Hadrosaur Fossil donated to Whitman

Molly Johanson

It’s been a long journey for Whitman’s new Hadrosaur fossil to get to its place in the atrium of the Hall of Science. From Montana to Walla Walla, the fossil has traveled in not one, but three pieces.   A donation to the college, the fossil has been on display since this summer.

Credit: Caitlin Bergman

The fossil is the actual bone, not a cast of the ischium, or hip bone, of a Hadrosaur dinosaur, and was donated to the Whitman Geology department in 2010 by Ben Workman, a retired machinist and self described rock-hound who lives in Walla Walla. Workman brought the fossil to Assistant Professor of Geology, Nick Bader.

“I was excited when Ben [Workman] showed up with [the fossil]. We have a few [fossil] fragments, but no dinosaur bones as large as this.   It’s a nice thing to have. You have to have the right circumstances to have a fossil, [you] can’t just get one,” Bader said.

For Workman, the right circumstances came accidentally. About five years ago, Workman was helping transport it and other fossils at a shop, which had purchased the fossil from a Blackfeet reservation in Montana. The fossil broke in Workman’s hand, causing him to drop it, where it broke into three pieces. Workman was devastated, but it was because of this accident that Workman was able to purchase the fossil at a reasonable price: $350.

From that point onward, because Workman did not have the means to repair it, the fossil sat in a box for many years, until shortly after Workman moved to Walla Walla two years ago.

“This [fossil] needs to be out where people can see it [and] appreciate it. The college deserves something like [the fossil],” Workman said.

Alumna Katie Rouse ’10, who was the Geology Technician at the time of the donation, was charged with repairing the broken fossil.   The restoration took Rouse about two weeks, during which she did research on how to repair the fossil and ordering materials such as paleo epoxy.

“Being able to take on the project of reconstructing the bone was an incredible learning experience,” said Rouse in an email.

Rouse, along with Bader and Larry North, the technician for Science Instruction, planned how the fossil would fit into the geology display in the Atrium. Rouse figured out the angle at which the fossil would hang, and whether or not the fossil was structurally sound enough to be hung.

Because other items housed in the display were either heavy, fragile, or both, the reorganization had to be carefully planned and executed. Carpenter John Groom built a wooden box to protect one of the large crystals in the geology display.   The fossil was finally put on display Wednesday, June 22.

“I think having the fossil in Whitman’s Geology Department collection is a wonderful addition: especially with its prominent display in the Atrium. It is a great learning tool for younger students visiting the Science Building: if only to display simply how large dinosaurs were!” said Rouse.

Additionally, the fossil has fostered interest in those who frequent the Atrium.

“It’s fascinating that you can put something so complex back together and know it’s history and where this bone fits in with the rest of the supposed skeleton,” said sophomore Kerry Streiff.