Excavation versus reconnaissance

SUMMARY: Peter Fenton, technician at the Royal Ontario Museum, describes the hard work involved in looking for fossils and conducting excavations in the Burgess Shale compared to reconnaissance work. (1:06)

workers excavating rocks in the Walcott Quarry
DESCRIPTION: workers excavating rocks in the Walcott Quarry

"It's exhausting work. It's both physically exhausting and at times mentally exhausting in an excavation. Now there's a big difference between the toll on your body between excavating and doing reconnaissance work."

fossil hunters hiking in Yoho National Park, looking for fossils
DESCRIPTION: fossil hunters hiking in Yoho National Park, looking for fossils

"Reconnaissance is when you're just looking for … trying to find signs, trying to expand the area where you know Burgess Shale-type fossils exist. And that's beautiful. That's hiking. And that's getting out there. You're doing a lot of looking, but there's not necessarily a lot of physical labour."

workers excavating rocks, splitting with hammers and chisels
DESCRIPTION: workers excavating rocks, splitting with hammers and chisels

"Sitting on the side of the mountain in the blazing hot sun, at high altitude, beating on rocks … I mean, some countries have prisoners that do that. Uh, we pay people to do that. But it is very exhausting work. And injuries happen. You're tired, people can launch small rocks into the sides of other people by mistake because they're not thinking. So you have to try to be as wide awake as possible at all times and aware as possible."