|So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.
Notes from the Field - The Latest News!
This year Dr. Larry, your usual mild-mannered reporter for the Mesozoic Daily Planet News, was not able to participate in the expedition to the Cretacious.
His powers were needed elsewhere to save something or another in the 21st century! Marla Seasly was volunteered and agreed to be responsible for the daily notes.
She has been a contributer to the notes for past expeditions—the notes for 2014 were left in great hands!!
All times given are Texas time, [CDT (Cretaceous Daylight Time)]. Local time is actually one hour earlier [MDT (Mesozoic Daylight Time)].
- Wednesday, 28 May
- Packing Day! Dr Chadwick, Justin, Mikey, Tyke loaded the trailer with help from Marla, Ben, and Jared. Tetsuya Sensei always on the ready. The day was warm under blue skies and puffy clouds. The pace was relaxed but busy.
- Thursday, 29 May
- The 2014 Expedition officially begins!
Dr Turner wished the Dinosaur Research caravan a pleasant journey as it got a late start on the trek to the wilds of Wyoming. The delay was over waiting for a spare tire for the trailer. We were thankful for this delay later in our Journey. Justin and Dr Erin took the lead in the pickup, pulling the trailer with our gear. The vans followed. One van containing Dr Chadwick, Tyke, Tetsuya Sensei and RuthAnn. The other containing Mikey, Ben, Jared and a coughing and hacking Marla. Once on the road, everything went smoothly until the misadventure that was lunch. The fast-food restaurant, which shall remain nameless, was not prepared for the numbers arriving on their door. We waited, and waited for meaty tostadas and rice burritos. Once our orders were made edible we consumed them and were on our way. Fed, but unsatisfied. As the miles ticked away we said 'goodbye' to Texas and New Mexico. At our dinner stop, a pressure check found a leaky tire on the trailer. Justin and Dr Chadwick changed the tire with assistance from Ben and a cheering section led by Dr Erin and Tetsuya Sensei. Back on the road the miles ticked by as we passed through Colorado in the night. Eventually we tarried at a rest stop for a few hours of shut eye before dawn.
- Friday, 30 May
- We were on the road again as the sun's bright colors kissed the the southern Wyoming horizon.
The three vehicles caravanning from Southwestern Adventist University safely arrived at base camp Cretaceous for their month long adventure. Stephan, Dawnella, Linh, and Yarianni warmly greeted the caravan when we arrived. Along with a stable wifi connection intact from last year! Tents flew up in no time as everyone "pitched" in to get them up before the rain. The day was spent settling into camp. We welcomed Sabbath with thankful hearts for the many blessing God has given us in recent days and on our journey here.
- Saturday, 31 May
- There is something undeniably special about Sabbaths out here. The simple splendor of nature shared by a like minded community adds wonder instantly. Brenda, Al and Mark joined us for song and a thoughtful word shared by Dr Chadwick. After a hearty lunch Dr Chadwick, Brenda, Mikey, Erin, Lihn, Yari, Ben, Jared and Marla took a small field trip to the micro site. They explored gullies and hills looking for bones to pick. A full double rainbow greeted us as we got ready to close Sabbath.
- Sunday, 1 June
- Today, was a light day for digging. Diggers readied their quarry boxes with digging tools and field books. Once prepared, they headed out to North Quarry. The GPS is being finicky, but Mark, Justin and Dr Chadwick are troubleshooting. No bones where removed from the quarry. Although several are ready and waiting. An afternoon rain sent diggers back to base camp early for an evening spent in leisure.
- Monday, 2 June
- After working a long day yesterday, Mark and Justin have the GPS running smoothly.
A stomach virus has hit camp. It's quick and dirty. Every precaution is being used to stop it from transfering to one and all. Otherwise today was beautiful and sunny. North Quarry worked hard to get the plethora of uncovered bones out of the quarry. While others work to secure a Triceratops from the elements elsewhere on the ranch.
In general the camp has been early to bed of late, tucking their weary bones into their sleeping bags.
- Tuesday, 3 June
- Another beautiful day in Wyoming. We've been blessed this year. When it rains, it's been just enough to refresh the Earth and move on. The fields love the light, evening rains. The water has a chance to soak in and green the fields rather than rolling off and evaporating, and the work in the quarries is allowed to continue uninterrupted. Erin trooped on leading North Quarry to more exciting finds, even though she caught the virus. Forrest arrived today, along with some much needed fresh supplies from town. Now that Ivarrest is reunited, who knows what exciting discoveries they will find!
- Wednesday, 4 June
- Today, started with a field trip for the North Quarry diggers to the second of two Triceratops sites currently being excavated. The second Triceratops is especially beautiful. The completeness of the skull is still uncertain. Dr Snyder uncovered some especially crumbly bone. Mikey suggested he keep digging to double check if all of the crumbly bone was uncovered. Further excavation revealed that the crumbles were the the edge of an exceptional Triceratops dentary. The rest of the bone is in much better condition. We wait in anticipation to reveal the rest of the bone.
Erin stayed in camp to complete her recovery. We pray she is the last person to fall ill. This is the first day no new patients were added to the infirmary.
Diggers returned to camp Justin time to avoid a powerful storm. Our big white tent that covers the outside bone table was not so fortunate. The strong winds snapped some of the ropes and sent the tent toppling over. We attempted to resurrect it while the storm raged, but soon realized the futility. After the storm passed and the land returned to calm we were more successful. Except for a new sky light the tent seems to have survived. We were worried about the the large, carefully excavated piece of Triceratops frill that was stored on the table under the tent. Thankfully nearby tent pole just missed it when the tent toppled!
Students completed the day with their second class lecture.
Dawnella has succumbed to the virus. We haven't escaped the day without additional illness. Please pray that it ends.
- Thursday, 5 June
- Stephan and Dr Chadwick uncovered the tree trunks, I mean two of the horns, attached to the skull of Triceratops 2. We know where the third horn is, but exposing it would weaken the structural strength of the skull. In the earth surrounding the skull, we continue to find Triceratops bones. We're still uncertain about how complete the skeleton is. It is obvious that however much of it we will uncover, removing it from the quarry will be a logistic challenge.
Work continued as normal in North Quarry. It is as fertile of a bone bed as it ever was. Overall the day was mild and sunny.
Justin and Erin drove to Rapid city to catch their flights out. Both will return in the coming days.
By dinner time it was obvious that I had caught the virus, and my stomach had rejected me.
- Friday, 6 June
Today, was a half day in the quarries, mild and fair. After lunch, participants traveled the approximate 40 minutes to the nearest town, New Castle. There they washed the dust from their clothes. It was a much needed refresh.
Matthew joined us in camp. We have been looking forward to adding his expert scientific mind to camp. That or the humor he brings to important things such as a friendly game of Boom-O.
We welcomed the Sabbath with thankful hearts.
- At the end of the first week of excavation, we have reached a total of 208 bones recovered.
- Saturday, 7 June
It was a brisk and cloudy Sabbath in camp. The day progressed like any other Sabbath here. That is until Mikey returned to camp with a beautiful T-Rex tooth he found on the potentially mis-named Triceratops Hill. Additional afternoon rambles found nothing of note.
Brandon joined our camp. He will be in cahoots with Matthew as they work in Rose Quarry in the coming days.
Our voices raised in unison, more or less, to close the Sabbath hours.
- Sunday, 8 June
- Crazy Horse Volksmarch! We didn't participate in the Crazy Horse Volksmarch this year—it was rainy and cold!
Soggy and cold—we decided it was an ideal day for a field trip. Three vehicles fishtailed as they drove on the gumbo roads of mud to and from camp. The trick is not to stop. If you stop, you'll be stuck in the muddy soup until help arrives.
Brenda, one of the ranch family members, tells tales about riding in the car with her mom. She would speed along the roads, until she shot off one side or the other as mud pulled her. She would continue on, full speed, in the brush until she managed to aim the vehicle back to the road, sometimes shooting off the other side. As long as she didn't stop all was good. Our ride was less adventurous. And we arrived safely to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs South Dakota.
A number of mammoths and other creatures found their demise in the sink hole of a hot spring. Now visitors can talk a tour of the site, walking through a quarry with tusks and other bones showcased still in the ground.
After that we traveled onto the Black Hills Museum. It's one of the most concentrated displays of all things prehistoric or geologic. It was a delight to spot bones that we recognized from our Dinosaur Research Project.
We made it safely back to camp in time to welcome the kids from Trinity Christian Academy to camp. I hope they came prepared for the cold night.
- Monday, 9 June
- A cold crisp morning that turned into a warm sunny day.
We had hoped that I was the last patient with the virus that has been passing around, since there had been a couple of days without any new reports. Not so. It appears everyone in camp will get it, except Lihn and Mrs Wilson. They seem to have immunity. The symptoms vary depending on your age. If you're under 40 expect 12-24 hours of totally gut wrenching symptoms. If you're over 50 you might get off with a fever or muscle aches. Stephan mused that when the first patient appeared we should have passed a glass of water around and be done with it all at once. As a child, he caught chicken pox. His parents sent all his siblings into play with him so they could get it over with at one go. Too late for that.
The kids from Trinity Christian Academy joined us in South and Ivarest quarries. They're a great group of kids with willing hands. Our quarry leaders and veterans had to work double time to keep ahead of them.
- Tuesday, 10 June
- A warm, sunshiny day. We said goodbye to the group from Trinity and hello to Dr Spencer and his team of videographers from Southern Adventist University. "Chatty", said with what I assume is a British accent, made his first appearance of the season. "Chatty" is the TV persona Stephan has given Dr Chadwick whenever he appears on camera.
Digging returned to normal in the afternoon. Dr Spencer gave the evening lecture on Ape Men. Before he got the chance to complete it a storm rolled in and left us without power. Out here the weather can be quick and severe, so we keep an eye on it with an interactive weather radar. We were ready for the storm to contain powerful winds, rain and hail. We didn't expect it to leave us powerless. Without electricity we lose communication with the outside world and water. A scary thing when you have to drive 45 minutes to the nearest town and 3 hours to the nearest city. Thankfully we had enough water to make it through the night. Electricity and water returned early in the morning well before dawn. It took some trouble shooting during the day to get the internet up and running again. Justin, we miss you.
- Wednesday, 11 June
- The first half of the day was one of those days you don't want to spend in the quarries. It was overcast, which is ideal. However, the winds were biting enough to put Yari's teeth to chattering. I kept warm by swinging the new, earth eating pick Dr Chadwick bought specifically for the layers of pesky rocks in Triceratops Two. "Pesky rock" is the scientific term for the shale-like mudstone that clings relentlessly to the bones in that quarry.
After lunch the sun came out and made the wind bearable. Along with the sun came Lenee and her mom. Lenee has a mind for puzzles. We had the perfect challenge for her, a badly shattered piece of Triceratops frill. After a few hours of puzzling she had managed to enlarge some of the fragments. If you had seen the puzzle you would understand how difficult it was to piece any of it together. To complete the puzzle would have been a dazzling impossibility.
- Thursday, 12 June
- Yesterday, I saw Yamamoto Sensei tucking his plane ticket, taking him away from us, into his laptop. I made gestures of tearing up his ticket and throwing it in the trash. He heartily encouraged me to, but I didn't. Today, I drove him to the airport sweating bullets that I would get lost in the wilds and he would miss his flight. I never knew how nerve wracking it is to drive without a map, GPS, cell phone or anyplace to stop and ask directions. Thankfully these roads are Marla proof and we made it safely and with plenty of time. As much as I hated to see him leave, I didn't want to be the one to cause him to miss his flight. Be safe Sensei.
It was a beautiful, warm day in the quarries. Stephan had the big find of the day. A T-Rex metatarsal. It's a hollow, slender bone about 2-foot long that comes in a set of three. Combined these bones make up the body of a T-Rex foot.
Time is flying by! We're nearly halfway through this season.
- Friday, 13 June
- Another half-day in the quarries. It must be Friday. Participants road into New Castle and played Bocce ball while they waited for their clothes.
Mrs. Wilson got a special delivery in the afternoon. Her son and his family arrived. You should see the light in her eyes when they're here.
It seems the virus has finally passed.
Dr Chadwick told us his amazing story of surviving Biscayne Bay with three teenagers many years ago. Maybe this story is why he like the hymn "Love Lifted Me" so much. Here are the lyrics:
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!
All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I'll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul's best songs,
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.
Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He's the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.
We welcomed Sabbath.
- At the end of the second week of excavation, we have reached a total of 737 bones recovered.
- Saturday, 14 June
- A wonderful Sabbath. It's Mrs. Wilson's anniversary. She's been coming to this Dinosaur Project for 15 years! Each year she spends her anniversary with us, instead of her husband.
We hiked from Caleb's grave to Triceratops 2 quarry. His grave is a sobering reminder of a great loss. Forrest and Ivan showed us the real-estate options for the ant hills along the way. Ants like to collect small hard pieces of materials that are a certain size, materials like small dinosaur teeth.
A powerful and beautiful storm hit camp. I've never seen clouds expanding so quickly. After the storm passed we had a complete double rainbow vividly on display.
- Sunday, 15 June
- Father's Day! The most important day of the digging season. Of course it's the day we celebrate dads. It's also the day Earth History Research Center holds open house at the Hanson Research station, and the annual board meeting for this dinosaur project. All of that makes for a very full day.
For Open House anybody is welcome to visit camp and the quarries free of charge. Visitors stop by camp to listen to a short lecture overviewing the research taking place out here. No stay is complete without lemonade and cookies. From camp to the quarries. There you can see the bones as they come out of the ground.
Mrs Wilson was the leader in Southeast Quarry. She was only supposed to be there temporarily. However her stay has been extended because of the abundance of bones. I stopped by to see what kind of trouble she was up to. When I arrived she was strategically placing rocks and buckets to safely guide visitors through the quarry. Her skill at making a level path with a shovel is impressive. I secretly watched her as I worked to put an ilium she had asked me to work on, on a pedestal. The knee bone is connected to the hip bone la, la, la... That ilium was one of the three bones that together compose an edmontosaurus' hip. She expertly heaved shovelfuls of dirt into the wheelbarrow until it was full. Then she would haul it to the bank and empty it only to return for another round. All this to make sure that visitors wouldn't trip. At the end my conscience kicked in, so I helped her. She was ever so careful with the path. Obsessing if it was smooth enough. Nearby in Teague Quarry, Mrs Connell teased that unless you needed a walker it would be hard to trip. To myself I was sure I could figure out away to trip, even without a walker. But I didn't see the necessity in being so careful with the path. Mrs Wilson carried on relentless in her quest until she was satisfied. Later in the day one of our visitors successfully maneuvered his walker through the quarry!
Near the ilium I was putting on a pedestal a small mound of dirt, perfect for bloodying knuckles in my attempt to remove the dirt from the side and back of the bone. In my naive wisdom I decided it was best to remove this obstacle. The mound couldn't have been more than ten inches wide and foot long and a few inches deep. Little did I know... You see it's been some time since I've dug in one of the main quarries. For example: in Triceratops 2 you can dig and dig and dig and not hit anything. I'm talking about digging out enough space to fit a hot tub and not finding anything. When you do happen to find a bone watch out it's likely to be amazing. I got to find a beautiful 20+ cm tendon as I was sitting next to Ivan and his T-Rex astragalus. It's likely the only T-Rex astragalus in the Earth History Research Center's collection.
Don't confuse a T-Rex astragalus with astragalus membranaceus or astragalus oophorus. Astragalus membranaceus is the mounded purple flowers we see in the fields out here. Astragalus oophorus is plant with the blotchy red and white pods that make a cool popping sound when I step on them as I search for interview locations.
Back in Southeast Quarry I had half-a-dozen bones uncovered by the time I'd made it through the few inches down to the level I wanted to start working on. When I finally got far enough down to continue pedistalling the ilium I didn't stop finding bones. So I stopped digging. In trying to get the ilium out of the quarry before the season is over I only made the problem worse. Who would think that you could go dig dinosaur bones and pray you didn't find any more bones? About that time the Hanson family brought out some of their personal guests from a neighboring ranch. Their four children wanted to help dig. So after orienting them into our process Mrs Wilson and I guided them as they dug in the quarry. Whew! I could help someone else find the bones.
It's estimated that 75 people visited us. It was a light year. Loosing the ranch house to the fire this past year distracted from the usual level of advertising that is done for our Open House.
After dinner the board meeting was held. What a long day. Board attendees didn't return to camp until well after sleep had descended on the rest of us.
- Monday, 16 June
Justin was originally scheduled to return to us today. However, his mother-in-law is fighting cancer, so he is needed at home with his family. Prayer for Justin and his family during this time would be much appreciated.
In the quarries Dr Chadwick warned us to be prepared for a fly-by. One of Dr Chadwick's friends was flying his airplane over the ranch. Later he and his company stopped by Triceratops 2 to visit and take pictures. After they left Stephan told us he is one of the owners of Sirius XM Satellite Radio. I found some irony in the fact that we were listening to that exact radio provider playing the World Cup from Stephan's truck as we worked.
After dinner Tyke, Mrs Willson, Carolina, Mikey and I drove to Newcastle for an emergency grocery run.
- Tuesday, 17 June
- First day casting the Triceratops skull. What a logistics feet! How do you remove a brittle and fragile skull that measures approximately 3 feet deep, by 4 foot wide by nearly 6 foot long without destroying it? The typically practice is to cast it encasing the bones and lots of extra dirt in plaster. This would make it weigh many hundreds of pounds. Too much to safely or easily move it from Wyoming to Texas for clean-up with the gear we have in hand. The master plan is to give the skull an inside-out face mask. The skull is located in the ground up-side-down. It's like the dinosaur did a face plant in the mud. When it was uncovered the occipital condyle was the first bone uncovered. The occipital condyle is the bone located where the skull meets the neck in most vertebras. The top of the skull was missing. So the inside of the face is what we uncovered from the surface. That's why we're giving it an inside-out face mask. After everything that is exposed is plastered we'll remove the dirt from under the skull and horns in small portions. Once a section is exposed it will be plastered and reinforced. Eventually the skull will need to be turned over. Dennis, Linee's dad, has offered to make curved metal reinforcements that will allow us to roll the skull out of the quarry. At least that is the plan.
Dr Chadwick and Stephan were up to their elbows in plaster. What a sight. They were using damp burlap as a matrix to hold the plaster. Dr Chadwick shakes each piece vigorously before saturating it in plaster. When he does this everything nearby gets splattered with watered down plaster droplets flung through the air. Much like a dog shaking it's wet coat. I was attempting to shoot the plastering process on a Canon 7D when I found myself and the camera within striking distance. Horrified, I fussed at Dr Chadwick. Right now successfully removing that skull from the ground is his top priority. He told me so plainly. I reminded him that the camera was his.
- Wednesday, 18 June
- The crew at Rose Quarry; Matt, Arthur, and Ben wandered the expanses of the ranch looking for the extent of the bone beds. They walked so far that Ben was sick this morning. He didn't drink enough water during his travels and he suffered for it. Hydration is nothing to be careless about out here. As previously promised, Matt serenaded the cows when he ran into them. A lullaby, as far as I could tell.
Al stopped by to work on some repairs around camp.
More casting on the Triceratops skull. Now there is a wooden pallet supporting it, and the horns have started to be cast.
- Thursday, 19 June
- A light rain greeted the us during breakfast. By the time we had made it to the quarries the skies were clear and blue.
My first task of the day was to be the water girl for Triceratops 2 and Ivarest quarries. Mikey came along, to help me navigate to Ivarest from Triceratops 2. The route is different if you drive it or if you walk it. I had only hoofed it. Triceratops 2 needed the water to continue casting the great skull they're challenged with removing from the quarry. To get enough water we fill a great trash can halfway to three quarters full. Then we place some bubble wrap on top to keep it from splashing out on the bumpy ride out there. It takes Stephan 35-39 minutes to drive from camp to the quarry in his beast of a truck. He says that's how long it takes when you're driving your own vehicle. It takes the rest of us 15-20 minutes to get out there. That is if you aren't driving a four wheeler that has lost its suspension on the driver's side front wheel, and you aren't loaded with an open container carrying 10-20 gallons of water.
There are three legs of the journey from camp to Triceratops 2. The first leg is the stretch from camp to the main road, Roxson Road. The late Mr Hanson had an old orange pickup that's still part of the family. It's rustic, and bright and full of character. On it there is a bumper sticker that says, "Yes, as a matter of fact I do own the road." No really, they do. Roxson road is named after Mrs Glen Hanson's family name.
Back to my story. Roxson road is the smoothest of the three legs. With the right load you can reach maximum speed on the four wheeler in this one downhill stretch. From Roxson you turn left at the cow laying down in the middle of the road. Wait, was that yesterday? Anyway the third leg is the bumpiest.
Pour Mikey. Yesterday, a generous length of bubble wrap was used to keep the bucket from splashing. Not so today. Today, the bubble wrap underwent a successful trim down. Ivan says when he drove the water out the first day of casting the bubble wrap was a thin strip, and he only had one little splash. I'm skeptical. Sure my driving can be adventurous. But there were a few times when everything was smooth and it still splashed. The seat of my pants were soggy all morning! Stephan assured me there was enough water to complete what he needed to do to day. Let's hope so.
The drive to Ivarest was...less wet. While we were out there Matt called Mikey saying Rose Quarry GPS was roaming. In case you don't know Mikey is our Gypsy, our field GPS man. Mikey ran through his list of solution over the walkie talkie. Then we had the bright idea to drive from Ivarest to Rose Quarry. I've since changed my opinion of what counts as good road. My standards are at an all time low. Cow path with small boulder sized rocks, rattlesnakes, cacti, tire puncturing bushes and the edge of a precipice, looks like a good road to me. Sadly, even with those standards we were unable to find a suitable route to Rose Quarry. Instead we ended up taking the long route back to camp.
While Mikey and I were out off-roading, the Double Aces, an after school program for elementary kids, came to visit North Quarry. The Double Aces, plus adult chaperones, plus extra kids totaled 59 curious minds. It's always a pleasure to watch as the eyes light up when they see what we're doing out here.
Dr Chadwick visited Triceratops 2. According to Stephan Dr Chadwick "horned" him out of the work. Dennis' rails were secured to it's mass. When Dr Chadwick returned to camp I asked him what was wrong with his protective glasses. He told me he had been coating the underside of the skull. Some nasty stuff to get in your eyes, polyvinyl butyal, had landed on it. Further back it had glued his glasses and hat to his face. Some skin was removed when he took off his glasses and hat. The camp consented to allowing him longer than 5 minutes for a army style shower; wet, turn off water, add suds, rinse and be done. I told him to milk it for a good 30 minutes in the shower. I doubt he'll listen to my rebellious suggestion.
- Friday, 20 June
- It's our last laundry day of the season. Before we went to get washed up the team at Ivarest quarry did an excellent job of getting dirty. They had to break through the stone and dig through the over-burden so they could get down to the tibia Jared found to remove it from the quarry. Dr Snyder, Ivan, Forrest and Jared worked at an impressive pace. I helped. Ivan and Dr Snyder have spent time working on the Biology trail at Southern Adventist University. The result is that they know how to move with a shovel and a pick.
Somehow no matter how you dig, at the end of the season every bone extends back into the wall, as in the case of this tibia. When digging dinosaur bones from the ground the object is to remove the dirt from the bone, not the bone from the dirt. This means no tunneling into a wall to chase down a bone. Instead you start at the top and work your way down, keeping the surface flat as you go.
After showers the whole camp set out for Newcastle to do laundry and eat a pizza dinner. While waiting for our laundry participants could be seen either scattered around talking on their cell phones, or spread out in the laundromat playing Bang. Bang is a western themed card game Mikey has taught us all to play.
After loads of clean clothes were returned to the vans, and our bellies were filled with pizza we headed back to camp.
Sabbath was welcomed in the usual song-filled manner, with the addition of tales from Thailand told by Mrs Wilson.
- At the end of the third week, we had discovered, located, and catalogued 1023 fossils.
- Saturday, 21 June
- Our last Sabbath was memorable. Dr Chadwick left us to preach in Newcastle. In Dr Chadwick's stead, Stephan led our worship service. He shared the tale of his extraordinary mission trip to Peru. Who ever heard of someone turning down free money and labor? Left without a mission trip in a land far from home with a crew of energetic young people God had His plan. For the full Monty, ask Stephan. I'm sure he'll share his story with you.
Linee invited all who had energy to waste to join her in climbing Harney peak in the afternoon. To accommodate the drive and still have time to hike and swim, lunch was served early. There were extra leftovers due to our overall lack of hunger at an early Sabbath lunch.
With Yari's guidance as she impersonated our youthful tour guide from Mammoth Springs we were able to safely make it to Sylvan lake. The start of our trek to the top of Harney peak.
As we made our way to the top we slip into groups; fast, medium, slow and Mikey. About the time the time I showed up with the slow group to the tower at the top of mountain storm clouds started to blow in. It was like herding cats to get a group photo. Once that was done we headed back down. The fast group running down the mountain. I on the other hand insisted on walking down, rather than being carried off in a stretcher. Before we could make it off the mountain trails the rain caught us. Big, cold, wet drops of rain mixed with BB sized hail pelted us. The fast passed ones pressed through relentlessly. I was motivated to protect the Canon 7D, I was carrying without a rain proof case, protected. It was like zipping up your pants after Thanksgiving Dinner trying to put it and the 28-300mm zoom lens mounted onto it into Yari's Camel Bag. Finally, I managed to get it closed. Yari, Mikey, Linh, and I took shelter under various trees when the rain was the hardest. When it slowed down we walked as fast as we could until the next heavy downpour. We made it off the mountain just as the sun came out and the skies turned blue. I had my fill of wet and was not interested in swimming in lake Sylvan with Forrest, Linee and Ivan.
We made it back to camp just as the sunset.
- Sunday, 22 June
- It's the last week at Camp Cretaceous. The aim of the game is to NOT find any new bones, and to remove all the uncovered bones safely. Of course we'll find more bones than ever now that we're getting to the lower levels of the bone beds.
Mrs Wilson sneaks out of camp without saying goodbye. Her son has come to pick her up. Soon she will return to Thailand.
It's Matt's last day of digging. However we won't be rid of him until tomorrow. He has a surprising and beautiful non-Edmontosaurous tibia it's surrounded by scraps of various bones, each one needing to be GPSed. Unfortunately the GPS has picked this day to need extra care. Work slows to the point that it becomes obvious he won't be able to remove the tibia before he leaves. Someone else will have to finish it for him.
While work is slow on Matt's tibia, the Triceratops tibia Jared found at Ivarest is ready to be plastered and removed. The Ivarest crew set out to carry backpacks full of 25lb bags of plaster and water over the up and down terrain in the mile walk to the quarry.
Forrest lost a wheel when he was off-roading in the four wheeler the other day. To be fair Dr Chadwick and Ivan were with him. And he had only just started the vehicle and driven about 30 seconds before it fell apart. It was his first time driving it all season and he claims no responsibility for the incident.
Nevertheless that is the reason Ivarest had to personally carry their plastering gear. It is also the reason Dr Chadwick can sometimes be seen trekking across the ranch on foot. We're just thankful that it fell apart and nobody was hurt. With the speeds and terrain that machine is used for if it had fallen apart at the wrong moment it could have easily killed everyone on board. Or at least permanently maimed them. Praise God for His watchful care.
Jared's tibia was successfully plastered and removed with the strength of the Ivarest crew.
This is the day of tibias. One tibia in Rose Quarry. One tibia in Ivarest. And another tibia in North Quarry. In North Erin works to pedestal her own tibia, one from an Edmontosaurous. She's hoping to plaster and remove it with enough time to uncover, plaster and remove the femur she's found that crosses under it and goes back into the wall in two days. It's especially daunting for her because this is her first time plastering. If a plastering job is done poorly the bone will not survive the drive back to the lab and will arrive in a pile of rubble. No pressure.
- Monday, 23 June
- Arthur and Ben head out to Rose Quarry to finish removing Matt's tibia. With the extra time they remove it without event.
Mikey joins Erin to help in the process of preparing the tibia for plastering. I have had my doubts about Mikey's digging skills, sadly they were dispelled. He is careful and diligent. As we work there are storm clouds approaching. We keep a close eye on them. The plan is once it starts sprinkling we can cover everything and head for shelter.
The students leave early to get in extra studying before their test
Tyke works in South and Teage quarries to finish remove the bones Mrs Wilson was working on and the mess of bones she has been excavating on her own. If anyone is up for double duty it's Tyke. She has a never-ending supply of energy. Carolina helps Tyke untangle the bones.
We notice the first drops of rain here and there. Okay, time to cover everything up. Before we have the time to put down our tools we were well on our way to being drenched. We rushed as quickly as we could to protect the bones and the equipment. Then we head to the new modern "hoodoo hut" that has been erected nearby. The wind drives the rain sideways under the roof and right into us. To the van! Moments later Mikey, Erin, Tyke, Carolina and I are safely in the van. We're wet, not soaked, but definitely wet. When the rain came Erin was key in making sure North quarry would handle the downpour. In her attention to the bones she forgot her backpack containing her camera and cellphone in the quarry. Horrified she rushed back to the quarry to retrieve them. Tyke opened the van door for a thoroughly soaked Erin. Triumphly she rushes into the protection of the van. Her camera and phone are safe, but only because she covered her backpack with her sweatshirt. Without it, all would have been drowned.
As we sit in the van waiting out the storm we wonder what's happened to Ivarest. Have Ivan, Forrest and Dr Snyder made it? They're in too remote of a location to have a van or any other shelter to take cover in. From my assessment it looks like the storm would have hit them directly.
Soon the rain passes and we emerge from the van to clear, blue and sunny skies in total contrast to what we experienced moments before. The quarries have turned to gumbo. The bones and our equipment are safe, but it's too wet to make anymore progress. The best we can do is freshen the drainage ditches in the quarries so they can dry in the sun. As we work we listen anxiously for Ivarest over the radio. Nothing. No news is good news, right? We're too muddy to handle the radios to call them and check if they're okay. Somebody dries off enough to give out a shout, no response. Without an off road vehicle the best we can do is head out to Ivarest on foot. The Ivarest crew are some of our heathiest and must resourceful participants. So we work to get everything settled at North, SouthEast, and Teague quarries before deciding if we should set out on a rescue mission.
Erin and I find that are shoes are trapping us in the slippery mud as we work. In a blink our shoes are off and mud squishes up around or toes. We slip slide around enjoying cleanup to the fullest.
Before we can finish Ivarest shows up. Their soggy and damp but no worse for the ware. Thankfully they weren't plastering today. That would have been a mess. When the storm hit the huddled together against the rocks with a tarp. It did provide some shelter from the wind and rain, but soon the rocks were flowing with water and the tarp did little to protect them from the runoff.
The Ivarest team helped us finish cleaning up. Then we all headed back to camp early.
- Tuesday, 24 June
- Test day for all the students taking the class. Have all their efforts or lack there of paid off? Time to find out.
The hope was to remove the Triceratops skull from the quarry today. Our plans were not successful. We had everything set and in place. The plaster face mask was solidly in place. The frame Dennis made to rotate it out of the quarry was securely attached. All we needed was a little muscle power...The skull is heavier than we expected. Oh, well. Give it an extra heave hoe. Once the lifting was started a chain reaction was set in place. The weight of the skull started to pull itself apart. The bottom was falling off!
Meanwhile on the other end of the ranch Erin was preparing to plaster the tibia she has been faithfully working on. Carolina joined Erin to guide her through the process.
I've seen Dr Chadwick and Stephan plaster bones many times. When they work plaster flies. Everywhere. Nothing is safe in the quarry. Not your cloths, not your hair and definitely not your camera. Grumbles. Anyway, Erin and Carolina did a beautiful job. They even followed Dr Snyder's advice and put a piece of foil under the bone so the dirt wouldn't get in the mix. Layer after layer they built it up, until a bright, white bone emerged. Pristine in its many protective layers.
Back in Triceratops Quarry things weren't going smoothly. Plaster dotted the landscape, but this wasn't the problem. The triceratops skull had settled back into place in the ground. Three pairs of legs protruded out from under it as Dr Chadwick, Ivan and Ben worked in lessthan comfortable circumstances.
They were attempting to plaster the bottom side of the skull including the earth it rested on. Plaster sets best when it's warm. The sunny side of the skull was perfect for setting plaster. The cold, damp underside of the skull was not cooperating.
Dr Chadwick, Ivan and Ben had to hold plaster laden burlap over their heads as they lay on their backs until it set. There they waited and waited. Every time they thought it had set enough to remove their hands the plaster would pull away from the skull. It was like watching paint dry with you're hands quaking over your head.
Moses came to mind and we teased them about needing Aaron and her to help them as the sun stayed what felt like still. After an eternity it finally set.
For a change of pace we removed the rollers Dennis built to rotate the skull out of the quarry. It weighed to much for a rotation with the radius the skull had. The fall after the apex would have left it in crumbles. Stephan stepped into help. They patched and reinforced everything that looked weak.
When it came time to return to the underside we mixed the plaster thickly and waited until it was nearly set, but barely workable to apply it beneath the skull.
It was an exhausting day. One of those days that not quitting the race is a win. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. That is all you can do.
- Wednesday, 25 June
- The most critical day of the dig. Everything must be in place for the end of the season. It's the last day we have to get the bones out of the quarry this season. The Triceratops skull hasn't budged. Erin still needs to roll her tibia over and take it out so the femur can be pedestaled, plastered and removed. Only the top of the femur is exposed. Anyone who can be spared is in camp packing, under the supervision of Tyke. Everyone is working at full speed.
The Triceratops skull faces it's greatest obstacles. It must come out of the quarry, and there is no room for error. First it needs to break free from it's resting place. Then we need to get it into the truck bed. Dennis helps with the heavy lifting by pulling or pushing the skull with his four wheeler as needed. It gets moved without any disasters. Now to pull it out of quarry.
The quarry descends about 4 feet into the ground in tiers. How to do you get a ~600 lb mass up and out of that? You fill the tiers with dirt until a ramp appears. Then you layer it with wood so the freshly moved dirt doesn't sink under all the weight.
After it's out of the quarry you still have to get it into the back of the pickup truck so it can be transported. To face this problem our resourceful crew removed the tailgate from the truck. Then they dug pits to back the truck into to lower the entire bed.
Now it's time for the muscle. With Stephan keeping rhythm for the heaves and the hoes and the four wheeler backing them up the skull gets muscled into the truck.
Back at camp we see a storm rolling in. We're hustling to get the camp ready. The weather forecast predicts that we'll be hit directly with a powerful storm.
North quarry arrives at camp with the femur and tibia. Right after them comes Dr Chadwick and company with all the skull. Whew! All the most important bones are out.
We aren't in the clear yet. There isn't any time. Every hand hustles to get ready before the storm hits us. We rush to get the big white tent down so we don't have to wait for it to dry later. We manage to get that stored inside the camp house.
Oh! But the Triceratops hasn't been covered. The tarps aren't big enough! Grab another! Who designed the ratchet straps? You have to line everything up perfectly or else they won't secure anything. Somehow we get everything secured just as the first drops start to fall. Safe!
We wait out the spectacular storm in the safety of the camp house. We even got to see a horizontal twister form and dissipate in the sky.
What a day! Everything critical was wrapped up. We were safe from the storm and the camp was pretty much packed and ready to go. God is good.
- At the end of the 2014 season, we had recovered 1148 bones, teeth, etc.
- Thursday, 26 June
- Today, we leave Camp Cretaceous and head back to Keene. It's a bitter-sweet day. Bitter in that this digging season has come to a close. Sweet in that we have so many memories to take back with us. We've made new friends. We gotten to see old friends. We've had adventures. We've felt the pelting of hail. We've seen the power of storms. Even a few close calls. But the only bones we've broken were the brittle bones we discovered while digging in the quarries. It will take us about 24 hours to get back home. Road trip!
- Friday, 27 June
- We arrived safely back at Southwestern Adventist University in the afternoon. Everyone pitched in to unload the trailer and vans. The Triceratops skull was easily removed from the truck bed with a forklift.
Everyone went their separate ways. God willing we can meet again next year.
I appreciate our intrepid reporter Marla Seasly for the Notes from the Field for 2014. (LT)