scrape off about 1 foot of material over a surface area of some 400 square meters. Needless to say that after this the rain was definitely on my good side once more, despite the shivers of feeling cold.
After promising the dragline operator I would shoot some pictures of him “in action”, now that's when the fun part started.

Following after “my friend the dragline” at a safe distance, scavenging the new exposures that until 15 minutes earlier had been covered with chalk for some 95 million years, I found lots of Echinocorys scutata echinoids (some 20-25 in all I guess) of various “formae”. Like usual, a substantial number was broken by “my foe the dragline” or covered extensively with flint (another foe), but I found some very nice and/or big specimens, including a nice “Echinocorys scutata forma sulacta”..

I could and surely would have found more if not for a competitor/foe joining in the fray. We talked a bit and since he has to drive 2 -3 hours to get there whereas I can be there in half an hour, he quickly gained my sympathy and we became friends, at least for the day. He also found some 10-15 specimen.

The good news is that they are still some 3 - 4 meters above the mother load and since these layers contain so much flint they will only scrape off about a foot at a time to limit the amount of flint in the chalk they drive out, thereby increasing the opportunity to find the urchins almost to the max. So there you have it: another foe turned friend.!

To sum up: it was a glorious day, with me looking like a snowman being covered with all that chalk, some nice finds who are partly already on their way to the US or Norway or will pretty soon do so. Also I learned that friends are sometimes to be found where you least expect them; among your foes! If you’re willing to see it that is…….
And the final lesson: you can get your car dirty very quickly……….. at least a lot faster than you can clean it.


Location Oupeye-Bassenge-Vise area, Belgium

Date Added8/9/2007

The upper 3 levels of the cliff-face that constitutes the front face of the quarry/exposure. Though echinoids can be found in most of the profile, they are very abundant in the part between the two uppermost levels and quite scarce in the lower parts. The whole cliff-face is late Cretaceous; the upper 70-75 % is Lower Maestrichtian and the lower 25-30% is Upper Campanian.
Looking down at the dragline, which was still at the bottom at the time, but that is about to change a little later.
Meanwhile my boots are getting twice as broad and twice as heavy while clambering about.
I am not the only one clambering about. This little friend doesn't seem to be interested in the fossils though, but rather in the lichens covering the older exposures. How the ... does he manage to stay so clean?
Mechanized help is on the way!
And .......... ACTION !
Looking across the uppermost level: in the back part of the "old exposure" and in the front the "new exposure" created by the dragline, about 1 foot lower.
The first find in the "new exposure" with several more to follow.
As fresh as they get after being embedded in the limestone for 95 MY. Looks very pretty but turned out to be a shamer nonetheless. The @#^&@*#%#^@%@-dragline cut out a 2 cm slice from the back (not in picture).
Just to show you why you have to look closely and both ways. From this angle, you don't see it.........
....... but from the opposite angle it is kinda hard to miss.
And once you are done looking at the ground, you can always start scrutinizing the walls. See it?
Prying it out carefully.
Tadaaaaaa !
On my way back to the backpack....... see the echinoid?

Echinocorys scutata forma sulcata
Echinocorys scutata forma sulcata





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