Trent Ernst, Editor
After nearly three years of patience, dealing with illness, fires and flood, BC’s first dinosaur arrived at the Tumbler Ridge museum last week.
The dinosaur was airlifted from its top-secret location to the nearest road, where it was placed on a trailer and driven back to town.
According to paleontologist Rich McCrea, the dinosaur skeleton includes part of the tail, hips, right femur and vertebrae of the abdomen and chest… “up to the region of the shoulders which are not present,” says McCrea.
In order to life the fossil, a special helicopter had to be brought in. “The specimen was estimated to weigh between 4,000–6,000lbs,” says McCrea, which is well above what any helicopter in the region is able to lift.
Instead, the museum had to wait until they were able to access a Russian-built Kamov, which has the ability to lift extremely heavy weights.
The skeleton finally weighed in at 4,400lbs, which Lisa Buckley is happy about. “The weight depended on the composition of the rock,” says Buckley. “If it had been 6,000 lbs, the rock would have had a lot of iron in it, which is a lot harder to work with.”
Buckley says that one thing she was unprepared for was the amount of rotor wash the giant helicopter put off. “I thought I was going to get blown over,” she laughs.
McCrea says that, while they were working on this skeleton, they discovered a number of other skeletons, too. “Indications are that this may only be the first of several skeletons from this site, which would make it British Columbia’s first dinosaur bonebed.”
Buckley puts it this way “Unless we are dealing with a hadrosaur that has six legs, and a couple of them different sizes, we are dealing with something a little bit different than just a single articulated animal. We are not getting into bone bed territory.”
Because there are more fossils in place, McCrea is still not revealing the location of the find. He says the incident in Grande Prairie last year make him even more protective with locations like this.
Last June, a Hadrosaur fossil was found in June, but when the team went back to the site in July, the site was torn apart. It was the fourth such incident in two months.
And that, says McCrea, was in Alberta, where fossils are protected by legislation, far more than in BC.
While the team has only found remains from a handful of creatures, Buckley says that’s only because of the sheer amount of rock they have to remove by hand. Other bone beds of this source have held anywhere from 40 to 4,000 distinct fossils. But Buckley is not going to speculate on how many hadrosaurs might be found there. “Unfortunately, neither Rich nor I are equipped with X-Ray vision,” says Buckley.