Having had something approaching a lie-in (the tour requires some fearsomely early starts….), I was picked up by Tim at 0800 and taken to the offices of the Geological Survey of North Dakota. They were in the middle of redecorating (the Americans call it ‘remodelling’), but Lorraine still had chance to chat and, quite unexpectedly, take me on a quick ‘city’ tour via the Missouri River. Now this is a ‘big’ river.
Determined to get my fill of northern state fossil treasures, I then headed to the Heritage Centre. Although it was shrouded in plastic sheeting due to a rather spectacular-looking renovation, I was invited into the palaeontology prep-lab where the mother of all fossils awaited me; ‘Dakota’, one the world very few ‘mummified’ fossils. Imagine a kick-ass Edmontosaurus fossil. Now imagine that a rather unique set of circumstances led to preservation of large parts of the dinosaurs skin. Seriously. You can see the scales and everything. They think that it may have been striped, based on systematic changes in the scale sizes. Crazy. Read the short wiki entry here, but I encourage you to dig a little deeper (no pun intended) and find out more about this truly wonderful object. But there is a price on Dakota’s head; the Heritage Centre are trying to raise around $3 million dollars to buy it from the dude who found it, so that they can keep it in the centre and, perhaps most importantly, in North Dakota. I strongly encourage you to donate money if you get the chance. I will.