Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project

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Notes 2003 2005   Project history  

Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you.   
Aldous Huxley

Notes from the Field - The Latest News!


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

Wednesday, 2 June
The group on-campus met at 6:00 pm to load the van and trailer.

Thursday, 3 June
At 6:15am the trailer was packed, the van stuffed, and the people loaded (aboard). It left SWAU with Dr. Art Chadwick driving and students Reuben, Seon Young, and Carolina and participant Linda along for the ride. The route was north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. At the same time the minivan left with Justin driving along with team leader Tyke and students Chloe and Jessica. At roughly the same time team leader Amy took off in her own car with her two children Katherine and Cooper. Dr. Larry Turner, his wife Catherine and grandson Zachary took an alternate route through New Mexico and Colorado. The caravan stopped in Oklahoma City to pick up team leader Kathleen.

Friday, 4 June
The caravan arrived at Camp Cretaceous about 5:00am. Harold and his wife were already here helping Al and Brenda ready the camp. Justin took the minivan to Rapid City to pick up student Ryan. Dr. Larry, Cathy, and Zachary arrived in the afternoon after a lovely night's rest in Colorado along the way! Camp was set up, tents erected, and chore groups established while most people struggled through their lack of sleep from the night before. Just before sundown Merlin and Cheryl arrived by car. This brought the total number to 21 leaders, students, and other participants for a much needed time of rest. Evening worship at dusk was interupted by a Wyoming breeze. There was a flurry of activity as everyone pitched in to help secure tents. Fortunately, it did not last long—either the wind died down or sleep came quickly! For all the tired people, even the simplest tent and sleeping bag was the "bed of their dreams."

Saturday, 5 June
This morning was a day to sleep in! One or two souls were up at the rise of the sun in the cool and stillness of the morning. During the next couple hours, the rest of the humans appeared in various states of activity and alertness. Breakfast was prepared by the the project directors with plenty of help. Jessica led out in the Bible lesson study and Dr. Art presented the worship service. David arrived late in the afternoon—now we were 22!
Sunday, 6 June
Today was a beautiful day. Ten of the group chose to climb the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture. After the 6.6 mile hike to look the carving in the face and return to the museum at the base, we picked up Doyle at the airport, and when everyone arrived back at camp, Cathy and Karen were here and all set up. This brings the total to 25 persons who are all eager for the first official day of quarrying!

Monday, 7 June
Today we opened quarries and got everyone started. Late in the morning Cathy and Zachary left—Dr. Larry was sad all day! In the middle of the afternoon, the last student, Ian, and his wife Nellie and delightful child Fern arrived. With them were three additional participants: Gwen, Ellen, and Claire. In the evening the group from Trinity Christian Academy got to camp. The group consists of three adults, Curtis, Joe, and Christi, and 17 early-teens for a three-day mini-camp. The total is now 49! This is twice what we have ever had at any one time. With a slight wind, it was entertaining to watch and to help the group set up their tents!

Tuesday, 8 June
The day dawned overcast; however, the food crew including one of the three groups from Trinity were up early and eager to prepare breakfast. It was a great meal! This was one of those perfect quarrying days. The skies were somewhat overcast, the temperature cool, and a gentle breeze. We made great progress with the quarries becoming organized and neat enabling us to find a good number of bones—about 100 in basically one full day of excavation! After another wonderful supper, Dr. Art gave a lecture to the combined groups.

Wednesday, 9 June
A wind blew most of the night—just enough to keep the tents rattling, but not enough to collapse them! The day is cool and overcast, but we have not had any rain. This year has been a dry one—the grass is short and brown. However, the work continued at a feverish pace—it is amazing what 43 excavators (49 minus Drs. Art and Larry who keep quite busy running around helping here and there, Justin who is working magic with the computers and GPS, and three small children) can do! Justin has been dubbed "Gypsy" by the Trinity group since he travels all over with the GPS! Caroline and Verne drove out for a short visit. Art and David went on a "shopping trip"! After another wonderful evening meal during which we celebrated Sam's (one of the Trinity students) 14th birthday, Dr. Larry gave the lecture to the combined groups on Nature and God, and Dr. Art discussed dinosaurs.

Thursday, 10 June
We have had a continuing wind with the possibility of thunderstorms, but the night remained dry with the wind dying down about 2:00am as the third-quarter moon rose. The wind returned with the sun along with a few sprinkles! By the time of morning worship, the overcast had broken up. It was one of those beautiful days for work with white fluffy clouds yet cool! After worship, Harold, Nelma, Merlin, and Cheryl left. We are down to 45 persons. By lunch the clouds had pretty much disappeared, and the day turned quite warm and windy, but excellent progress has been made in the quarries. Mid-afternoon saw the Trinity group breaking camp and heading away from their dinosaur experience to the next stop on their itinerary. It has been great to feel their energy and enthusiam. Helping them take their tents down in the wind was also entertaining! With that group gone, we are now at 25 participants which includes three delightful preschoolers! After another great dinner, Dr. Art lectured to the students on his research involving whale remains in Peru.

Friday, 11 June
This morning the camp seems almost empty with "only" 25 people here. In the past few years the most we have had at any one time was 24. We will all miss the Trinity group. This is one of the best days we have had working in the quarries. The day was not hot, sunny, and with a not so intense wind! A new "scavanging" quarry was opened to the north of the current quarries. Late in the morning, Luke, the son of Al and Brenda, came out and worked with the group in the South Quarry. We stopped work early for the usual trip to Newcastle for laundry, shopping, and dinner. The group enjoyed the experiences of the Pizza Barn! We did not get back to camp until fairly late—almost two hours after our planned return before dark. It is amazing how much time it takes for 25 people to get all their laundry needs attended to—especially with some of the limited number of machines and dryers "out of order." Just after the group arrived back at camp, Dr. Karen arrived. This now brings our total number to 26.

At the end of the first week's work we have registered 308 fossil remains.

Saturday, 12 June
What a wonderful night's rest we had! There was no wind, and the only sound was the lowing of cattle in the distance. With just a few clouds, the stars and the Milky Way were absolutely brilliant. Before dawn the thin sliver of the waning moon graced the eastern sky. Of course, most of the group were not awake to observe the beauty! After making his famous Saturday-morning biscuits, Dr. Larry headed for the Rapid City airport to catch a flight. He will be gone until Wednesday evening. Linda left with him, but will not return. Our worship service was brought to us by Jessica, Dr. Art, and David. Afterwards, several of the "young people" played frisbee out in the wind.... Quite the challenge! Later, Dr. Chadwick led a hike to discover areas of the Hanson Ranch that were new to many. Everyone gathered around to see a porcupine huddled up in its hiding place. After that adventure, we closed the evening with worship. The group is certainly blessed to have Dr. Karen and her guitar here!
Sunday, 13 June
The morning began with breakfast, worship, and cleaning like most other days. We were soon out to the quarries to uncover more of the earth's secrets. Justin felt a bit under the weather, so he slept in the van between his GPS rounds. We were delighted to see Mr. Glenn Hanson when he came to visit the dig site.

Monday, 14 June
French toast, or "Freedom Toast" as Tyke calls it, started our morning today. This is the last day here for Cathy, Karen, and David, so we will be losing many of our most elite diggers. With that in mind, we cast and removed two huge femora from the new "KC Quarry". The sisters (Gwen, Ellen, and Claire) also left today after saying a long goodbye to all. However, Marge arrived today after an exciting journey through the grasslands of Eastern Wyoming! Thus we ended the day with "only" 19 participants. But to top it all off on a high note, everyone enjoyed a special "dinner and a lecture".

Tuesday, 15 June
The morning was cool with a light breeze. Sunny skies brought the group outside for worship. Doyle shared his thoughts on responsibility to God and we sang a few praise songs. We were soon off to the quarries and discovered the cool morning was not to last long! As the day warmed, Dr. Chadwick and Justin surveyed a new area of land for which we had little data. After supper, we enjoyed a lecture on micropaleontology by Kathleen.

Wednesday, 16 June
Today is an "off-day" with the group traveling to the Black Hills area to visit the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, The Black Hills Institute in Hill City, and the South Dakota School of Mines Geology Museum in Rapid City. Lori and Jennifer arrived in the morning and accompanied the rest of the group on the "field trip." Al and Brenda also enjoyed the day out with the participants. Meanwhile, back home, it rained all day, and Justin, who had stayed in camp, mixed his normal work with episodes of dealing with the precipitation. Dr. Larry got back to the Rapid City airport late in the evening. Two vans and a car load of friends and the result of a major shopping and laundry trip were there to greet him. Thus our group was set for the next day at 22 humans and lots of fossils!

Thursday, 17 June
The day began after a short night overcast and cool—at least the rain from the day before has settled the dust. By breakfast, the rain had returned. After morning worship Amy, Katherine, and Cooper left. By mid-morning the rain had ceased. By the end of the day we had made wonderful progress—it turned out to be a perfect day for work once the slippery mud on the quarry floors had dried out somewhat!

Friday, 18 June
During the night it rained fairly heavily but briefly. More rain is predicted for today, and it is cool this morning and overcast. While Camp Cretaceous received a significant amount of rain, it was apparent that the quarries had been blessed with only a sprinkling. The worksite was cold with a slight wind blowing, but excellent progress was made until lunch time. Then the rain set in. As it grew heavier, we closed down the quarries and everyone headed back to camp. Since shopping and laundry was done on Wednesday, we were not planning to go into town this afternoon. With the wet dirt road, that is not so easy anyway! Everyone took advantage of the "afternoon off" to get caught up with reading, organization, and other personal and camp activities. As the day drew to a close, Drs. Art and Larry talked about their recent trip to Jordan. The techniques of the Dinosaur Project were applied to research in archeology. However, beside the work in Jalul, there was opportunity to visit a number of archeological sites including Sela, Jerash, Rabboth, and Petra and interesting natural wonders of Mt. Nebo, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.

We now have recorded a total of 491 bones and fossils!

Saturday, 19 June
The night was cool with a gentle breeze under overcast skies. We are all ready to see the sun! The 19 persons in Camp Cretaceous all slept in later than the usual hour. The living bones needed rest after excavating the fossil bones! After a relaxed breakfast, the group gathered in the Camp building for worship. Outside it was cool and wet, but inside it was warm and sunny with rousing, active singing accompanied by Dr. Karen and her guitar. Dr. Art led out in the Bible study and worship inspiring all with God's plan of salvation for each of us. As all were enjoying a wonderful mid-day meal, the sun appeared in the break in the clouds. What a beautiful sight! The effects of the rain that we have experienced may already be seen in the greening of the pastures. Marge left in the middle of the afternoon with some of the group who decided to explore the Black Hills. Most of the remainder went exploring the ranch ending up at Twin Towers. Brenda rode out with two additional horses and several humans seemed to enjoy riding.
Sunday, 20 June
After a calm but cool night's rest, we all were treated to another great breakfast in preparation for the day's events. Today is the open house! The morning's work work in the quarries was to organize and prepare for the visitors. Today we had a unique event—Jennifer not only managed to glue two fingers together, but worked it into her hair as well! After returning to Camp, the hair finally became free of the super glue. However, she then got it caught in the zipper of her tent. The suggestion was made to cut it all off, but was not well received! The Open House went well with a number of people coming to see what we were doing. It was great to see Glenn again. Tomorrow we can pull bones that we had left for display purposes. Just before dinner, Aaron and Shannon (River) arrived. The evening lecture by Dr. Larry on GPS was interupted by a sudden Wyoming breeze. Justin had to take off at full speed to chase down a part of a tent that was rolling and flapping across the pasture. After a few minutes of everyone busily securing tents, the lecture resumed. Late in the evening Dr. Art was joyed to see four family members arrive: Tom, Janis, Annemarie, and Carole. Of course, he would really be joyed to see his Joy!! This brings our total once again up to 24 participants (including Fern who is finding her share of bones and tendons)!

Monday, 21 June
A beautiful morning arrived too soon for many of us. Today promises to be a great work day! Breakfast was once more a delightful meal. This day will bring us lots of bones to prepare for transport as we clean the quarries and close down the New (Teague) Quarry. The beautiful morning turned into a beautiful work day in the quarries! By the day's end we had recorded a total of 575 bones. Just before dinner Lori and Jennifer left. Nellie baked a pineapple upside-down cake for Ian, and the other fathers in the group, in celebration of Father's Day, but everyone enjoyed the treat. After dinner Aaron and River departed. We now have 20! Dr. Art gave a lecture on the nature of dinosaurs. Afterwards, the group was educated with Justin's video on Rollie Chair Racing.

Tuesday, 22 June
The morning dawned cool and calm without a cloud in the sky. Tyke's chore group satisfied us with a fantastic fast-breaker of freedom fried toast! The is a perfect quarrying day! We had sunny skies with a gentle breeze that was not too hot! And what progess we made! A good day's worth of bones were located and removed from the ground. After dinner Dr. Art gave a presentation on paleocurrents. Afterwards Dr. Larry talked about the wonders of astrophysics and the universe.

Wednesday, 23 June
The clear calm skies that greeted the sun gave promise of another great day. Today we are planning to break just after lunch to drive to Newcastle for laundry, shopping, and dinner! It was so hard to stop working to break for lunch let alone to get ready to go to town. With such a short time for everyone to get cleaned, gather up dirty clothes, make up a grocery list and check it twice to see if everything is not naughty or nice, that we were all hurrying. Chloe has come up with a good candidate for the motto of the 2004 season to go along with: "Don't step on the berm." and "Don't put bread in the refrigerator." It is "Showers shouldn't take hours!" We needed to drop off a piece of equipment for repair at the UPS pickup place. The UPS person had already been there, but was still making deliveries in Newcastle. Therefore, we simply found the brown truck and the item went out "Next Day." Laundry was cleaned and we ate at Isabella's—great pizza, salads, and ice cream. Art, Kathleen, and Karen paid a visit to Glenn and Phyllis at their home in Newcastle. Finally, before the drive back to Camp Cretaceous the leaders, along with Fern and her family, went shopping for food and supplies (emergency items like T.P.), the rest went shopping at Pamida!

Thursday, 24 June
During the night a thunderstorm moved over the site with rain and wind, but the sun rose through broken clouds. Today we get a full day of work in the quarries. Our clothes will be clean for the first few minutes! The Chadwick's asked to fix breakfast this morning. It was great! We are not going to let them leave! What a wonderful day of work we have had today! The temperature was warm (not hot); it was just cloudy enough to hide the intense sun; and a slight breeze keep us all at peak efficiency as we worked on bones, cleaning and casting the large ones. Dinner was another wonderful culinary experience and the evening was topped off with a lecture from Dr. Art on theropods and a report on his research in the Grand Canyon.

Friday, 25 June
We are coming to the end of another week of work. The skies are overcast this morning and the winds are calm—the promise of another great day in the quarries! While the work involves a great deal of physical activity, the expectation that partipation is a good way to lose weight is unfounded—the breakfasts and dinners are too tasty! Today we were treated to another wonderful refueling start to the day! It was another great day of work! In the late afternoon we had a visit from local ranchers. Caroline and some family members also came by the quarries and Camp Cretaceous. Kathleen was anxiously expecting her husband most of the day. Gary arrived just before dinner with some needed supplies. Kathleen probably was not even aware of anything other than Gary! This brings our total people present to 21.

Our total number of specimens recorded is now at 727. Since this year we are not recording (that is, assigning a unique Field Number and GPS and photography) short tendons and small bone framents, this is comparable to the last two years' progress.

Saturday, 26 June
We have another glorious day! Before breakfast, Dr. Art's family, Tom, Janis, Carole, and Annemarie, left—now we are 17! Everyone, except the leaders who cooked, had the opportunity to sleep in until breakfast at 9:30am. Jessica once again led out in the Bible study. Karen supplied accompanying music with her guitar. Gary led out in the worship time. After a "noon" meal (at 2:00pm) several of the group departed via van to the Black Hills—Mt. Rushmore and other sites. The rest of the group rested and/or took nature walks around the ranch. It was great to have some relaxation time—to read, to listen to music, to chat, to nap, to take photos of the pronghorn that wandered by the camp.
Sunday, 27 June
By 3:00 am the waxing gibbous moon had set and the clouds had disappeared. A few brave souls were awake to see the magnificance of the starry night. The Milky Way stretched overhead in a bright swath. The Andromedia Galaxy could be discerned by the unaided eye. Drs. Larry and Karen identified constellations and related the mythological "significance" of the patterns in the sky. By dawn the clouds had returned with a light but cold wind—a three-layer clothes day! It is hard to believe—we have begun our last week of this season, and only a partial week at that! Caroline had brought two all-terrain four-wheelers for us to use in doing survey work. The plan is to drive around the area with a GPS rover unit recording periodic data points. One participant was not feeling well, but after a day's rest in the Camp felt better. For the rest of the group the day was a perfect work day! We are beginning the process of cleaning up the quarries in preparation of ending the season; that is, the emphasis is now to finish any discovered or partially exposed bones rather than finding new ones! Of course, there are exceptions. Gary found a femur, but should not have great difficulty in finishing it by Wednesday. Justin took around 11,000 survey points. Meanwhile, Dr. Art had to respond to calls of "Gypsy" from all four quarries to bring the GPS and record bone positions. After another wonderful evening meal, Dr. Art lectured on dinosaurs.

Monday, 28 June
Good morning, Cretaceous! As the earth rotates to expose this part of the world to the direct rays of the sun, members of the group appear from their in tents recreative period of rest. There is a stirring in the camp. The sounds and smells of breakfast being prepared alerts many to the start of the day's activities—for some it is the sound of the breakfast horn: "Honk, honk, honk!" And there are a few that finally wander in with a bit of a dazed look and surprise that everyone else is finished eating! We are all tired but elated with the progress being made in the quarries and the other work of the project. The students, as expected, try to convince the teachers that it is more important to finish the bones they are working on rather than take the final exam. The teachers, of course, want both done! The best suggestion, from a non-student participant, is that while the eight students take the final exam, the rest of the group have another dinner at Isabella's in Newcastle! Now if they offered to buy the teachers' dinner.... This morning is another clear and calm day with the promise of a simply fantastic work day! After morning worship, Dr. Karen departed. Her guitar musical accompaniment will be sorely missed. Since West Quarry was almost devoid of exposed bones, it was closed except for the final winter preparation. In the North Quarry a simple "clean up known bones" led to the discovery of a large femur. The group worked until 8:00 pm on it and other large bones that had been located earlier. South Quarry has also found a number of major bones in the last day or so. As usual, it seems that the waning days of the excavation season is the time when large specimens appear—bones that take more time to excavate than remains! For the last lecture Dr. Larry talked about the extinction of dinosaurs.

Tuesday, 29 June
As the season winds down and comes to a close, not only are we striving to bring the quarries to a clean state with no exposed bones, but we are attempting to bring our supplies to an end. This, of course, implies that the last few meals are not quite as rich in variety as the earlier ones! The great thing about the group is that there is no grumbling about it! Of course, lack of variety is quite different from lack of balance or lack of tasty meals! This morning once again is a gift God has given us to be a great work day. The predawn hour is quiet, calm, and clear with a few low clouds above the Black Hills on the eastern horizon to be brilliantly illuminated by the rising sun. Of course, it also promises to be another long day if we accomplish what we want and need to! Teague Quarry has now been closed for the season. The students returned early with the food crew in order to have time to study and review for the final exam. Some of the others stayed late to continue to work down the matrix surrounding the "last" bones. After a long hot day, several are "bone tired" and "tired of bones."

Wednesday, 30 June
This is the day—the last full day in the quarries (actually we hope the last day in the quarries with Thursday morning being devoted to closing down Camp Cretaceous). There is still plenty of work to be done in a few corners of South and North Quarries. The students will sit their final exam this morning—the anxiety level is not low! The day started out as a typical end of the excavation season day—hot. However, in the middle of the afternoon clouds moved in and, a much needed by the ranchers, thunderstorm. In spite of it all, we did accomplish what we needed to on this last day. A large (50 inch length) femur that was first discovered two days earlier was finally cleared, jacketed and removed from the quarry late in the evening. Dinner was late and as part we celebrated Ryan's birthday (actually Friday).

The final count of fossils catalogued is 883. This includes large bone fragments, long tendons, teeth, and bones.

Thursday, 1 July
The only thing left at the quarries is to clean up and put away the things gathered together under the Hoodoo Hut including the big femur! During the night it rained lightly at times. We are all hoping for some sun to dry tents, etc. before they are packed. And, of course, a relatively dry road to the highway would be greatly appreciated! The sky is overcast—we shall see. Gary took Ryan to the Rapid City airport early this morning. Ian, Nellie, and Fern left mid-morning. Justin, with Chloe and Jessica, left at 1:00 pm to drop Doyle off at the airport and to rendezvous with the van and trailer "down the road." Gary and Kathleen are driving their own vehicle and left about the same time as the rest—4:00 pm, so that leaves the Fellowship of the Nine to take the bones that have ruled us during this age of excavation to the land of Keene. The morning and early afternoon were overcast, but warm with a touch of humidity from the drying earth. Tents, etc did dry out nicely. There were many tasks to perform before we could depart Camp Cretaceous—that is why we did not get away until 4:00! We made good time, even with an 1.5 hour delay to help a couple of motorists who had run out of gas on highway 85 40+ miles from the nearest petrol station!

Friday, 2 July
Dr. Art was dropped off in Salina, Kansas early in the morning, and the caravan continued to Keene, arriving about 4:00 pm. The vehicles and the trailer were unloaded and everyone scattered to their homes! It was a safe and relatively uneventful trip, for which we thanked God.

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