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Re: fossil degradation

>Randy wrote:
>>There have been references to the degradation that SUE will suffer
>>by not being in an atmospherically controlled environment.
>>Could someone elaborate on what happens and what information will
>>be lost?                                                             
>Robert Bakker has testified that SUE's bones contain iron pyrite, the
>scourge of museum specimens. Under humid conditions, the pyrite breaks
>down into sulphuric acid which rapidly destroys carbonate in the bones.
>All testimony on both sides agree that there is pyrite in the fossil,
>but the amount is under dispute.

As I already posted there is a contrary opinion. The folks at the South
Dakota School of Mines and Technology dispute what Bakker and the Larson's
claim about the amount of pyrite. I know the curator in charge of watching
over Sue. She claims that they did tests to make sure that Sue would not
have this problem and found that there is not a large amount of pyrite as
is claimed. I have  not seen the evidence that this is true, but must at
least present the other side in this controversy.

>The government's own curator, in a June 9, 1992 affadavit, referred to
>the building where SUE is being stored as "less than adequate".

This also is in dispute by the SDSMT. They are taking care of it and feel
that the storage is not as bad as some claim. So obviously there is some
room for contention here. I have not seen its current storage, but a couple
of years ago Pete Larson showed me (like anyone who visisted could do) Sue
and where it was stored. It was stored in a old building behind the main
building, and it was not climatically controlled. They do not have those
type of facilities either so I kinda wonder if this is like the "pot
calling the kettle black."
>The most idiotic thing that's been done as far as the physical handling
>goes was the fact that the fossil was transported needlessly. In the
>words of Greg Retallack(University of Oregon paleontologist):

Even my friends at the SDSMT do not dispute this claim. Dr. Philip Bjork
who was there when the FBI moved in said to me in a personal comment that
he wished that it would have been left where it was. He was not worried
about the Larsons (his former students) selling it. He thought they were
going to keep it there. But when approached by the FBI about what was going
to be done he felt that some other scientists should be there to make sure
it was moved carelly. He was not very happy with how the FBI moved it and I
have heard that there was some damage done when it was moved (I cannot
confirm this). But he told me that if they had not participated it might
have been even worse.

Probably in this whole legal morass no matter which side you are on in this
issue I think the largest villian is not the Larsons, nor the South Dakota
School of Mines who is storing it, nor the tribe or landowners. It was the
Feds who in their usual way, coupled with an obvious attempt for political
glory seeking, really bungled this one. Now that it has been done I think
that we can all agree that what is important above all claims of ownership
is that this specimen is incredibly valuable and it should not be allowed
to just sit unstudied for years and years. But now that it is in the hands
of many lawyers from many sides who knows how long it will take?  

What I would like to see is that the specimen be put under some kind of
trusteeship that allows any and all to study it, allows it to be protected
and any curation needed to proceed. And that it should be in a place where
all of us can see an enjoy it. I would like to see some kind of compromise
that benefits all parties involved, but especially makes Sue available to
all of us. I hate it when greed and personal aggrandizement become involved
in things. I like the old Indian philosopy that nothing in the earth
belongs to one individual. But in this case it seems that the wonderful
philosophy of personal greed and possession have been in the forefront and
even the Indian tribe is not immune to this awful worldview!!!
>    "This 10 tons of bone and rock was not going anywhere and was no
>     secret to scientists or the public. It remains unclear why such
>     a valuable specimen was subjected to damaging transportation
>     before court determination of it's ownership, after which it will
>     now suffer another potentially damaging move".
>         (Newsweek, Jan. 11,1993 - Fossils are for Everyone)

  Russ Jacobson                     INTERNET:jacobson@fred.isgs.uiuc.edu
  207 NRB, 615 E Peabody            217-244-2426   Home Phone: 217-384-6983
  Illinois Geological Survey         DINOSAUR RUSS: who lives, eats,
  Champaign, IL 61820                breathes and smells dinosaurs!!!
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