In memory of Tamir Nasankhuu, 2015 Morris Skinner Award Recipient

May 14, 2019

Dear Colleagues,
 
It is with deep and abiding sadness that we share with you the news of the untimely death of our dear friend and Gobi team member, Mr. Tamir Nasankhuu.  Many of you may remember that Tamir was the recipient of the 2015 Morris Skinner Award, for his more than 20 years of unstinting, expert, and extraordinary contributions to the paleontological exploration of Mongolia. During this time, and up until our most recent field season in 2018, Mr. Tamir served as the chief technician for the Mongolian Academy of Sciences-American Museum of Natural History Museum Gobi Expeditions ((MAE) led by us in collaboration with the late Dr. Demberyln Dashzeveg and, more recently, with Dr. Khand Yondon from the Mongolian Academy. I think it is fair to say that the many accomplishments of these expeditions in terms of paleontological discoveries, published research, training, and international collaborative effort would not have been possible in any comparable way without Tamir.
 
Although he first joined our expeditions in 1993 as the youngest of our truck drivers, Tamir quickly demonstrated his mastery far beyond his twenty years in so many areas crucial to the expeditions. His mechanical brilliance rescued potentially marooned field parties from serious and in some cases even dangerous situations. But he was much more than a vehicle-virtuoso: he was an insightful logistics planner, route-finder, field consular, and excavator (one amazingly strong for his small stature). He located, acquired, and organized a property in the city that has served many years as a base camp for the expedition, a heroic accomplishment given the difficult conditions and the infrastructure challenges in Mongolia.
 
Because of his extraordinary talents and dedication, Tamir elicited huge respect and cooperation from his Mongolian drivers and technicians. He was their wise man, their baatar (leader). Tamir’s connection with his foreign teammates was no less profound. He never learned English but instead invented his own “Eng-Mongolian”, a strange combination of phrases and sounds that worked perfectly for us. Visitors to our camp were amazed to encounter this alien new language, much of it full of irony and humor, but always effective.
 
Such synchrony came with friendship and good company, and Tamir was very special in this way. His interactions with his team mates and his observations of the world and humanity were creative, generous, and often hilarious. We are shocked by his loss at such an early age and we deeply miss Tamir, or todla--“the rabbit”--as he was respectfully nicknamed by his Mongolian comrades. But those of us lucky to know Tamir so well can cherish the remembrance of that extraordinary time when our lives and his intersected.    
 
Sincerely,
 
Michael Novacek
Mark Norell