A pipeline worker near Spirit River, Alberta, Canada, has just unearthed the tail of what might be a 98-foot dinosaur skeleton. The worker, operating a backhoe for the Tourmaline Oil Corporation, thought he’d hit a rock while digging 5 feet under the surface yesterday, but soon he saw that it was something much more massive. Realizing his mistake, the worker immediately halted the job so that the experts could take over. It isn’t at all unheard of to unearth dinosaur bones in Alberta, although usually finds of this size are relegated to the southern part of the province.
Unfortunately, the Tourmaline worker accidentally broke off a piece of the creature’s massive tail, but the vast majority of the skeleton remains intact. Once notified, paleontologists from Alberta’s famous dinosaur museum, Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, arrived on the scene to begin their investigation. They were joined by the head paleontologist from Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative, Dr. Matthew Vavrek, as well as members of the National Geographic team.
Dr. Matthew Vavrek was stunned to see the completely intact, massive tail of what he guesses is a 98-foot dinosaur skeleton. The pipeline crew had stopped digging when the tail was unearthed, so just what is under the surface remains to be seen. As yet, nobody knows what type of dinosaur this could be, but the excavation team is elated that it seems to be relatively unharmed. Usually, dinosaur skeletons are found in bits and pieces, due to trauma at the time of death as well as geological forces. Vavrek said “the last time I’ve seen something like that was in a museum. I’ve never found something like this before.”
In an unprecedented move, the Tourmaline Oil Corporation has lent its equipment to the research team to help uncover the skeleton more quickly. The first snow has already fallen in this part of Alberta, and temperatures are going to drop over the coming weeks. Once frost sets in, the ground will be very difficult to dig through and the team could be forced to leave the skeleton where it is until the ground thaws in spring. Right now, their goal is to cut the fossilized remains out of the ground so that, still encased in soil, they can be brought to a research facility. Once there, excavators will use small hammers to remove the soil and expose the remaining bones.
Vavrek says that even if they uncover a type of dinosaur that they are already familiar with, cataloging it could take years. If this is a new species, the research and reporting will take much longer. At the moment, Vavrek is relieved to have the help of the pipeline crew to excavate the dinosaur, especially if it does turn out they are working with a 98-foot skeleton. The expert has often had to brave the Alberta wilderness to uncover fossils with a small team, facing curious bears and other animals along the way. This time, the busy site should be noisy enough to keep out the wildlife.
by Mandy Gardner