After three and half years we made the journey back to China and back to the Early Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia.
We know that it was hot in the Early Cretaceous, even at high latitudes such as that of Inner Mongolia but our first stop in Beijing had us sweating and swearing in very real present-day heat: a whopping 42ºC (or 108ºF for those who are Celsius challenged).
Needless to say in the two weeks in Beijing, we sheltered inside classrooms, the hotel and air-
conditioned malls, though we did make a few forays out to places like the Summer Palace. The evenings were ‘cool-ish’ feeling, so walks always ensued, especially after the many Chinese dinners.
After Beijing I was joined by Dr Marvin Moroeng from University of Johannesburg who looks at ancient charcoals and by Dr Roman Pausch, a botanist from the USA specializing in how plants process 13C and 15N. Together, along with my wife Aretha and 12 yr old son Micah, we took the fast train south to Xuzhou where the three of us lectured for 3 days.
Then it was back to Hailar, Inner Mongolia with Prof Jian Shen (China University of Mining and Technology) and his 10 yr old daughter Succi; it was blissfully cool. Returning to the Yimin mine the team collected a complete section of samples from the #15 Seam for organic petrology, palynology, biomarkers, vitrain tissue analysis, isotopes and fusain analysis. It promises to hold some interesting answers to the questions we are testing.
We’ll begin analysis as soon as the samples reach us in Australia and South Africa as well as our collaborating colleagues in Germany (Prof Ralf Littke and Dr Alex Wheeler).
While in the far north, we did have time for a few days skirting the edge of the Russian border. After visiting some CBM fields, we rode horses across the step and dashed down a large grassland slide without brakes (a hit with kids and adults alike!).
Then it was onto Manzhouli; an entry town from China into Russia. We demurred from crossing the border but marveled at the obvious Russian influence on the town.
Fish farms, endless sky and large inland lakes (Hulun and Buir Lakes) is are just some of the memories I carried back. We’ll be returning to explore more; possibly in the autumn or spring, although there is a certain appeal to coming in winter when the cold is like a python for the unprepared.