OUGS ME trip to China - August 1st to 10th 2011

Day 0, 1st  August,      Arrival in Qingdao

Text Eileen Lawley, photo Neil lawley.

After we had all arrived safely at various times in Qingdao, a fairly ?small? city of 7 million inhabi- tants (!!) in the province of Shandong, we were introduced to our Chinese guides for the trip.

Wind of May
The group in front of the symbole of Qingdao : the Wind of May sculpture.

Chen Yuan, a student at the Beijing University of Geosciences (only 30,000 students!) who was to explain the geology that we were to see and Li Wei who had made all the travel arrangements. We all set off in the evening for a meal in the German Beer Town. Yes, really. It seems as if there was a German settlement in Qingdao in the 19th century and what do Germans do on the other side of the world? Civilise the natives by building a brewery. So hence the German Beer Town which is an area in the centre with a vast choice of (Chinese) restaurants. We enjoyed the first of many excellent meals selected for us by Li Wei.

Day 1, 2nd August       Dinosaurs in China

Text Eileen Lawley, photos Neil lawley.

After a short stop in the port area of Quindao where we saw the sailing area used for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, we drove over the ?longest bridge over the sea in the world? (24 km) across the bay saving a hundred km or so. After driving for sometime we stopped for lunch, another excellent choice by Li Wei.

Excavation site in Zhucheng
Excavation site in Zhucheng

Our main visit of the day was a visit to the Cretaceous Dinosaur Geopark at Zhu Cheng and its nearby Zhu Cheng Dinosaur Museum. After passing a building stuffed with complete dinosaur skeletons glimpsed through the windows, we approached an- other building and after opening the sliding doors we entered and gasped in amazement.

We could not believe what we were seeing. We were in an enormous shed 500m long x 30m wide. On one side were layers of red sandstone and mud sediments. On the other side of a pathway, stretching to the end of the shed for 500m was a 10-12m high mound form a strata deposited in the Late Cretaceous absolutely bristling with dinosaur bones, an estimated 10,000 of them waiting to be to excavated and identified by eager students. What a sight! As we walked along the gallery identifying some of the bones, we felt the impending excitement that the stu- dents will experience as they get to work on their discoveries.

The excavation site
Chen Yuan in the excavation gallery
Hadrosaurus
Hadrosaurus
Eileen and the Hadrosaurus bone
Eileen and the Hadrosaurus bone

The first dinosaur was excavated in 1964. There are three sites, the dinosaur fossil gallery which I have just described, an “uplift of dinosaur fossils” 300m by 30m and a “dinosaur fossils stacked zone” giving a further 6000 fossil pieces. These three sites consti- tute the world’s largest exposed area of dinosaur fos- sils, so we felt very privileged to have seen one of the sites.

90% of the fossils found so far consist of Hadro-saurus (duckbilled dinosaur) which my copy of Simon and Schuster (1999) does not even acknowledge as being found in
China. There are also examples of Triceratops which it is claimed are the ‘mother’ of the species found in the USA.

Entering another shed we studied many display cases of dinosaur bones and several large assembled specimens. A couple of restorers were pleased to have a rest from scraping while they showed us their handiwork, painstakingly and lovingly executed. One bone takes several weeks to prepare we were informed, so there is no need for any unemployment here and they receive a fairly good wage by Chinese standards, about 160 Euros/month. From this you can only imagine what the costs for restoration would be if undertaken in the west.

Gigantic Zhucheng Dragon
Gigantic Zhucheng Dragon

We found the museum itself in yet another building and found that the displays were selected to be more suitable for public viewing. There were some very interesting finds showing nests of up to 30 dinosaur eggs and the “Shandong giant dragon” standing at 8m high and 15m long, and the “Gigantic Zhucheng Dragon” the world’s tallest Hadrosaurus skeleton at 9.1m high and 16.6m long.

We left rather reluctantly as it might have been a good chance to find our very own dinosaur, even if the finds are rather easy pickings.That evening as part of another delicious meal some of us sampled cicadas and found them to be delicious. Rather like pork crackling (roasted pork skin) with a shrimp attached.

Day 2, 3th August            Dancing Skies and Glittering Depths

Text and Photos Helen Gamble

The first stop on day 2 was to Yi Shui Underground Florescent Lake. The original itinerary was to visit both the underground canyon and the lake but due to limited time and the distance needed to be covered that day, only the underground lake was investigated.

This forms part of the much larger tourist attraction of Yingguang Lake Tour, which includes a Butterfly Valley, Insect Dream Garden, riverdrifting and water launches, both on the open water and adjacent lake, Buddhist temples and numerous scenic areas adjoin ing a lake with vegetated hills to three sides. The Butterfly Valley also forms part of a study pro- gramme, the only one in northern China.

The underground part of the tourist park is part of a large karst cave system with a length of 1,200 metres, with the lake itself covering an area of 25,000 square metres and capacity of 240,000 cubic metres. The natural formation is related to the unvisited 6.1 km long canyon, developed from a northwest to southeast karst fracture, with both formed about 65 to 230 million years ago.

Cockel boat
Cockel boats at Jetty

The cave system was an integral part of the tourist attraction, with only a few of the natural features, such as stalactites, easily visible. In the main, the system was lit up with tube lights until the main underground lake was reached. From here, we climbed aboard one of the flotilla of cockle boats that trans- ports visitors into the main attraction. With the boatman pulling our craft along by a series of ropes attached to a timber support, walls or occasionally the roof, we entered the main cave.

Stalactite in the Yi Shui Cave
Stalactite in the Yi Shui Cave

Here it was dark, as if the sense of vision had failed and as one of our group explained later, you felt your mouth opening, not necessarily at the wonder of it but to try and ease the pressure of losing one of your senses by activating another. But as we were pulled along in the inky blackness, lights gradually appeared on the roof like thousands of twinkling stars in a clear night sky. These are the fireflies, a species which lives in the stable climate afforded by the cave system and their light created by a biochemistry reaction. As we emerged blinking onto the lighted jetty at the end of the boat trip, and continued along the path towards the cave exit, more features became apparent, some lit by coloured lights, somehow enhancing the sense of otherworldliness of the event.

As the group explored the remainder of the park on the way back to the bus, we found a few panels translated into English but none mentioned the geology of the area.

Guilaizhuang Gold Mine

After a drive in a south western direction to Ping Yi, and a lunch stop at a local restaurant renowned for its lamb dishes, we entered the Guilaizhuang Gold Mine 20 km to the southeast of the town. Apparently it had been extremely difficult to contact anyone to arrange our visit so our arrival on site was somewhat unexpected. Chen Yuan and Li Wei spent quite a great deal of time and effort trying to get us in and it was only by chance that Chen Yuan managed to talk to the site geologist, Lu Dong, who had attended the Chinese University of Geosciences that we finally managed to access the site. Perhaps, as the day be- fore the President of Shandong Province had toured the site, they wanted a day off from visitors?

Ping Yi rock
Ping Yi rock

The site consists of a cryptoexplosive breccia developed in Paleozoic carbonate rocks and Ordovician dolomite, and controlled by an EW-trending listric fault with subvolcanic epithermal telluride-bearing gold deposit. The deposit is related to the Early Jurassic Tongshi magmatic complex that formed in a continental arc setting on the margin of the North China Craton. The host rocks are porphyritic and consist predominantly of medium-to fine-grained diorite and hornblende-bearing monzonite. The fault zone has the largest orebody which pinches, swells, branches and converges, contributing 98 % of the total ore reserves, with a length of 550m, an average thickness of 6.8m and a dip width of 650m.

First stop on site was to an area where the rock was taken and sorted depending from which part of the site it was extracted from. This process ensured that different grades were kept separate as the ranges of metals and minerals are not consistent throughout the site. The gold deposits ranges from 3.42 to 26.37 gram per ton (g/t), with mean of 6.8 g/t and a maxi- mum of 457.4 g/t.

The group calculated that for the given figure of 10 to 15 kg of gold extracted per day and with current price of gold, approx. $900,000 per day gross was made on site.

Main pit, Guilaizhuang Gold Mine
Main pit, Guilaizhuang Gold Mine

Next stop was to the main pit - 190m deep, with another 300m of deposits to excavate. There were also six shafts, with 40m deep adits running off every 150 metres. This amazing feat of engineering, and the chance of looking down into it safely from the viewing platform, was truly breathtaking.

Zircon sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U-Pb dating indicates that the dioritic rocks of the Tongshi magmatic complex give a mean age of 175.7±3.8 Ma, interpreted as representing the crystallization age of the Tongshi magmatic complex, dating the gold deposits to the Middle Jurassic.

Good luck stone
Good luck stone

Operating since 1992, the site has recently undergone extensive modernisation, enabling an environmentally friendly, and more economically viable, production system to be operated. Currently the site is not officially open to the public but will be when all the internal roads are finished. Large karst blocks were positioned along the access track surrounding the main pit and above the site, sat in temple-like shelters were vast stones extracted from the pit. At a cost of 200,000 yuan, these had been erected overlooking the site operations, both for good luck and for the visitors.

Lu Dong spent the afternoon taking our group round the site and explaining the five stage process required to extract the gold and recycle the materials.
• Stage 1 - Sorting, crushing and pulverising of the extracted rock to produce a fine dust material
• Stage 2 - The fine material is then added to a hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid solution to form a mud/rock slurry
• Stage 3 - The slurry solution is treated with carbon which extracts the gold from the other metals
• Stage 4 - Sodium cyanide is then used to extract the gold from the carbon
• Stage 5 - The waste material is dried in settling areas and the dry material is landscaped, with the solution extracted at the end of the process piped back down to the crushing area and is re-used in stage 2.

Stage 2
Stage 2
Stage 4
Stage 4
Stage 5
Stage 5

It was an excellent afternoon, even better than antici- pated as we taken round all the processes and machinery. The site would benefit from some form of interpretation of the processes and geology before it is opened to the public. Due to the long distances, a dark, wet drive took us to an unscheduled hotel stop where we were able to eat and drink well before getting some sleep and onto the next day.

Day 3, 4th August              Qufu

Text Mike Molloy, Photo Neil Lawley

Jet-lag was still being experienced by most participants so Day 3 was a touristic day and we spent the morning visiting the birthplace of Confucius in the little town of Qufu. Confucius lived from about 551 BC to 479 BC, he was probably the most famous Chinese thinker and philosopher who according to Wikipedia, emphasised personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. His teachings became established during the Han Dynasty, 206 BC ? AD 220, some 200 years after his death.

Qufu, the hometown of Confucius
Qufu, the hometown of Confucius

Our Chinese guide for the morning managed to complete her tour with us, without needing to resort to the use of microphones and loudspeakers, which were in general use for Chinese-language tours. Thankfully, the location was large enough to escape most of the noise, but in the places of restricted size, the sound level reached to around the accoustic pain level.

We continued our journey to Tai’an, the town at the foot of the Tai Mountain, at 70 km from Qufu. We prepared our next trip on Day 4 by visiting a local shop to buy some food for lunch and some of us also enjoyed  a real royal coffee; to know what it contained you might have to ask Neil. As the following day was to start at 5am, we had an early night after an excellent meal in one of the best restaurant of the town,.