Tiantai and fieldwork in the rain

We left for Tiantai Basin yesterday from Hangzhou. It was difficult to leave for fieldwork as we had just got into a rhythm working at the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, but a pleasant reprieve from the labors of working within doors none-the-less. Before we arrived at the hotel, we stopped and had lunch with our colleagues as well as the director of the museum in Tiantai. As is customary in Chinese culture, we were treated as honored guest, and enjoyed a delicious meal merry with conversation and smiles despite whatever language barriers had separated us. We took the liberty of visiting the Tiantai museum after our lunch and found ourselves in a wonderful museum full of paintings and dinosaurs.

Danny Barta admires the dinosaurs showcased in the Tiantai Museum. (Photo by Christian Heck)











The hotel and the city of Tiantai as a whole are a stark difference between what we had grown accustomed to by visiting Shanghai and then Hangzhou. Tiantai has a more rural feel to it and although bustling and full of people, lacks the industrial and “big city” feel that we had seen in our visits thus far through China.

Tiantiai from our viewpoint at lunch. (Photo by Christian Heck).











If I were to choose only one word to describe the setting as I sit and write this blog, peaceful would sum everything up and then more. Surrounded by lush greenery, with forested tropical hills rising around the outskirts, Tiantai truly sits within a basin and is a mish mash of industrial growth and a city still trying to catch up to modern times. New construction is rampant throughout the city, but single lane cobble roads with merchants packed on either side are to be found in the city’s heart. The mall we had visited was fashioned in the same way, with vendor after vendor peddling shoes and clothes in stalls stacked one after the other separated by a pathway that two could barely walk abreast. Our hotel sits a short walk from the bustling downtown area and yet seems separated by miles. A small creek flows below the backside of our window and along the other bank small garden plots are tended in sequencing order where the steep hill has been flattened into steps along the bank. 

Our view of Tiantai from our field site. (Photo by Christian Heck).

We visited our first site in the field today, driving along dirt roads that were barely wide enough for the vehicle which we took. The site was named “The Graveyard Site” as it was located within hills that were dotted sporadically with shrines and graves. It had rained the previous evening (and probably earlier that morning) and the ground was muddy as well as the hillside, making our work somewhat difficult. And it was not the last rain we were to encounter, all throughout the day showers would follow us, starting with a soft mist and slowly turning more steadily into a rain.

Despite the rain’s best efforts, the research team refuses to quit. (Photo by Christian Heck).


We spent the day working within groups with different objectives. Two worked on measuring stratigraphic sections, while a third mapped and described the egg clutches that had been discovered on previous treks. Measuring stratigraphic sections is mapping the position and angles of sedimentary beds as well as correlating them to the topography of the surrounding area.

Anita Moore-Nall, left, and Ian Underwood take a seat to interpret the geologic settings around them. (Photo by Christian Heck).











We were lucky enough to find a few new egg specimens as well as enjoy the day working outside despite however wet and muddy we all got scrambling along the hillsides. 

Blog post by Ian Underwood

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