Earth Sciences in Mongolia

Earth Sciences doctoral students John Graf and Thomas Adams, who provided the reports for this blog, along with Professor Louis L. Jacobs, are traveling to Mongolia as a part of a multi-international dinosaur expedition hosted by the city of Hwaseong in the Republic of Korea. The purpose of the project is to discover, collect and study dinosaur fossils from the Gobi desert in Mongolia, which is one of the most important dinosaur localities in the world.
In addition to SMU researchers, the multinational team includes researchers from Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) and Paleontological Center, Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the University of Alberta, Canada. The project will be augmented each year by additional researchers from countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and China.

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Warm welcomes

Aug%2018.jpg After sleeping only a few hours over the last three days, I finally got a restful night’s sleep. There is nothing like sleeping in a tent, under a clear sky, away from the city.

We got up early and continued our trek south. We stopped in the small town of Baruunbayan Ulaan, where we met up with the large truck (affectionally called the “Kimaz”) that caused so much trouble for the earlier expedition members. The truck had engine trouble, causing the group to take six days to travel to Bugin Tsav (it would take us only two days).

As we continued south (now with five vehicles and 12 members), we stopped at one of the several ovoos along the road. An ovoo (or heap) is a type of shamanistic cairn usually made from rocks, bone and wood. When travelling, it is custom to stop and circle an ovoo three times in clockwise direction, placing a stone each time onto the pile. This is done in order to have a safer journey and secure blessings from the spirits. Blue silk scarves called Khatags are tied to the ovoo and offerings in the form of sweets, money, milk or vodka are left as well.

After crossing the Gobi Altai Range, the “Kimaz” broke down. It took a few hours for the drivers to finally get the truck running. By this time it was getting late, and we decided to continue on to base camp at Bugin Tsav instead of making camp for a second night. We arrived at base camp around 11 p.m. and were met with warm welcomes by everyone.

After introductions, food and stories of our travels, it was too late to set up tents. Louis and I decided to just unroll our sleeping bags on the sand and sleep under the stars. Lucky for us, it turns out to be a clear and calm night.

(In photo: John Graf tying a Khatag to an ovoo at Naran Bulak.)

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