Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project

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A memory lasts forever.
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Melina Campos

Notes from the Field - The Latest News!


A special thanks to Kathleen for supplying the news information from Saturday, 27 Jun, until the end of the season in Wyoming.

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

Thursday, 4 June
This is the day the 2009 expedition begins!! Two vans and a pickup truck pulling the trailer left SWAU at 8:30am—only 30 minutes past the announced departure time! Justin drove the truck pulling the trailer, Drs. Art and Larry piloted the vans. All aboard were students Ethel, Carolina, Austin, Rose, Stephan, and Kleber; supervisors Tyke and Rory; and other participants Tetsuya, Michael, Sonnett, Jacobi, Heston, and Kenneth. There was plenty of room—the occupants could feel like people, not sardines! The caravan of three stopped north of Fort Worth to rendezvous with supervisor Amy and her children Katherine and Cooper. Then it was off through Oklahoma City, Witchita, Salina, and points north before turning west on I-80.

Friday, 5 June
The caravan of four vehicles continued through the night with several drivers and numerous short "stretching" stops until all safely arrived at Camp Cretaceous about 8:00am. We discovered Mark and Dr. Berney and his wife Jean were already waiting for us!

The first order of business was to set up the "circus tent." This was followed by unpacking the trailer, truck, and vans. After some time to "defertilize" the area around the camp, the work was to erect everyone's private bedroom. The morning was just a perfect cool temperature, dry with a gentle breeze—it made the work of assembling the tents and fastening them down quite easy and enjoyable. The camp facility was next on the list as the cooking utensils and other items were unpacked as they had been left in 2008 and the cupboards arranged.

Dr. Art, Tyke, and Amy left with one of the vans to shop in Rapid City for supplies and meet two participants arriving at the airport.

We were hoping the satellite Internet connection would be working today, but after several phone calls it appears that Monday will be the magic day. We shall see! Mark announced that all of the GPS equipment is working and calibrated and ready for use—we can work without the internet, but having the vital GPS equipment functioning and ready so quickly is great news—bring on the bones!

Miki and Ben arrived in the middle of the afternoon. The morning had been clear, but clouds moved in and by the late afternoon there was a light rain followed by partial clearing.

The van returned from Rapid City safely somewhat after sundown with Dr. Tony and Marina and food! That brings the total humans on-site for the first night to 27!

Saturday, 6 June
The wind was blowing much of the previous afternoon and evening, but by dawn the atmosphere was calm with a light fog! That is correct—fog. This is a first! We cannot remembering enountering fog in Camp Cretaceous. By breakfast the fog had become a light drizzle which fortunately did not last long—just the right amount to settle the dust. By mid-morning things had evolved into a pleasant overcast day. Inside the camp facility there was good social interaction until the morning worship beginning at 11:00 with vigorous singing. Stephan led the worship activities.

By the time lunch was ready the solid overcast had given away to broken clouds—an absolutely georgeous day!

In the middle afternoon most of the group went to the microsite to find what they could find.

Sunday, 7 June
There was some light rain during the night and the day dawned overcast. Tyke and helpers were up before sunrise to start preparing breakfast at 7:00am.

Most of the group left in two vans after breakfast for the Crazy Horse Volksmarch. Dr. Art stayed behind to work with Mark on the GPS. Dr. Larry spent the day finding things and organizing. Tyke, Amy, and Dr. Berney cleaned out the tumble weeds from the quarries. Mark left in the mid-afternoon.

After sprinkling at times—there were even glimpses of blue spots for short intervals, the rain started in earnest about 7:00pm just as the first van arrived back from the Black Hills. The second van was assigned to travel in to Rapid City for some more shopping and to meet two participants at the airport:  Celeste and Dustin.

Monday, 8 June
This first day of the work dawned clear with no wind—the promise of a perfect dig day! After breakfast and worship the experienced quarry supervisors and others headed to the dino mines. The new participants were introduced to the intricacies of the work, collected tool kits, and were off. Dr. Larry led a walking introductory tour of the site.

It did prove to be a wonderful day! David arrived in the middle of the afternoon and had his tent erected, complete with lighted famingoes, by the time the kitchen crew arrived back at Camp Cretaceous to prepare dinner.

The bad news was the internet connection was still not functioning—we can always hope for tomorrow!

After another great meal, Dr. Art ended the activities with an introductory lecture. Rain arrived and fell steadily for about two hours. Dr. Keith, Beth, and Ivan arrived just before the rain and had a chance to get their tent up before things got wet.

Tuesday, 9 June
The day dawn overcast and foggy, but things were not too soaked from the previous evening—only a few scattered reports of leaky tents. Kathleen and Gary arrived in the wee hours of the morning—Heston will drive Gary to the airport later in the morning.

The morning's work was under cool overcast skies. Some of the lower parts of the quarries were muddy, but that did not interfere with the work. By noon, the sun was visible in gaps in the cloud cover.

Chloe arrived in the afternoon after being met at the airport in Rapid City by Heston. The Trinity group arrived just before dinner. Curtis, Joe, and Courtney brought 21 eager diggers.

After dinner, Dr. Art gave the lecture on the history of the Hanson Research Station and our excavation project. During his lecture a lovely rainbow could be seen in the east as the skies cleared from the west.

There are a total of 64 persons sleeping in Camp Cretaceous this night!

Wednesday, 10 June
It rained at times during the night, and the day dawned overcast and damp; however, the winds were neglible. After breakfast the winds had picked up from the south. This meant Southeast Quarry bore the brunt of the chilling wind but North Quarry was quite pleasant. Of course, all quarries had to deal with muddy conditions. The old Teague quarry (which was once the New Quarry) was opened for the days the Trinity group is here.

We still do not have internet service—earlier a technician from Hughes, the service provider, informed us he was coming on Wednesday. Today, he called and told us it would be Thursday! Silly us, we thought Wednesday would be the day he would arrive, not the day to expect him to call to tell when he would arrive! We are not holding our breath!

After a full days work in the quarry and dinner Everett, Grant, and Jackson drove back to the twenth-first century. This leaves us with only 61 humans in camp.

Dr. Art presented a lecture on what type of animal a dinosaur was and the human history of dinosaur discovery.

Thursday, 11 June
Aha, we experienced a night without rain! However, the day dawned overcast once again. The quarries were muddy, but still workable until a light steady rain arrived in mid-morning. By 10:30 it was decided to open our "rain quarry"—the area in the North Main quarry under the Hoodoo Hut. By early afternoon the rain had increase and Southeast quarry was shut down, South Main was busy under shelters, and North Main was proceeding under the Hoodoo Hut. Those participants that could not fit in the available quarry space or those that were soaked and cold, came back to camp and studied or watched DVD's about dinosaurs! Dr. Art took a big pot of hot chocolate to those that remained in the quarries in the early afternoon; however, conditions worsened and everyone returned to camp by mid-afternoon.

There is still no internet—the service technician called and said he could not come until next Monday or Tuesday because of the weather. Of course, if he had come when he first told us he would be here, there would not have been a problem with the weather! Justin called Hughes and now is scheduled to meet with the technician Friday morning at 9:00am (Wyoming time)!

Before dinner Art, Linda, and Forrest left.

Dr. Art's lecture discussed antonomical terms and the evolution of our understanding of dinosaurs.

Friday, 12 June
Another overcast day dawned, but the ground had dried somewhat during the night.

The Trinity group packed and left after breakfast. This drops the human population by 24. We always look forward to the group being here with there enthusiasm and energy. Camp Cretaceous seems almost too empty and quiet after they depart!

Most of the group left for Hot Springs and Hill City to do laundry, see the Mammoth Site and the Black Hills Institute. This seemed to be a good day for a field trip since the quarries will take time to dry—especially since some of the excavators had run out of dry clothes! Tyke, Kathleen, David, Dr. Larry, and Justin stayed in camp and said their good byes to Rory and Sonnett—they leave for Korea on Monday for two years.

The internet service technician arrived and worked for several hours. While that was going on, we cleaned tool kits, shoes, and whatever else was covered with mud from the previous day. As those tasks proceeded, the sun peeked out and some patches of blue sky could be seen—enough that dry sand could be seen in places around Camp Cretaceous. After noon the ratio of blue to white-gray increased, the temperature increased, and the relative humidity dropped. With a gentle breeze wet things began to get toasty dry.

Jim and Eryn arrived in the mid-afternoon.

After our internet service was restored, the camp group left for Newcastle for laundry and dinner.

All the groups met together in Newcastle for the trip back to Camp Cretaceous. Of course, after unloading people, clean laundry, and groceries, everyone grabbed their computers and only a few managed to access the internet for news and e-mail. Sundown was accompanied with singing and evening worship.

At the end of the first week of excavation, we have reached a total of 249 bones recovered. This compares to 248 in 2008 and the previous week 1 record of 308 set in 2004. Of course, in 2008 the Trinity group were here in week 2, but this year we lost much of Thursday and all day of a normally short Friday.

Saturday, 13 June
This was the first day to dawn without a cloud in the sky! As is normal, the directors made breakfast:  homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs, tofu, grits, and gravy. Dr. Art led the worship service outside under the white "circus" tent. The temperature was perfect with a gentle breeze and fluffy white clouds dotting the sky. The singing and the discussion was accompanied by bird chirps and calls.

After lunch, a number took advantage of the beautiful day to explore and hike. Others read. Some caught up on sleep. Toward evening a thunderstorm skirted the camp and dropped some liquid sunshine—at first nothing heavy, just sprinkles followed by a few exciting minutes of hail and finally a short downpour!. It was the calm before the storm! Thunderstorms moved into the area with heavy rain for the next few hours.

Sunday, 14 June
The good news was the clear dawn. The bad news was the soaking we got in the early part of the night—the ranchers need the rain, but the quarries will be muddy this morning. During the preparation for breakfast the electricity to the camp went off. Our generator feeding the electric griddle permitted the food preparation to proceed, and the sun shining through a transparent atmosphere illuminated the interior of the camp dining room. Not a problem! We shall see how long it takes to restore electrical power!

Except for some mud in the floor of the quarries the work environment was just about perfect: gentle breeze, fluffy clouds, and the right temperature. Electrical power was restored in the early afternoon.

A new quarry was investigated on the ridge just above the Far East. It is quite high, but there are numerous bone fragments littering the ground.

About the time the cooking crew returned to fix dinner, Miki and Ben left. Beth had left earlier in the day, but will return to collect her husband and son.

The day ended with Dr. Art talking about plate tektonics.

Monday, 15 June
Another beautiful morning, and it did not rain last night! The quarries should be just about perfect.

After breakfast Dr. Art left to drive Marina to the Rapid City airport, to do some shopping, and to pick up Zuri. I guess that leaves Dr. Larry in charge!

Ben arrived in the middle of the afternoon. After working most of the day, Jim and Eryn departed.

Dr. Art returned from Rapid City with Dr. Zuri in time to present the evening lecture, a continuation of the previous evening's discussion.

Tuesday, 16 June
Today is another beautiful dawn. The calm when the sun rises is silent with the occasional bird call. Shortly before 6:00am the camp starts to stir with the cooking group arriving in the building and starting to put out lunch materials and prepare breakfast. At about 6:20 the sun peeks above the horizon—it takes a little longer to be seen above the nearby hills.

During breakfast we had a spirited discussion on the appropriate name for the new quarry. Since numerous gar scales were found, the word "gar" was a no brainer. Someone suggested "gar field." Then "gar ridge." And finally, "garfield ridge." In the end "Gar Ridge" prevailed.

After breakfast most headed for the quarries. Dr. Larry stayed in camp to work on some projects including building two tables.

The work went well as the day heated up—quite warm, clear, and calm breeze.

David made his traditional lima bean lasagna for supper. It was appropriate since Garfield's favorite food is lasagna!

Dr. Art ended the day with a lecture on dinosaur characteristics.

Wednesday, 17 June
This day began with another glorious sunrise. After a nutritious and tasty breakfast, Justin drove Dr. Tony, Heston, and Chloe to the airport for their return to the present. The work in the quarries proceed quickly and efficiently under cloudy skies. All too quickly it was time for lunch!

Concerned about the weather forcast of rain in the next few days, David packed his huge tent and flamingoes and left in the middle of the afternoon. Storms could be seen, but the quarries received only a few sprinkles.

Dr. Art lectured on some of the different types of dinosaurs.

Tonight we are down to 26 humans sleeping in camp.

Thursday, 18 June
Those staying the entire season get to sleep in their private bedrooms 27 nights. This morning they have recorded 14 nights—over half-way!

We are thankful we do have internet access, but it comes with some constraints. Between 2:00 and 6:00am we have full available bandwidth. However, during the rest of the day the normal traffic we generate causes the bandwidth to drop drastically. The solution is to get up in the hours before 6:00am!

The day dawned clear and calm with the promise of another great day in the quarries. Breakfast gave everyone energy for the morning.

A new quarry was opened to the east of the South–North Quarry line—"TOE Quarry" (Turner's Ornithischian Exploratory Quarry) because two toe bones were first spotted on the surface by Dr. Larry. It seems that toe bones are almost always found at the top of the bone layer when a new site is excavated. The intent is to excavate a limited area quarry just to sample the bone layer in the region. We anticipate that this will give us information, when combined with the results of West Quarry about the east–west elevations and characteristics of the bone layer.

The day was warm with a few fluffy clouds to provide some welcome shade at random times. The conditions made for great progress.

After supper, the air turned cool—some light coats appeared on participants. As Dr. Art lectured once again, thunder could be heard in the distance.

Friday, 19 June
Today dawned as another great day—God is good to us! Last night was calm, reasonably warm, and dry (with a gentle sprinkle in the middle of the night).. The work of breakfast group was interupted whan a mouse was discovered in a cabinet—poor mouse was probably quite frightened! We shall need to get a trap this afternoon: "Alas poor mouse, I knew him well."

Our internet connection was upgraded—thank you HughesNet—gratis. The limitations we have experienced should now be a thing of the past.

At noon the cooking crew came back to camp to eat and shower. At 1:00pm most of the rest returned. All gathered their dirty clothes together in anticipation of a trip to Newcastle. In Newcastle the order of events was put dirty clothes in the washer, phone home, move clean clothes to dryer, phone some more, fold clean dry clothes, purchase groceries, eat dinner at Pizza Hut, and fill the vans with gasoline. We all wish a special thanks to Dr. Zuri for picking up the bill for the pizza dinner. "Thank you, Zuri!"

The vans and two cars that had left early in the afternoon returned to Camp Cretaceous about 8:00pm in time to unload the groceries, Tyke to start making a cake in celebration of Rose's birthday, and to relax as the sun fell slowly toward the western horizon in an entirely cloudless sky. Sunset came as we all gathered around under the circus tent for a season of singing and evening worship. Stephan gave a short insightful talk.

At the end of this, the second week of work, we had recovered a total of 712 bones, teeth, and tendons. This number exceeds the second week record of 621 specimens collected set in 2006! Furthermore, the total for this one week of 463 exceeds the 427 record set in the second week of 2006. God has given us great weather, functioning equipment, a wonderful group of participants, and fantastic things to discover!

Saturday, 20 June
As the earth rotated, the edge of shadow of the eastern hills moved eastward across the land illuminating the tops of the circus tent and camp building and moving downward until the entire Camp Cretaceous was in full sunlight. Only a few clouds could be seen in the east, the winds were still, and the cacaphony of bird calls was all that could be heard until one-by-one the humans began stirring and moving about.

Al and Brenda arived in the middle of the night—Brenda brought her famous granola and fresh strawberries to add to the normal Sabbath breakfast: scrambled eggs, tofu, grits, and home-made biscuits! Dr. Art had been invited to speak at the Hot Springs Church. Ater downing a breakfast that included a dinosaur shaped biscuit (at his express request) he left with Dr. Zuri, Casey, Dr. Keith, Ivan, Amy, Catherine, and Cooper.

The wind picked up by late morning—a good Wyoming breeze from the southeast. We shall see what it brings, whether it strengthens, and how tents might succumb!

Stephan present the morning worship message.

Dr. Art and the Hot Springs group returned just in time to lead many of the group on a nature hike down by the Cheyenne River. The weather was threatening with dark clouds in the east, but all we got was a few sprinkles. Dr. Larry made "Gobs of Chocolate" cookies for supper which, except for the cookies, consisted primarily of "left-overs."

Sunday, 21 June
Today is the annual open-house that is organized by the Hanson Ranch. Today is also the summer stolstice—this means we have the greatest number of daylight hours to work! Today also is Father's Day!

The day dawned with broken clouds and calm winds. It had sprinkled during the night, but no soaking! The clouds in the east prevented observing the conjunction of the 28 day old moon with the Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the Pleiades.

After another great breakfast, Justin left to drive Celeste to the airport—she has a better offer for the remainder of the season: an archeological dig in Israel!

The open-house was scheduled for 2:00–5:30 (Texas time). Visitors arrived early and late! It was a good turnout with around 70 visitors on-site. The weather could not have cooperated any better. It was breezy with some clouds, not too warm—perfect conditions! Dr. Art stayed in the camp facility to present an introduction, then the visitors drove out to the quarries to see what we were doing.

The dinner crew returned about 6:00 and the rest about 7:00 for a late supper. Dr. Art decided that this evening was a study time, but not to worry, Monday evening would bring two lectures for all the students!

Monday, 22 June
Another day dawned calm and clear. It was peaceful and quiet in the early morning. Then, a little after 6:00 the cooking crew arrived to fix breakfast—the noise and bustle is well worth the good food!

Amy and Katherine and Cooper packed their tent before departing to the quarry. Shortly before lunch they drove back to camp then left for the twenty-first century. Dr. Larry stayed in camp in the morning to finish constructing the second table and sanding and sealing the tops.

The afternoon was productive. We only have 21 participants and not all of those are actually excavating. It was windy from the west and northwest and working in the sun was quite warm! Because of the work on Sunday, it is hard to feel that this day is actually Monday—it seems like Tuesday!

After dinner, Dr. Art presented the promised two lectures!

Tuesday, 23 June
These days are beginning in a monotonously wonderful way—another dawn with the promise of a great productive day. Venus is brilliant in the east peeking through the clouds over the Black Hills in the time before the sun can actually be seen. She fades as the sky grows lighter and the clouds are lit up up with a beautiful sunrise which in turns fades as the sun appears to rise higher behind the hills until the camp is brillantly lit.

The morning was pleasantly cool–not cold, but ideal working conditions. Dr. Larry helped Stephan jacket one of his femora with plaster and cloth. Both were amazed at how fast the morning had gone. However, as Stephan observed, "Time flies when you are getting plastered!" Dr. Art returned from the quarry in time for the evening lecture on dinosaurs, but then returned afterward—he and Dr. Zuri were working on some interesting bone or two.

Wednesday, 24 June
This day started very early for a few of the group and Dr. Larry. They were up (for awhile) around 1:00am to look at the glorious stars—the Milky Way was a bright band dividing the observed sky. Sunrise brought a few more low clouds in the west, but if those last there will be some shade later. On the other hand, they may indicate a storm! By the time breakfast was ready, an adult and baby pronghorn could be seen eating their breakfast in the pasture west of Camp Cretaceous. During breakfast a single adult grazed not far west of camp apparently oblivious to all the bipedal creatures.

Dr. Art left in mid-morning to do some shopping and take Dr. Zuri to the Rapid City airport. Before he left, a quick trip in the truck to the Hoodoo Hut transported one of the tables—that leaves one under the circus tent and one under the Hoodoo Hut. The extra table space is welcomed. Late morning Ed, Mike, Chuck and Brad arrived. Dr. Larry spent the morning with them showing them around.

The afternoon was quite warm and the few clouds did not do much to alleviate the heat. Everyone was ready for dinner. About the time dinner was served Dr. Art returned with a new air compressor and groceries. He finished the day with a lecture.

Thursday, 25 June
Daybreak brought another clear sky accompanyied early by coyotes singing in the distance and then the birds closer to camp picking up the refrain. After breakfast and worship it was off to work in the "sauro mines." Actually they are really "ornithischian mines," but that does not have the same ring to it!

Dr. Larry was called from his work in the North Quarry to answer a query in the South. He took his awl and upon return could not find it and realized it was left in the South. His comment was, "Awl and awl, it was not an awltogether successful journey."

Dr. Art left the quarries and returned to Camp Cretaceous to a day-long meeting with Ed, Mike, Chuck, Brad, and Roger. Dr. Lee arrived in the afternoon and met with the group also.

After dinner, Ed gave a special lecture on the importance of creation to our relationship to God.

This day we reached a total of 1037 bones. This is the earliest of any year we have reached the 1000 fossil milestone. By the end of the season will we eclipse the record of 1182 specimens set in 2006?

Friday, 26 June
The night was warm and for many the earth rotated too quickly bringing the early morning light and the magic time for the breakfast crew to awake and start the day's activities.

Because Dr. Larry was leaving this day and a number of the participants had not had an opportunity to see Mt. Rushmore, the decision was to spend the day on a field trip to Mt. Rushmore and the South Dakota School of Mines Geology Museum (as well as laundry!). After breakfast the van and Drs. Art and Lee departed. A few of the group stayed to continue work in the quarries. Dr. Bernie and his wife Jean drove Dr. Larry to the Rapid City airport.

At the end of the third week, we had discovered, located, and catalogued 1037 fossils. This is a record for the bone count at the end of the third week. Indeed, there has been only one full year, 2006 with 1182 recovered specimens, that has exceeded this third week total!

Saturday, 27 June
Sabbath dawned bright and cool. Some went on an early walk before preparing breakfast. Breakfast this morning was one of the first in many years without Dr. Larry's homemade biscuits.

Dr. Leonard arrived as a part of Ed's group for the Sabbath. Dr. Art had the sermon for church using verses from the Bible and then finished with a computer presentation about the connection between God the Creator and worship, salvation, and ended with the history of our church using Daniel and Revelation. What a blessing! We were joined for church service by Brenda and Mrs. Hanson, Carolyn and Vern. That was very nice!

After lunch, which included a cake to celebrate Tetsuya's birthday, some went on a tour around the quarries.

Sabbath dinner was followed by a talk by Mike who is connected with the mission work of the church. We were thrilled with the stories he told and were inspired by his words. He reminded us that all success is due to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Ed, Mike, Chuck, Brad, Roger, and Dr. Leonard left, and it was shortly time for all to retire to their tents.

Sunday, 28 June
Today was a beautiful day to dig—not too hot and not too cold.

Much was accomplished in the quarries, and progress is being made steadily. There are still many large bones to remove, and more bones continue to be found as excavation continues.

We had visitors in the quarries with some of the Hanson family, friends of Ben, and a pastor and family from Newcastle coming. Today our numbers have already swollen with the arrival of Ed, Tyke's husband, the four video people from SWAU, and the Allen family.

It will be a very busy day tomorrow!

Monday, 29 June
This was another great day-cool at night and nice during the day, except for the heat. We added more than normal bones because of all of the guest diggers.

We enjoyed getting to know some new friends. Some of them slept under the stars last night, and that included seeing some shooting stars-one of the perks of being out here in the "wilderness" with no light pollution. This is truly a beautiful place! Interesting creatures enjoyed this year so far have been the frequent watching pronghorns, a few rattlers and bull snakes, and many million little grasshoppers. That adds interest to be sure.

Dr. Lee was to pick up his lovely wife Dr. Lucinda last night. Brenda has joined us for the rest of the season—always a delight! The video crew worked on their project, turning the quarry areas into a visible production studio with their camera crane!

The students are looking forward to a good night's sleep in spite of the impending final exam tomorrow.

Tuesday, 30 June
Today was a special day in that time is nearly up for us this year. And, of course, some big and interesting bones were found—even another femur in South Quarry, in addition, to a possible seed.

The video crew worked on their project, then left.

We are down in numbers, but were happy to see Dr. Lucy who came to meet Dr. Lee to begin their great Alaska DNA adventure.

Vern is to take Justin up for a flyover tomorrow. The final exam was taken in the morning, so the students can relax now.

Wednesday, 1 July
Wednesday is quarry closing day in anticipation of leaving Thursday about noon. And another season will be over!

At the end of the 2009 season, we had recovered 1233 bones, teeth, etc.

Thursday, 2 July
This day was spent taking down tents, packing the vehicles, shutting down the camp, saying goodbyes, climbing in the cars, truck, and vans, and slowly driving away from Camp Cretacious for another season.

Friday, 3 July
All the bones and people arrived safely in Keene and, in the case of the tired humans, to their final domiciles.

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