Cobra

SUMMARY: Peter Fenton, technician at the Royal Ontario Museum, discusses the use of heavy equipment to conduct major excavations in the Burgess Shale. (2:09)

Using a jackhammer in the Walcott Quarry
DESCRIPTION: Using a jackhammer in the Walcott Quarry

"This, basically what you're looking at is a gas-powered jackhammer. We use equipment like this when we have to break up huge amounts of rock in a relatively short time."

Close-up view of jackhammer
DESCRIPTION: Close-up view of jackhammer

"Now we don't use it like, for instance if you're ever walking along the street and see construction workers breaking up the street with jackhammers, it's got a big chisel in it and they're just using it like a big, powered chisel. We don't use our jackhammers in that way."

Fenton shows drill bit
DESCRIPTION: Fenton shows drill bit

"But what we'll do, though, is rather than using a standard chisel, we will use one of these. And basically, it is a large drill bit. I'm not sure if you can see that … the end is very sharp, polished steel. It's very hard."

Jackhammer at work in quarry
DESCRIPTION: Jackhammer at work in quarry

"What you're doing is drilling a hole. So it is just as simple as that. We use our jackhammer to drill holes in the rock. And what we'll do if we're trying to remove a large wedge of rock, a large slab of rock from the side of a mountain, we'll drill a whole series of holes."

Fenton demonstrates how feathers are used to split rock
DESCRIPTION: Fenton demonstrates how feathers are used to split rock

"This is a set of feathers. You just notice it's a piece of steel, sort of half-round, with a nice little edge on it there, a nice little lip. So what we'll do is we'll take these as a pair and we drop it down the hole in the rock. We'll drop a pair of these down every single hole, between those feathers we insert a wedge. That, then slides down inside, and it's a very tight fit so it's not going to just go sliding down by itself."

Fossil workers hammering away to split rock
DESCRIPTION: Fossil workers hammering away to split rock

"And hammer away on the top of the wedge. And it just keeps moving down, farther and farther and putting pressure on the rock. And we do this for every one of the holes and every one of the feathers and wedges. Eventually it forms so much pressure that that face of rock breaks off."

Fossil workers prying large section of rock away from quarry wall
DESCRIPTION: Fossil workers prying large section of rock away from quarry wall

"We'll have a series of people using prybars to wedge down that newly formed crack and ease that slab of rock off the face of the mountain. And it'll slide down the mountain a little bit and then we'll attack it with sledge hammers and regular chisels."

© Royal Ontario Museum