A dinosaur fossil unearthed by students from Concordia International School Shanghai (CISS) is expected to be featured in a National Geographic television special in mid-2010.
The fossil, found by the students while on an archeological dig in the Gansu Province of central China this fall, is the largest sauropod vertebra on record in China.
Patrick Frerking, assistant high school principal of activities at CISS, helped arrange the fossil dig as an “Interim.” Interims are weeklong courses available to high-school students at CISS each year that are designed to develop communication and leadership skills, self-reliance, and compassion.
In September, Frerking and CISS science teacher Joel Klammer accompanied 21 students to the Fossil Research and Development Center of Geo-Exploration, about an hour from Lanzhou, China. There, the group received training from world-renowned paleontologist Dr. You Hailu, who went with them to the field work site at the Zhongpu Dinosaur Quarries.
“Before the course, we advised the students to have low expectations,” recalled Klammer. “We didn’t know what to expect. Maybe we’d find some small bone fragments.”
The CISS group was led to the top of a mountain, where the fossil of a spine bone, about 40 cm (or 16 inches) long was already exposed. With picks, hammers, chisels, and shovels, the students unearthed more than they expected, according to Frerking.
“We uncovered a neck vertebra of a sauropod” [a dinosaur with a long neck], he said. “It measured more than 75 cm [30 inches], which is bigger than the largest one found to date, which is 70 cm.”
The group was even more excited when they realized that the connecting rib-like bone to the vertebra “went on for another three meters!” added Klammer.
The fossil was not completely excavated during the students’ seven-day Interim. Instead, You and his team covered the bones with a light layer of dirt, and, about a month later, a National Geographic crew arrived to film the site.
“Compared to the ancient man-made marvels of China, dinosaur fossils inspire an unprecedented degree of awe,” CISS senior Adrian Chao wrote in his reflections on the Interim course. “Though the largest Chinese sauropod cannot hope to match the length of the Great Wall, even the smallest of these creatures could rear its head high over the most imposing sections of Beijing’s battlements.”
Concordia International School Shanghai, now in its 12th year, is owned and operated by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. It provides a Christian education to the children of expatriates living and working in China.
For more information, visit its Web site at www.ciss.com.cn.
Posted Dec. 9, 2009