Fossil Hunting for Dinosaurs and Supercroc Teeth - Eastern U.S.
This is the a largest Deinosuchus supercroc tooth found during the trip. Larry found it within 5 minutes!
Video of the ill-fated fossil hunt. It was a bit hecktic, so I didn't get very good video shots, but here it is!
Eastern U.S. Dinosaur Hunt: Deinosuchus Supercrocs, Dinosaurs, and the Death of the Fossil Ski
Dinosaurs are well known from the Western United States, mostly intact fossil skeletons are even found, boatloads of bone pieces and teeth erode out of famous formations, such as the Hell Creek. However, the Eastern United States has its share of dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the formations are less numerous and often contain reworked fossils; fossils that have eroded out of ancient formations and then were re-deposited into younger ones. This process, called reworking, erodes and mashes up the fossils.
Because of this, the dinosaur fauna of the Eastern U.S. is often overlooked. There are few published sites and they are often unrewarding and over collected. However, there are many unpublished small dinosaur sites that dot the Eastern U.S. Small Cretaceous outcroppings, usually eroding out of rivers, appear from New Jersey down to Georgia and Alabama. Larry from DVPS (A really good fossil club), and Fossil Jenn found one of these sites.
Larry was talking about this site to me during a recent fossil trip with DVPS. The site is hard to get to; it's kind of remote and requires boating miles on a river. He was there once and wanted to return, but didn't have a boat. I had a boat (Kinda... Sort of...). I told him I would bring the boat (sort of boat), and we could all go to the fossil site to hunt Cretaceous treasures, and not to worry, the "boat" was very roomy and could hold all of us.
A date was set and off we went! My boat, if you don't know, is the Fossil Ski, a 3 seat Jet Ski. Reaching speeds of 50 mph, it's a pretty fast way to taxi people to and from fossil sites, which is (or was) its main use. There were 4 of us on this trip, and I can only fit 3. My tried and true redneck solution is to tie an inner tube to the Fossil Ski and tow the 4th person. Usually that person (Larry) can also hold the equipment; shovels, sifters, grizzly bear spray, shark repellant, armed nuclear warheads, and such.
With everything looking good, we launched the Fossil Ski and headed to the site. Unfortunately about 3 miles into the trip, the engine started making clunking noises. Soon clouds of gas, burning rubber, and burning electrical components all mixed together started billowing from under the seat. As the engine quit, and smoke was choking us out, I was thinking we may be on fire. Drifting ashore, we got off the Fossil Ski and checked out the engine I have spare spark plugs and hoses on board, but that couldn't fix the damage. Now we were stranded 3 miles from the docks (literally up shXt creek without a paddle). What to do next? A normal person would abort and try to get rescued. What would a fossil nut do? Ditch the Fossil Ski and hike to the site!
Off hiking through the woods we went. I checked the maps and thought I found a shortcut. Instead of following the river, we could cut out some bends and make it there in a few hours. Unfortunately I didn't have a compass and used my smart phone. I thought I had set north to up, like a normal map, but instead up was the direction we were traveling. After about an hour of bushwhacking in dense underbrush and climbing steep hills, we ended up making a giant semi circle. With everyone upset and wanting to kill me and bury my body, we aborted the fossil quest. Back at the broken down Fossil Ski, we eventually found a boater to give us a tow.
The next morning, determined not to give up, I internet searched all I could about my dead Jet Ski. It eventually got to the point that it could run if we kept the seat and front compartment off to give the carburetor air (Don't try this at home, this is about the only way to sink and completely ruin a Jet Ski). It would get just enough air to barely idle. An idling Jet Ski travels around 3 - 4 miles per hour. Heck, in a few hours we could make it to the fossil site! Like idiots, we boarded the crippled Fossil Ski, kept the seat off, and the cover open. Larry got comfortable on the inner tube, and off we crawled! There's nothing more redneck than seeing a seatless smoking jet ski drifting at 3 mph while towing someone on a raft holding shovels and sifters. But, hey, whatever it takes!
It was a horrific ride. Sometimes I could get it to briefly idle a little faster, which would cause Larry to flip off the raft. After a couple flips and a lost hat, he started to get frustrated at me, but we kept going! Eventually we made it to the site!
We had packed enough food and water in case we got stranded overnight. Fossil Jenn even had a flashlight (awesome). We eyeballed the trees and calculated that we could even make a shelter for the night if need be. All was good with the world and with life. We then began sifting the gravels bars looking for the stray, reworked Cretaceous fossils.
Within 5 minutes Larry gave a shout of glee! He had found a beastly looking Deinosuchus tooth! It ended up being the largest one we would find in our short fossil hunting day.
A note about the Eastern U.S. Cretaceous sites; the fauna is slightly different than Western U.S. sites. You don't have the very large dinosaurs. Instead, you have very large (12 m) crocodiles called Deinosuchus, or "Supercrocs". These semi marine reptiles partly played the role of the larger dinosaurs, eating smaller dinosaurs and sea turtles. Deinosuchus is also found out west, but because of all the other larger dinosaurs, no one pays much attention to them.
By the end of the fossil hunting day, we had amassed a handful of Deinosuchus teeth, a few pounds of shark teeth, a few pounds of turtle fragments, crocodile poop, a few dinosaur teeth, and possibly bones from a Hadrosaur and/or some kind of Carnivore (Dryptosaurus?).
It was a great fossil collecting day, and as luck would have it, a great ride back to the docks. Some very friendly boaters pulled up earlier to see what we were finding. We indicated we had some issues with the Jet Ski. They said no problem and they'd give us a tow on their way back from wherever they were going. So at the end of the day, we patiently waited and the very nice boaters appeared and towed us back to the docks!
Although I may have lost a few fossil friends, as Larry may now hate me, we had a nice Cretaceous dinosaur hunting trip. We all found Dinosaur and Deinosuchus remains.
R.I.P. Fossil Ski
Below are pictures and fossils from the fossil hunt:
Sifting for Cretaceous fossils
Here's Larry leisurely lounging on the inner tube. He's unknowingly about to get tossed off!
Most of the fossils found while sifting are shark teeth, some crocodile teeth are also found.
Here are 3 fossils in the sifter, a crocodile tooth, a squalicorax tooth, and a goblin shark tooth
This is the best Hadrosaur Dinosaur tooth found from the trip.
These are the fossils I kept from the trip.
These are some of the Dinosaur teeth from the trip. Fossil Jenn found some better Carnivore teeth, but I didn't get a picture of them.
These are some of the Deinosuchus rugosus supercroc teeth found.
What do you do with a dead Jet Ski? Use it as a table to make sandwiches!.