DiscoverNature

Dig: The Search for Dinosaurs

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Worth reading 😎

Entertaining and educational, this blog-style narrative speaks enthusiastically on dinosaurs, and both low and high budget excavations.

Synopsis

We are about to embark upon a series of adventures with a dinosaur digger—me. You get to experience the highs and lows, the excitement and tedium, and the science. Plus, you get to watch me start from a nervous novice with little confidence and social grace, making mistakes and screw-ups. And, with the help and guidance of some great people, learn that I can fall (literally) and stand up again.
There are many digging stories, a little science, some questions to get you thinking, and at the very end, I’ll tell you the answer to your most burning question—what killed off the dinosaurs and ended their 160-million-year reign as kings of the Earth. ( Hint, they never went totally extinct)

Dig, The Search For Dinosaurs by Stuart Plotkin is a creative long-form essay/journal style writing that centers on Plotkin’s previous participation in several different digs for dinosaurs of different periods. The digs take place in different states in the USA as well as Madagascar and Mongolia, and Plotkin shares his experiences as a non-professional (by which I mean non-academically trained) participant of the discovery, unearthing, and preservation process.


This book has mainly an educational purpose. Plotkin takes the time and effort in the very first couple of chapters to acquaint his readers with the geologic eras and their main characteristics, as well as which dinosaurs lived where and when and what are the main bones that are usually found. At the end of the book there is a thoughtfully placed bibliography, appendixes of questions for discussion, related websites, dinosaur jokes, a graph of geological time frame, a glossary, and a Dr. Seuss poem (not all in that order). This text contains several different styles of writing that come from seemingly separate intentions. As has been mentioned, most of it is educational, and a lot of it is quite technical to the average reader. These technical portions will always have been previously explained, but as they are important to the excavation process, and they can be quite long and often unamusing. However, Plotkin has a distinct passion for the subject material and he writes enthusiastically. This keeps his writing afloat when the subject matter otherwise seems to drag on. Plotkin’s tone is light and somewhat comedic and largely anecdotal, but there is a particular instance in which he delves into a nonsensical “thriller” story in which he is supposed to have been the only one to have watched a ghost Native American procession through the middle of the base camp one night. Considering that the text is meant to teach amateurs, this ridiculous scene is not only poorly written but largely takes away from the ulterior motive of imparting actual lessons and bits of honest education.


Dig is self-published, and it is a bit strange that it has been published on Microsoft Word using the Track Changes function. Meaning, there is a grey sidebar to the right which details a couple of format changes and indents (the changes seem to have been the last changes made before publication), but Plotkin would have benefitted largely from more in-depth editing. Additionally, some of the breaks between pieces of text are not well constructed and do not accomplish anything in terms of narrative or text structure. Sometimes the narration is broken in order to briefly refer to a specific dinosaur or to another specific aspect surrounding an excavation (for instance, the bit about schools in Madagascar). In some cases, this break would work better as a prolonged footnote or as part of an appendix.  


This book is an interesting read for those who wish to acquaint themselves further with excavations and paleontology. It conveys not unsubstantial amounts of information and anecdotal experiences of digs, delivered in light banter. This text will ideally appeal to young 5th grade level readers with an interest in the study of dinosaurs. The description of digs encompasses encounters with dangerous snakes, scorpions, adverse elements such as the Mongolian steppe winds and Badlands dryness, brief histories of the locations, and the grimy conditions of excavation living quarters, as well as valuable portions relating to finding of bones (such as evaluating which ones are worth saving, and then digging, plastering, and transporting to museums or conserving in place for other excavations). There is also commentary on black market excavations and sales of dinosaur bones, which caused much trouble in Plotkin’s experience. Overall, Dig, The Search For Dinosaurs is an amusing, educational, and yet somewhat amateurish read that is worth going over if you are thinking of volunteering for an excavation some time in the future.   

Reviewed by

Book editor, freelance content writer, and translator with a literature MA. I'm passionate about all kinds of literature and art. I enjoy editing, reading, and writing creative and informative content to the best of my abilities. Originality, insight, and entertainment are priorities for me. #Scifi

Synopsis

We are about to embark upon a series of adventures with a dinosaur digger—me. You get to experience the highs and lows, the excitement and tedium, and the science. Plus, you get to watch me start from a nervous novice with little confidence and social grace, making mistakes and screw-ups. And, with the help and guidance of some great people, learn that I can fall (literally) and stand up again.
There are many digging stories, a little science, some questions to get you thinking, and at the very end, I’ll tell you the answer to your most burning question—what killed off the dinosaurs and ended their 160-million-year reign as kings of the Earth. ( Hint, they never went totally extinct)

Dig

 Dawn already? I hate getting up early, but it’s better to be working now when it’s cooler, than later in the day when it’s 100 degrees. That’s the time for cooling off in the river. A quick breakfast, make some sandwiches for lunch, retrieve my frozen water bottle, fill up four-quart bottles of water, gear up, and out into the field. Today is prospecting day, my favorite. The group gets dropped off at a promising spot in the vast Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, for a day of prospecting.

    Within minutes, I find myself alone in a maze of coulees, hills, and ravines. Thank goodness for my GPS. Without it, I’d get lost in a second. I get turned around, just looking for the “bathroom bush.” I’m off, looking up for signs of a shower of exposed bones, looking down for a vertebrae or toe bone sitting in the sand, looking for “the important find.”

    Feeling pretty proud of myself for making it to the bottom of a deep coulee, I proceed to fall on my face. With torn jeans and scratched nose, (fortunately, my face broke my fall) I look at what I just tripped over. Lots of thoughts immediately flood my mind. My heart began to race. Did I hurt myself? Gee, I’m in the middle of nowhere, what if I need help? Boy am I going to get teased for falling on my face! And by the way, what made me fall on my face?


I turn to face my opponent and find about two inches of bone sticking out of the ground. It has a hard-right angle, but that’s all I can see. I start to pick at it with my “professional paleontology tool,” a screwdriver. Usually, these are just “Chunk-obone” pieces, but this one seems to go deeper into the hard-packed dirt. It’s time to get serious. I take off my backpack, take out my rock hammer, awl, and brush, and start to dig, and dig. The bone keeps going! This is getting exciting, although I still have no idea what this thing is. Nine inches down, the sharply angled bone levels off so I start digging a trench down to it. There is a sharp point sticking out of the dirt. Time to use the brush and dental pick. After two minutes, I begin to realize what this is- it is the tip of a tooth, probably a large one. It was shiny, sharp, with serrations like a steak knife, and had not seen daylight in sixty-seven million years. Not only that, but it was attached to the jaw bone. It is six inches long and ready to sink into some fresh flesh. A few minutes later, four more teeth appear. I had found a jaw full of teeth, and these teeth belonged to a Tyrannosaur. This is like a dream come true…      And then            I woke up.

    OK, I admit that was my own little fantasy, but there are people who go to sleep every night dreaming about winning the lotto, finding a large gold nugget, sinking the last basket at the buzzer that wins the game or getting an A in algebra. We all want to be the hero. Well, I dream about finding that extra special dinosaur fossil, finding one tiny piece of the puzzle about dinosaurs. I dream about the adventure.  

About the author

Dr. Plotkin has spent his Summers out in the field for about 20 years. He went from a newbie to an amateur paleontologist. He teaches dinosaur Paleontology at Stony Brook University. His best “find” has been a mostly complete Daspletosaurus from the Oldman formation in Southern Alberta Canada. view profile

Published on March 13, 2020

Published by

40000 words

Genre: Nature

Reviewed by

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