In 1985, I began to think about the possibility of an expedition to East Greenland, at the instigation of my husband Rob. Along the trail, I met Peter Friend of the Earth Sciences Department across the road in Cambridge, who had been leader of several expeditions to the part of Greenland in which I was interested. It turned out that he'd had a student, John Nicholson, who'd collected a few fossils as part of his thesis work on the sediments of the Upper Devonian of East Greenland between 1968 and 1970. Peter retrieved these specimens from a basement drawer and also showed me John's notebook from his 1970 expedition. John's note that on Stensiö Bjerg, at 800 metres, Ichthyostega skull bones were common was startling, and portentous. The fossils that he'd collected fitted together to make a single small block of three partial skulls and shoulder girdle bits - not of Ichthyostega, but of its at that time lesser known contemporary, Acanthostega.

Peter suggested I get in touch with Svend Bendix-Almgreen, Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology in the Geological Museum in Copenhagen. The Danes still administered expeditions by geologists to the National Park of East Greenland, where the Devonian sites are located, so he would be the person to start with in my attempts to mount an expedition there. Peter also suggested I contact Niels Henricksen of the Greenland Geological Survey (GGU). By sheer coincidence, and great good fortune, the GGU had a project in hand in the very place where I needed to go, and their last season there was the summer of 1987. With funds from the University Museum of Zoology and the Hans Gadow Fund in Cambridge and the Carlsberg Foundation in Copenhagen, I, my husband Rob, my student at the time, Per Ahlberg, and Svend Bendix-Almgreen and his student Birger Jorgenson arranged a six-week field trip in the care of the GGU for July and August of 1987.

Using John Nicholson's field notes, we eventually pinned down the locality from which the Acanthostega specimens had come, and then the exact in-situ horizon that had been yielding them. It was in effect, a tiny, but very rich, Acanthostega 'quarry'. More about the site, the expedition, and the results it produced can be found in the books and papers listed on the Publications page under Acanthostega and Geology and Environments.

The 1998 Greenland expedition

In 1998, funded by National Geographic, and by a Gibbs Fellowship from Cambridge, I organised a follow-up expedition to the Upper Devonian deposits of East Greenland. Again, we were looked after by Niels Henricksen of the Denmark and Greenland Geological Survey (now called GEUS). This time, the expedition members were all female: myself, my preparator Sarah Finney, my graduate student Sally Neininger, and a graduate student from Bristol, Becky Hitchin. She is an expert on climbing, and this was needed to try to get access to what I hoped would be the lode which had yielded the best Ichthyostega material that we had collected in 1987. In the event, this proved not to be the case. However, we did find some articulated ichthyostegid material on the south side of Celsius Bjerg, which we hope will be the key to unlock the answers to some important questions about Ichthyostega itself. Sarah is hoping to visit this site again in July-August 2012 as part of an expedition with Professor John Marshall from Southampton University.

Carboniferous chondrichthyans from Derbyshire, 2005, 2010

Following a family holiday in 2004, we located skeletal remains of Carboniferous chondrichthyans from the Eyam Limestone of Derbyshire. Subsequent expeditions collected additional material from several localities with a team of local experts and graduate students (see Carboniferous Fishes page).

The TW:eed Project - Tournaisian fish and tetrapods

Following exciting discoveries of Tournaisian tetrapods by colleagues Tim Smithson and the late Stan Wood, we explored the rocks of Burnmouth, north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and found a Crassigyrinus-like lower jaw (see Other Early Tetrapod Projects and Smithson et al. 2012 in the Publications List), a large rhizodont cleithrum and pterygoid, and many isolated lungfish bones as well as Gyracanthus spines. These form part of our latest project: The TW:eed Project - Tetrapod World: Early Evolution and Diversity.
Stensio bjerg campsite Team photo Stordal Ymer Island cliffs Arctic Fox Musk Ox Fjord Looking down from the Acanthostega exposure Trekking home at 2 am Kochi Ridge, Celsiusbjerg The waterfall near where we camped on Stensiobjerg

Last updated 5th November, 2013 by Rob Clack