Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project

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Notes 2002 2004   Project history  

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

Notes from the Field - The Latest News!


All times given are Texas time, (CDT). Local time is actually one hour earlier (MDT).

Monday, 2 June
10:00am we are off with a packed trailer and five people, Drs. Chadwick, Spencer, and Turner along with Justin and Miguel, in the van! We picked up Kathleen in Oklahoma City and continued to drive!

Tuesday, 3 June
After a long tiring, uneventful trip, we arrived at Camp Cretaceous at 12:00n. We had met up with four of the group, Karen, Cathy, Erin, and Kelly, at Mule Creek Junction and drove in via the southern route, Cheyenne River Road, because of concerns about the road conditions due recent rains. Two more of the group, Harold and Charlotte, were already on site. After setting up camp, in the afternoon the group went exploring and looking for fossils that had eroded out because of the wet winter and spring. David arrived in the evening so we had our initial 13.

Wednesday, 4 June
To give everyone who driven much of Monday night a chance to get a bit caught up on sleep, we delayed breakfast until 8:00am. We must not make this a habit! Art has been battling some ailment, but nothing slows him down! The first full day saw the opening of the South Main and North Main Quarries and excavation work begun. After setting up the GPS, several bones were recorded by the day's end. The day ended with a lecture by Dr. Turner on science and viewing of the DVD version of our video Seaching for Dinosaurs.

Thursday, 5 June
This day was a rather abbreviated day. It rained off and on throughout the day with a cold wind. Everyone returned to camp early. Copious amounts of hot drinks helped! However, we did get the Satellite Internet connection installed. The camp facilites are excellent. Al and Brenda with a number of friends have spent long hours finishing it up. There is siding on the exterior, the internal walls are finished, and each of the bathrooms now has two toilets with colorful privacy curtains. This day ended with Dr. Chadwick showing slides of his recent Peru trip and a lecture by Dr. Turner on GPS and the other technology that we use.

Friday, 6 June
This morning could not be more perfect! The surface of the quarries was somewhat muddy because of the previous night's rain. However, with the GPS batteries working well, a large number of bones that had been uncovered during the previous two days were recorded. So far we have found several vertebra, ribs, and other such medium sized bones. In the afternoon a cold front moved in with cold wind and rain in the prediction. Fortunately, Friday afternoon is laundry and grocery day, so everyone quit early to go to Newcastle. Heather arrived at the Rapid City, SD airport.
Even with this abbreviated first week, we now located, recovered, and collected for transport 112 fossil remains! One of the largest is a rib fragment about 60 cm in length, and one of the smallest is a theropod tooth only about 1 cm in length. We have also recovered several vertebrae.

Saturday, 7 June
This a good day to relax and take extra rest since it is cold, windy, and wet day. Larry has been sick with the flu. The first time in several years that illness has visited us. The group went to the ranch house with Al and Brenda for a worship service and to cook dinner. Tyke arrived in the evening.
Sunday, 8 June
It is a gorgeous day, sunny with temperatures to be in the mid 70's, and little wind! Most of the group went to the Black Hills to climb Crazy Horse and to vist the museum in Hill City. Larry just wanted to rest, Justin wanted to work on the web site. Both Justin and Lee are beginning to feel symptoms of something, so they all stayed at the camp site. Art, Kathleen, and Miguel went out to the quarry.

Monday, 9 June
A perfect day in the quarry -- sunny, warm, nice breeze, some clouds to hide the skin from the sun! Larry is feeling better; Lee worse. Justin seems to have a cold. We lost four of our group mid-afternoon. Karen, Cathy, Erin, and Kelly hooked up their fifth-wheel and left the Cretaceous for the current "rest-of-the-world." Numerous large bones have now been discovered in the North Quarry. We have determined that the present floor of the South Quarry is truly below the bone bed. A most momentous day!

Tuesday, 10 June
Another beautiful day for quarrying. We are now excavating beneath the original North support on the Hoo Doo Hut. When the area is finished to below the bone layer, then we can install a permanent support. This was another successful day, but ended early. While the wind was from the east and sky overhead was clear, we could see thunderstorm moving toward us from the west. We closed down about 5:00pm and received the first sprinkles just as we arrived at camp. The next hour brought torrential rain, lightning, thunder, and small hail while we ate supper. A half hour after that it was sunny and clear again! Dr. Spencer ended the day with another lecture.

Wednesday, 11 June
The thunderstorms occasional brought some rain throughout the night, but the day is another perfect day: sunny, warm, with a gentle breeze. Much great work was done today. We are continuing to discover how rich and interesting the North Main Quarry is. The South Main Quarry also keeps turning up surprises with quality bones. Jerry and Sharon arrived this afternoon. Dr. Spencer's voice managed another lecture to bring the day to a close.

Thursday, 12 June
Harold left early this morning, and thereby missed a perfect day in the quarry! Lee left in the middle of the afternoon to pick up two new participants: Lucinda (who happens to be his fiancee) and Dr. Karen, who has been here in a previous year. We enjoyed a short visit by Dr. Tom Goodwin, a paleontologist from Andrews University, and his family. We all were challenged by a lecture by Dr. Chadwick which ended just as another thunderstorm arrived!

Friday, 13 June
Jerry and Sharon left this morning after rounding everyone up for group pictures. We had a good day in the quarry, continuing to locate and and recover fossils. Friday, of course, is a short day with most of the group traveling to Newcastle for laundry, groceries, and dinner at the Pizza Barn. Rain had moved in to the ranch area by the time we returned. The last couple of miles were on a slippery, muddy road. All enjoyed the ride except the driver!
As the second week of the project ended, we have located, recovered, and packed away 344 total bones, teeth, and tendons with at least another dozen in progress. Our current crew consists of 12, but we have had a total of 19 people involved at one point or another plus 6 day-visitors. Great success for a skeleton crew! We anticipate a larger number of excavators in the next two weeks!

Saturday, 14 June
This morning began with a beautiful and peaceful sunrise and morning. The clouds from the previous evening had moved out and the rain, while leaving things somewhat wet, also cleared the air. Generally, everyone stayed snug and dry throughout the night. Breakfast at 9:00 by the project leaders got everyone energized. Dr. Lee led out in a worship service for the rest of the morning, and after a great lunch, the group split into the birders, the hikers, and the resters! The birders spotted 29 different species of feathered friends. The hikers found blooming cacti and a number of interesting small things. And the rest found what their bodies and minds needed!
Sunday, 15 June
Today is a day to get caught up on reading, studying, and some quarrying. Breakfast at 8:00am -- we are really getting soft! Of course, those who sleep in miss the quiet dawn, the swirls of moisture drifting over the grass, and the just past full-moon slowly apparently fading as the sky brightens with reds in the east. The sounds of the dawn slowly increase from a bird call now and then until there is a cacophony of delightful songs. We succeded in connecting our wireless network from Camp Cretaceous to the quarry site -- now we can set up our web cam to watch over the excavators! The Hanson Research Station Board met in the afternoon and the evening. Dr. Lee is a Board member, but Drs. Art, Larry, and Lucinda also attended. Amy and Zury arrived late in the evening in the middle of a thunderstorm..

Monday, 16 June
Today dawned overcast, but we all have great optimism that today will be one of the great days in the quarry. We opened the New (Teague) Quarry and immediately ran into a number of bones. South and North Main Quarries continued the bone recovery from the previous week. Also, a new sample quarry, West Quarry, was established. Dr. Lee ended the day with another lecture.

Tuesday, 17 June
It rained lightly most of the night and the day dawned overcast. We are all anxious to see in what condition we will find the quarries this morning. Things were wet and muddy -- we did not try to drive all the way to the dig site! However, the quarries were is great shape. In the afternoon, it rained slightly, but there was still plenty to do that was sheltered. At least, it was not hot with intense sun! In the evening we added three more to our number, Tom, Jessie, and Jan. Dr. Lee ended the day by lecturing on dinosaurs!

Wednesday, 18 June
Last night brought a most pleasant rest. It was perfect weather, and this morning's dawn appears more of the same! This morning Justin is going up with Vern to take to aerial photographs of the site and the surrounding area with an high-resolution digital camera. We can later use this to wrap over the survey points to generate a 3-dimensional view of the site. Excellent progress was made under a sunny sky with comfortable temperatures and a gentle breeze. David made his famous lima bean lasagna. Dr. Lee gave another exciting lecture.

Thursday, 19 June
We had another perfect night's rest. This morning is bright and clear with the promise of another successful day in the quarry. Tom video taped activities and interviewed several of the participants. At noon, Dan and Hailey arrived. In the middle of the afternoon, Don, the President of Southwestern Adventist University, arrived to take in the experience of the project. Our number has now reached 20 persons currently present with a total since we started this year's project of 27 participants plus 8 day-visitors. Today a number of great bones were located along with the usual assortment of small bones, bone fragments, and teeth. The new sample quarry, West Quarry, is showing that the bone bed extends many meters toward the west with a rich collection of finds. We are trying to leave major bones in the ground for the Open House scheduled for this coming Sunday. Dr. Art finished the day with a lecture on trilobites and complexity.

Friday, 20 June
The night was dry, not cold, some wind early, but a wonderful night to rest up for another day in the quarry. Since this was an early day -- normally we leave at 2:00pm for laundry and shopping and since we had not yet had a chance to visit museums, we decided to break work at 11:00am and leave for Hill City and Mt. Rushmore. Don left this morning after working in the West Quarry. We made it to Hill City, but by the time everyone got their laundry done and we toured the Black Hills Institute, it was getting too late to drive by Mt. Rushmore. We had a pizza supper in Custer, SD, and returned to Camp Cretaceous about sundown -- thank you God, no rain and the road was not slippery!
At this end of the third week, our recorded bone count is nearly 620. This includes several large bones that have been given labels, but we have not yet extracted from the ground in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Open House.

Saturday, 21 June
The morning dawned overcast, but there had been no rain and everyone enjoyed a good night's rest. Dan and Hailey left after breakfast. Al and Mark joined the group in a worship service led by David with music by Karen. After a good lunch, several of the group went for a walk, others rested, and David broke out a couple of kites to test the Wyoming wind. Several had a go at trying to keep them in the sky! The solid overcast of the morning broke by early afternoon to be replaced by a sky full of white fluffy clouds. Because of the recent rains, wildflowers are in abundance. This place has its own special beauty! Frankie, Darla, Jeff, Mandy, and Dorothy arrived in the early evening. We now have a current number of 22 participants.
Sunday, 22 June
The night was a dark and stormy one with loud thunder and rain. Since this was Lucinda's last day the group awoke her with a serenade and poem read by Lee. The day in the quarry started out cool and cloudy, but by noon the sky had cleared and it turned warm and sunny for the Open House. Lee took Lucinda to the airport and missed all the fun. A number of visitors came to view the progress of the work. In the late afternoon five new participants arrived. First Curtis, Clayton, Bob and Brianna came from Dallas. Shortly thereafter, Mark, one of our experienced workers showed up. After dinner, Tom, Jessie, and Jan left. Dr. Art ended the day with an interesting lecture on paleocurrents.

Monday, 23 June
We had some gentle rain most of the night, but the temperature was perfect for a good night's rest in preparation for a long day in the quarry! Today we will try to pull many of the bones we had left for the Open House. The morning was cool and overcast with a few sprinkles. A container of hot chocolate was a welcome addition to lunch. The day was a good one with several major bones being taken out of the ground. All of the current 23 participants, including four children, worked hard. It is not easy to realize, but we now have only one week of work left. A short but intense rain and a lecture by Dr. Lee ended a great day. An intense rain is not a problem as long as it doesn't get in tents!

Tuesday, 24 June
The breakfast crew was greeted by a light rain. The rest of us was greeted by a tasty breakfast! Even though the skies were overcast and the temperature cool, we had sunshine inside the camp building as the group experienced morning worship and prepared for the day's activities. There was slight precipitaion all morning with a wind from the north right into the North Main Quarry. Most of the group returned to the camp at noon. The weather did give the students a chance to get caught up on their reading. We have modified the traditional "Dirt is good. Bones are better!" That evolved to "Dirt is good. Bones are great!" or DIG BAG. Now, our quarry mantra is "Dirt is really terrific. Bones are great!" or DIRT BAG! Of course, we still have "Don't step on the berm!" and "Don't put bread in the refridgerator!" Most of the afternoon was dry but with a cold biting wind. Rain returned in the evening. Dr. Larry presented a lecture on astrophysics and cosmology.

Wednesday, 25 June
A Wyoming wind blew all night but with little or no precipitation. Dawn revealed grey overcast skies. Miguel left early this morning. By the time breakfast was over, the clouds had broken and the land was bathed by a warming and drying sun! The quarries were wet in places, but the day was a perfect one for work. We took out most the rest of the large bones from the Open House and made good progress on others. Frankie, Darla, Mandy, Jeff, and Dorothy left in the morning, and Curtis, Clayton, Bob, and Brianna left late in the afternoon. The camp seems almost empty with only 13 persons now! What we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.

Thursday, 26 June
The night was clear and upon request a few brave souls were awaken at about 2:00am to view the starry sky. It was awesome! The Milky Way stretched overhead from Sagittarius in the south through Cassiopeia in the north. Mars had just risen in the east. The third quarter moon had not yet risen and at over 4000 ft elevation and over 20 mi from the nearest small concentration of city lights, conditions were nearly perfect! At dawn there were just enough clouds in the sky to be illuminated a bright red by the rising sun. David left after breakfast while the rest of us went to quarries for another good day's work. The weather conditions could not have been much better: sunny, not too hot, and gentle wind. We made good progress finding and excavating a number of bones.

Friday, 27 June
Another wonderful night of rest made the transition to another great day in the quarry. Again the weather was just about perfect and we made excellent progress. We finished work around 3:00pm in order to go to Newcastle to do laundry, buy some groceries, and eat dinner. The evening ended as the sun was setting in the west with a time of singing by the group back in Camp Cretaceous.
At the end of the fourth week we now have located, recovered, and catalogued approximately 950 bones!

Saturday, 28 June
Early this morning, while most of the remaining group were snug in their sleeping bags and tents, Earth rotated so that Camp Cretaceous was no longer in the shadow of the planet. As the sun became visible in the east, it had to shine through small breaks in the cloud cover, but that did not stop the bird calls that accompany each dawn on these lands. After a lovely breakfast, worship was begun with a song service lead by Karen under clearing skies. Zury, Amy, and Karen facilitated the study of the Bible. Dr. Art led in the worship of God through the wonderful lessons found in John 3. After lunch the skies clouded over. A group decided to go for a walk west of camp. Fortunately the first thunderstorm passed to the south of the area. Unfortunately, the second thunderstorm caught them and the camp. Fortunately, those of us at camp saw it and anticipated that it might pass this way and drove the van to see if we could find the group. By the time we got to the gate in the van, the rain started. Another mile west and there was a bedraggled group that was greatful to hail the van to get out of the up to marble sized hail and rain! After the storm passed, a beautiful bright double rainbow was painted across the sky over the Black Hills.
Sunday, 29 June
We had another great night of peaceful and comfortable rest. We all learned a lesson: don't attempt to open a Bone Bond bottle with your teeth. The result may be a tooth covered with cyanoacrylate! After breakfast, Amy, Karen, and Zury left -- and then there were nine. The day in the quarry was another great one. We are attempting to bring things to a natural close by extracting all the known bones and not finding any new ones!

Monday, 30 June
It is hard to believe, but this is our last full day in the quarry! The day started with the usual calm and quiet of dawn. This was one of the hottest days we have had this season. After a day of very hard work, the quarries were all closed, tools and supplies stored in the shed, bones brought back to the camp by 5:30pm. There was still plenty of work to pack and organize things for closing the camp and the trip home. As the sun was setting a thunderhead in the east was brilliantly lit by the red rays, and in the west we witnessed another beautiful sunset.
The total count of bones, teeth, long tendons, and bone fragments was 1003! This was comparable to, but slightly greater than, the total from 2002!

Tuesday, 1 July
This morning we get to pack the trailer and the van for the trip home, and close the camp facility for the season. Mark, Charlotte, and Tyke have their own transportation. We drop Heather off at the Rapid City airport, and Art, Lee, Larry, Justin, and Kathleen travel in the van back to the country in the south! The camp is all cleaned and closed and we are off by 1:15pm.

Wednesday, 2 July
The van arrived back to the SWAU campus about 4:30pm. The bones were in great shape, and the humans will recover!

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