Rockit Scientist Clothing

fossil site â–  research station to Australia to New Zealand

This was not Hammer's first trip to Antarctica.

On earlier visits, he had found many fossils.

He found fossil bones and teeth.

They belonged to reptiles that had lived more than 200 million years ago.

Dinosaurs lived then too.

Fossil hunters had found dinosaur fossils on islands near Antarctica.

But no one had ever found a dinosaur fossil on the main part of Antarctica.

On this trip,

Hammer had received a radio message. It was from David Elliot, a scientist who was studying rocks nearby. Elliot thought some of the rocks looked as if they had bones in them. Hammer went to see the rocks. What he saw thrilled him. Elliot was right.

The rocks did have bones in them! Hammer knew that the rock surrounding the bones was very old. It had formed about 190 million years ago. Could some of these bones be dinosaur bones? Hammer decided to find out. He would come back with a team to study these bones.

Fossil Hunting in Antarctica

Searching for fossils in Antarctica is a big project. It takes a lot of planning. Hammer and his crew had to fly from the United States to a country called New Zealand. There, they were outfitted with clothes for their expedition.

Every scientist needed long underwear and fleece shirts.

The crew chose warm pants.

They also got thin, windproof pants.

They wore these pants over their regular pants.

They also needed two jackets.

One was a lightweight jacket.

The other was a thick one.

The scientists got special boots too. The boots had a layer of air inside them. The air helped keep their feet warm. The soles of the boots were rough. They could grip slippery surfaces or jagged rocks.

The crew also needed hats and gloves.

Sunglasses and sunblock protected their eyes and skin from the sun.

After they received their special clothing, the scientists flew to Antarctica. Their first stop was McMurdo Station on Ross Island.

Ross Island is just off the coast of Antarctica.

At McMurdo, Hammer and his crew received more supplies.

They got tents and sleeping bags. They got cookstoves and food. There are no stores in the area where they would be working. The crew had to make sure they had enough food to last two months.

Before Hammer and his crew left McMurdo, H^f they also went to a training school. /

If the scientists weren't careful, /

parts of their skin and body /

could freeze.

If the scientists weren't careful, /

parts of their skin and body /

could freeze.

The crew knew they'd be on mountains while they hunted for fossils.

On the tops of tall mountains, there is less oxygen in the air.

Oxygen is the gas we breathe to stay alive.

The scientists learned to move and breathe in ways that would help them get enough oxygen.

They also learned how to climb rocky cliffs and cross dangerous ice. Antarctic ice has deep cracks. People have been killed falling into them. The crew learned how to travel safely on ice. After Hammer's crew learned these skills, they were ready to hunt for fossils!

Getting the Bones

A plane with skis for landing flew Hammer and his crew inland. After the plane landed on the ice, the scientists set up a base camp. A base camp is where the crew eats, sleeps, and stores supplies. It would be their home for three to ten weeks.

Base camp was about 5,000 feet higher than the land around McMurdo.

But that's not where David Elliot saw the bones.

That spot was about 40 miles from base camp on Mount Kirkpatrick.

Mount Kirkpatrick is about 15,000 feet high!

The only way Hammer could reach the site was by helicopter.

Each day, a helicopter flew Hammer and his crew from base camp to where the fossils were.

Sometimes, strong winds or snowstorms made it too dangerous to fly.

The crew had to wait at base camp until the weather improved.

Getting to the site was only half the problem.

Collecting the fossils was the other half. The fossils Elliot found were still inside a rocky cliff. How could Hammer remove the fossils from the rock?

Hammer's crew used a jackhammer to remove chucks of rock from the cliff.

They did not use the jackhammer in places where it would damage a fossil.

Instead, they used rock hammers to break away small bits of rock.

Hammer grew more excited as he carefully studied the edges of bones he could see.

The fossil bones looked as if they belonged to a big animal.

Could the crew find the animal's complete skeleton?

They had to remove more rock to find out.

Over the next three weeks, the scientists traveled back and forth from their base camp to Mount Kirkpatrick.

They struggled against the wind and cold.

Piece by piece, Hammer's crew removed 5,000 pounds of rock that contained fossils.

The helicopter carried the rock to base camp.

Hammer further examined the fossils there.

He could see part of a big skull.

He saw ribs and leg bones.

There were bones from the back and tail.

What Hammer saw certainly looked like a dinosaur—

maybe even more than one.

But rock still surrounded the bones.

Hammer couldn't see enough of each bone to figure out what kind of animal the crew had found. He had to take the chunks of rock to his laboratory in the United States. There he had special tools for removing fossils from rocks.

The crew carefully packed the fossil-filled rocks so they wouldn't break.

The ski plane flew the boxes to Ross Island.

Then they were put onto a big ship.

Hammer didn't see them again until months later.

By then, he was very eager to find out exactly what his crew had collected.

In the Laboratory: Rock Island, Illinois

Removing the rock from around a fossil is hard work.

Hammer's assistants removed the rock with a tool called an air scribe. An air scribe is like a tiny jackhammer. Working very slowly, they chipped away teeny pieces of rock. It took almost one year to remove rock from around the large skull. By then, there was no doubt what the bones were. Hammer's team had discovered the first dinosaur ever found on mainland Antarctica.

The dinosaur had large, pointed teeth. That meant it was a meat eater. It had an odd-looking bony ridge on its head.

The ridge is called a crest.

Clearly, the crew had found a new dinosaur.

That meant Hammer could name it.

He named the dinosaur

Cryolophosaurus ellioti.

Cryolophosaurus means

"frozen crested lizard."

Ellioti comes from David Elliot's last name.

Hammer wanted to name the dinosaur after the scientist who told him about the bones.

During later expeditions to Antarctica,

Hammer returned to the same fossil site.

Each time, his crew found more bones that belonged to Cryolophosaurus ellioti.


In the U.S. laboratory, the paleontologists made molds of the bones they found. They used the molds to make plastic copies of the bones. They also made models of bones that were missing.

They made the models look like the bones found in similar dinosaurs.

The plastic "bones" and models were put together.

They formed a complete

Cryolophosaurus skeleton.

Hammer learned a lot from the bones.

Cryolophosaurus was about 22 feet long.

Its skull was almost 2 feet long.

And it walked upright on two legs, like the dinosaur called Allosaurus.

More Exciting News

Cryolophosaurus wasn't the only fossil Hammer's crew found. There was a wing bone from a small pterosaur. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles. They lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

The paleontologists measured the pterosaur bone.

They think the pterosaur's wings may have spread as wide as 3 to 6 feet.

That's about 1 foot smaller than the wingspan of a bald eagle.

The crew also discovered fossil teeth

I p/j from at least two other dinosaurs.

They found the teeth with the bones of Cryolophosaurus.

Some of its bones had tooth marks on them.

Hammer thinks that after

Cryolophosaurus died, other meat-eating dinosaurs ate its body.

Their teeth may have broken off while eating.

But how did Cryolophosaurus die?

Hammer thinks he knows the answer to that too.

When his assistant cleaned the Cryolophosaurus skull, he made an exciting discovery. There were two rib bones inside the jaws of Cryolophosaurus. The ribs were far back in its mouth. They belonged to a large plant-eating dinosaur. Hammer thinks Cryolophosaurus may have choked to death while eating it!

The rocks and fossils Hammer collected have told him a lot about the fossil site.

The rock containing the fossils was originally mud.

It was the kind of mud that is found near rivers.

Near the fossil site, Hammer's team had found fossilized trees.

That meant Cryolophosaurus had lived and died on land near a river and forests.

But it's too cold in that part of Antarctica for modern-day plants to grow.

And dinosaurs could not live in very cold places.

What did this information tell Hammer? It told him that when dinosaurs roamed the land, Antarctica must have been much warmer.

In December 2003 to January 2004,

Dr. Hammer's crew made another exciting Antarctic discovery.

They found bones that belonged to a 200-million-year-old dinosaur.

Hammer thinks it is a completely new kind of plant-eating dinosaur.

But they don't know much about it yet.

The rest of its bones still lie hidden inside

Antarctica's rocks.

Perhaps the fossils of many more dinosaurs remain buried in the rocks. Dr. Hammer and future paleontologists must return to Antarctica to learn the fossils' stories.

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