Descent into the Earth – Perilous Cinematography – Part 2

This entry is provided by Dr. Phil Manning

Yesterday (Sunday the 18th) I learnt a healthy respect for Chinese farmers who risk life and limb digging deep pits into the bedrock of Liaoning to plunder the Cretaceous beasties entombed in the sands of time….in this case, mud and volcanic ash!

Before we could get to the site of my decent in the paleontological world, Peter, the crew and I drove across the busy city of Jin Zou. Our driver is a positive sort of chap, who had already attempted grafting several pedestrians, cyclists and rickshaws to the front and sides of our crew vehicle…usually at speed. This morning was no exception. Driving at a pace through an impossibly busy market, squeezed onto a one-horse street, our driver pressed hard on the gas-pedal. Whilst we all found this quite exhilarating, the local population in the market did not. Our vehicle pushed and shoved its way through the alleged ‘short-cut’ to our final destination. The bus almost acquired a new Ass (see photo) in one very close shave….in addition to the one already driving our bus!

Our driver almost hit them

Our driver almost hit them

After an eventful, bumpy, rocky and swerving drive, akin to being thrashed about in a stormy sea (this driver could make a seasoned sailor as sick as a marine parrot), we arrived in Liaoning. The museum starkly stood-out in a relatively bleak rural landscape, atop a low windy hill. The modern grey building was in stark contrast to its surroundings, but the welcome we received from our host was warm and laced with excellent coffee.

After greetings and coffee we headed outside the museum towards a shallow ring of bricks, with a tripod of scaffold over the top. A large iron door was sat within the brick ring, as our host lifted back the door, dust gently drifted into the void…gulp…that was where I was going. Peter grinned at Alex (cameraman) and Ihe was to be our host paparazzi with Hailu-You at the surface–whilst Alex and I grappled with ropes, cameras, torches and hopefully some fossils…at the end of a long rope.

The long descent

The long descent

Peter has already provided a great account of life topside, but the rip in the space time continuum that Alex and I would occupy, would make hours seem like minutes. By the time I had descended the hole dug by local farmers to collect fossils, I had new-found respect for their hole digging and tunneling abilities. To see what I saw, alas, you will have to wait till the Nat Geo series next year, but let’s just say Liaoning was no disappointment!

A stunning salamander fossil

A stunning salamander fossil

Once ascended, all I wanted to do was stay in my cramped, dark, dank hole…but weather up on the surface was rapidly worsening, so Alex and I had to call it a day. My first descent into Liaoning’s Cretaceous past had been thankfully smooth and uneventful. Our journey back with the psycho-driver from hell…well, the less said, the better. 🙂




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