Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project

        Experience    Notes from the Field
Site Map   
Notes 2015  2017   Project history  

If you don't write it down, it never happened.   
Tom Clancy, Debt of Honor

Notes from the Field - The Latest News!


This year Dr. Larry, your usual mild-mannered and retiring reporter for the Mesozoic Daily Planet News, was not able to participate in this year's expedition to the Cretacious. Dr. Erin Maloney agreed to be responsible for the daily notes—the notes for 2016 are 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, 1 June
Packing day!

Thursday, 2 June
The 2016 Season officially gets underway! The stated departure time is 8:00am.

Our group of 16 Wyoming-bound dinosaur researchers left Keene at 8:40 in the morning after a warm sendoff by parents and supporters. We traveled in fair weather to Holyoke, Colorado where we picked up Kathleen, who had just arrived from Thailand a few hours earlier.

Friday, 3 June
After a blessedly uneventful but pleasant 21 hours, we arrived at Mule Creek Junction, where we rested for an hour before heading into a green, but dry Camp Cretacious. There we found our facilities in great shape, thanks to the hard work of Al and Brenda and their helpers, and we met Tyke, who had driven up on her own. While camp was being set up, Tyke and Art drove into Rapid City to pick up groceries and to rescue McKennon and Justin from the airport.

After returning to camp and dispositioning our load of supplies, we settled in for an evening worship and a great night's sleep.

Camp census Friday night was 20 participants.

Saturday, 4 June
We awoke to a warm, clear morning after a very peaceful night. We enjoyed a leisurely Sabbath morning breakfast and then met under the big white canopy for worship.

Brenda arrived with delicious homemade rhubarb crisp just in time for lunch. She also brought her daughter-in-law and granddaughter to camp for a visit.

In the early afternoon a group went out on a tour to see some of the interesting sites and natural features of the ranch. Some stayed in camp to enjoy a quiet afternoon resting or reading.

In the evening we met again for sunset worship, then everyone drifted off one by one to their tents.

Sunday, 5 June
Crazy Horse Volksmarch!

The internet connection to Camp Cretacious was finally made mid-day. Little creatures with sharp teeth had enjoyed munching on some of the wiring over the last eleven months!

After an early breakfast, a group of participants left for the Crazy Horse Memorial to hike the trail to the top, which is only open to the public once every year for the Crazy Horse Volksmarch. Following the hike, our group enjoyed a visit to Mount Rushmore and a tour of the Black Hills Institute.

Those staying at camp were busy assembling kits of dig tools, preparing equipment and hauling needed items to the main quarries.

Our group in town finished the day with a visit to Shopko and dinner at Pizza Hut, then returned to camp just after 9:00.

Monday, 6 June
We enjoyed a hearty pancake breakfast and an excellent morning worship talk by Sensei Yamamoto.

Those who are new to the project got some basic training, picked up their tools and enjoyed the scenic walk down to the quarries.

We opened North Quarry and all of our participants worked there together. Justin and Mike got our GPS system up and running, and Dr. Chadwick came down to the quarries to take the GPS data for the day's finds.

Our participants made many exciting discoveries and gained some experience in excavating, recording, and processing fossils. Two exciting finds were a complete astragalus (ankle bone) from a duck-billed dinosaur, found by Taylor, and a theropod furcula (wishbone), found by Jared.

We returned to camp in the evening, a little tired but still excited about the day's discoveries. We were treated to a delicious spaghetti dinner thanks to today's cooking crew. After dinner we were happy to see Stephan and Dawnella arrive at camp.

Those taking the class, along with a few others, enjoyed Dr. Chadwick's first lecture. Class was followed by a round of table games and hot chocolate, but the stragglers eventually found their way to bed.

Tuesday, 7 June
The morning was already quite warm when we emerged from our tents and wandered into the kitchen for breakfast.

Most of us continued the work we had started in North Quarry yesterday, but a few joined Stephan and Dawnella at the Triceratops quarry. A sudden and very strong gust of wind swept through mid-afternoon to send empty buckets, shade tarps and knee pads flying around in the quarry. Today's exciting finds included, among many, a T. Rex tooth and a bone from the skull of an unknown dinosaur.

The evening brought some dark clouds that seemed to promise some rain, but only a few scattered drops made their way down to our camp.

Some of our group seem to be feeling a bit under the weather, but were convinced to try a very potent natural remedy—a concoction of honey, garlic, onion, and horseradish!

Wednesday, 8 June
We were greeted by another warm morning, followed by an even warmer afternoon—temperatures reached the low 90s.

Pastor Ole and his wife Vonny, who arrived the night before, joined our North Quarry team. Another new arrival, Richard, also spent the day at North Quarry. Tyke opened Stair Quarry and recruited a team from North to dig with her.

Chloe, Heston and Addisyn arrived in the late afternoon.

A thunderstorm came up in the evening and brought plenty of rain to cool off our camp. Unfortunately, it also brought a lightning strike that terminated our WiFi signal for the evening!

Dr. Chadwick ended the day with a lecture about radiometric dating.

Thursday, 9 June
We consumed great quantities of cold cereal for breakfast in preparation for another hot day in the field. Temperatures peaked around 95°F in the afternoon.

Work continued at North, Stair and Triceratops quarries. Addisyn, one of our newest and youngest diggers, found a small phalanx (finger bone) in North Quarry.

Our WiFi was restored thanks to the collective efforts of Justin, Mike and Heston. However, we soon discovered that our walkie-talkies were out of commission due to lightning damage. In fact, it seems that most of our equipment located on the hilltop had suffered a lightning strike in yesterday's storm.

The day ended with Dr. Chadwick's lecture on dinosaur anatomy, followed by what sounded like some very intense table games!

Friday, 10 June
Dr. Chadwick left just after breakfast to deliver Emily and Justin to the airport in Rapid City. Justin will be returning to our camp the following week.

We spent the morning working in the quarries and returned to camp after lunch to prepare for our weekly trip to town.

Everyone cleaned up and put on their best "going to town" clothes and we headed to Newcastle. Our first stop was the Laundry Basket laundromat where we soon occupied every last washer and drier! Some of us made phone calls to family and friends, and a few played bocce in the nearby city park. Tyke shopped for groceries at Decker's.

After a brief stop for personal shopping at the Shopko, we drove down the road to the Pizza Barn for dinner. We enjoyed quite a feast under the watchful gaze of the many mounted deer heads.

We returned to camp for sunset worship with Pastor Ole and we sang a few hymns accompanied by Jared on guitar and Allan on ukulele.

At the end of the first week of excavation, we have reached a total of 194 bones recovered.

Saturday, 11 June
We enjoyed a bountiful biscuit breakfast, which was happily served a little later than our usual breakfast time. Some of us took advantage of the time to sleep in!

Dr. Chadwick gave a wonderful Sabbath morning worship talk and we sang a few favorite hymns.

The day quickly became very hot, and after lunch we debated some options for staying cool. We considered a trip to the Black Hills, or other places that might have trees, but no one seemed very interested in making the long drive. Eventually most of us settled in near the fan in the kitchen, or into chairs under the big white canopy. A few brave individuals decided to take a dip in the cattle tank!

The evening brought little relief from the heat as a warm wind blew into camp. We gathered for worship and heard a talk by Dr. Chadwick. We were hopeful when some dark clouds appeared on the western horizon, but they only brought even stronger wind. There was no rain, and we fell asleep tossing and turning in hot tents.

Sunday, 12 June
The morning air was thankfully much cooler than the day before. There were mountains of waffles for breakfast, so many that I suspect we will see them again at tomorrow's breakfast.

Chloe, Heston and Addisyn left this morning to continue their summer road trip.

The cool breeze encouraged many of us to walk to the quarries rather than ride down in the van. A film crew arrived mid-morning and began filming an interview with Dr. Chadwick in North Quarry. Work proceeded as usual, but somewhat more quietly.

An especially exciting discovery was made in the Triceratops quarry - a lower jaw from a triceratops. In North Quarry we uncovered some beautiful skull bones and vertebrae.

In the evening we welcomed the students from Trinity Christian Academy. They'll be digging with us in the main quarries over the next two days.

Monday, 13 June
Breakfast was busy this morning as our number of participants in camp has reached its peak for this season. After polishing off several boxes of cereal, we were ready for the day!

Trinity Christian Academy gave our worship this morning, which included a couple of favorite songs and a talk by Curtis.

The Trinity students got their basic training, picked up their tool kits and walked out to the main quarries. We opened Southeast quarry, where Trinity has 15 student diggers and three staff. There were many exciting discoveries that we will continue excavating tomorrow.

In Triceratops quarry Kollin uncovered paired pterygoids from the triceratops.

Everett arrived and joined the work at North Quarry.

In the afternoon, Dr. Chadwick warned of approaching severe weather via the walkie talkies. We quickly closed the quarries and covered them with tarps before hurrying back to camp.

Strong winds and heavy rain had an unfortunate impact on some tents, and several of us ended up with wet sleeping bags and blankets. Thankfully we have a backup supply in the attic of the camp building.

After the evening lecture, Everett made his famous peanut brittle—a sweet end to a somewhat soggy day.

Tuesday, 14 June
After a hearty French toast breakfast, we gathered for another special morning worship with Curtis and the Trinity students. When worship was finished we posed for our official group photo in the usual spot on the edge of camp.

As we left for the quarries, we said our goodbyes to Pastor Ole and Vonnie as they packed up to return home today.

The Trinity students finished their work in Southeast quarry and left just after lunch to continue their summer trip in South Dakota.

In the evening we celebrated Kollin's birthday with a delicious lemon cake made by Mike with a little help from Erin.

Wednesday, 15 June
In the morning we enjoyed a tasty hashbrown casserole at breakfast before heading out to the quarries for the day.

Work continued at four of our quarries. At North, Taylor and Erin found two teeth that are thought to belong to Nanotyrannus. In nearby Southeast quarry, Kathleen and Everett continued to expose the fossils that had been partially excavated by the Trinity students. A hadrosaur pubis and several ribs were uncovered at the Triceratops quarry. In Stair quarry, two hadrosaur teeth were found.

The film crew from the Institute for Creation Research finished their last day of filming in and around the quarries.

In the late afternoon, Whitney arrived and spent some time working in Southeast Quarry. She was joined by another film crew back at camp in the evening.

After a long, hot day we were treated to a stroganoff dinner served with tropical coconut punch.

Dr. Chadwick gave a lecture on paleocurrents after dinner.

Thursday, 16 June
For those adventurous souls staying the entire season of 27 nights sleeping in their own private nylon enshrouded bedrooms this past night was the 14th rest period—over half of the season has been completed!

We shifted our morning schedule about a half hour earlier with the hope that we would go to visit a neighboring ranch to view some fossils, but the trip was postponed just as we prepared to pile into the vans. So instead we got an early start down in the quarries.

Most of us were a little surprised to find that the film crew that had arrived last night is a family of ten—Kyle, Dawn and their eight children! They are here to film a documentary for their homeschool video series.

The bone count at Stair quarry increased significantly as the team uncovered three hadrosaur vertebrae. The North quarry team found another Nanotyrannus tooth. A partial scapula was excavated at Southeast quarry. At the Triceratops quarry, a second pubis and an ilium, both from hadrosaur, were uncovered.

Afternoon temperatures reached the low 90s again, and we found ourselves visiting the water coolers frequently to refill.

We were happy to have haystacks for dinner, as well as a mountain of cold watermelon slices. A little later in the evening Everett treated us to a new variety of brittle—hazelnut!

A cool breeze made its way into camp and we settled into our tents for the night.

Friday, 17 June
The visiting film crew was hard at work today interviewing and filming in the main quarries, and our teams were diligently digging to uncover some exciting finds to show on Sunday for our annual open house.

After a quick lunch we headed back to camp to clean up and prepare for the weekly trip to Newcastle. We visited our favorite laundromat, and some of us took a small detour to the grocery store to restock our snack supplies.

Meanwhile, Dr. Chadwick drove to Rapid City to retrieve Justin from the airport and to buy large quantities of food.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Isabella's, which is a favorite restaurant for many of our returning diggers. Barbara and Jim arrived and joined us for dinner.

After we returned to camp, we gathered for sunset worship and heard a very uplifting testimony from Ruth Ann. We finished we a few favorite hymns as the daylight faded.

At the end of the second week of work, we had recovered a total of 436 bones, teeth, and tendons.

Saturday, 18 June
Although many of us were keenly interested in sleeping in, the warm sun convinced us to leave our tents to sit in front of the fan in the kitchen. Before breakfast was served, almost everyone was already sitting at the long dining tables and staring into the kitchen.

We gathered a little later under the white canopy to hear the Sabbath morning message, which was given by Stephan. Just as we finished singing the last hymn, Ruth and Richard arrived at camp.

We ate a light lunch, then most of us were off to Rapid City to deliver Whitney to the airport and to visit the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. We wandered through the fossil and mineral collections for about an hour, and then we were on our way to Sylvan Lake.

The lake was delightfully cold and surrounded by boulders for climbing and exploring. We spent over an hour cooling off and lounging on the rocks before we had to return to camp.

By the time we arrived at camp, dinner had long since been finished and put away. Dr. Snyder, Erin and Dawnella made three trays of nachos, which disappeared in a matter of minutes. Now full and tired, we made our way to our tents for the night.

Sunday, 19 June
Father's Day and Hanson Ranch Open House!

We ate breakfast in a hurry this morning, and prepared the camp for the open house visitors who would be arriving later. Then we gathered our supplies for the day and headed out to the quarries.

Work began at Ivarrest and Gar quarries as some team members from Stair and North were reassigned.

Around sixty visitors from the surrounding area made the long drive out to camp for the open house, and they began arriving at North and Southeast quarries just after lunch. There was much to see in both quarries, including several large leg bones (femur, tibia, fibula) from hadrosaur. Visitors (especially the younger ones) were excited to chat with diggers, see the quarries up close, and even hold a bone!

After the last of the guests had finished touring the quarries, we returned to camp for a tasty chili dog dinner.

Students in taking the class this month were happy to hear that there was no lecture scheduled for the evening. A few took advantage of the extra time to catch up on their reading, and a few decided it was a good time for some card games!

There were many calls made for Father's day in the evening, and then the camp got quiet as we settled into our tents.

Monday, 20 June
We awoke to the sound of the two "meal call" horns being blown simultaneously and in harmony thanks to a couple of ambitious individuals.

Southeast quarry was closed this morning, and Kathleen returned to work at North quarry. Stair quarry will also remain closed, as most of the Stair team has moved to Gar quarry.

Some of our exciting discoveries today include a large phalanx from North quarry, a triceratops dentary in the Triceratops quarry, a croc tibia from Gar quarry and a small femur in Ivarrest quarry.

The last vestige of our beloved "Hoodoo Hut" - a single wooden pillar - was removed today from North quarry.

In the afternoon, a film crew from Brazil arrived and began filming interviews, and will continue work on their documentary throughout the week. Dr Steve and his wife Janelle arrived in the afternoon as well.

Dr. Chadwick traveled to Rapid City to return Justin to the airport after his brief stay in camp over the weekend. Dr. Chadwick came back to camp in the evening with a truck full of much needed groceries and supplies.

Tuesday, 21 June
The weather forecast this morning predicted our hottest day yet, with temperatures in the upper 90s and humidity in the single digits. We were sure to fill all of our water bottles and large water jugs before going out to the quarries.

The film crew from Brazil made the long trip out to Ivarrest to film the process of digging and also show some of the day's discoveries. Next they visited the Triceratops quarry to show some of the fossils that are being excavated there. Another film crew arrived from Oregon and did some filming at the main quarries and at Gar Ridge.

The temperature continued to climb, and we heard frequent reminders to drink water being broadcast on the walkie talkies. By early afternoon the heat was enough to convince even the most intrepid digger to crawl under a shade tarp. The shade provided some relief, but a hot wind found its way under the tarps as well.

Dr. Jared gave his first paleontology lecture this evening, and it was well attended.

Wednesday, 22 June
We started the day off with Tyke's famous banana bread at breakfast, then prepared to venture out bravely for another very hot day in the quarries.

It was a very productive day for all of our quarries. In the triceratops quarry Kollin excavated an articulated row of eight vertebrae from the tail of our thescelosaurus. The team from North found the usual beautiful bones, and Taylor found two Nanotyrranus teeth. In Gar quarry, the team found a claw and two tyrannosaurid teeth. The team at Ivarrest uncovered a Nanotyrranus tooth, but also unfortunately disturbed a large nest of harvester ants.

The film crew from Brazil continued to film at Ivarrest and later at the main quarries. They even took a break from filming to dig for some fossils!

We had some exceptional enchiladas for dinner, thanks again to Tyke and her crew. Most of us ended the day with a refreshingly cold shower, then waited for our tents to cool down before settling in for the night.

Thursday, 23 June
A cool breeze was blowing when we unzipped our tents this morning to come in for breakfast.

All of our teams stayed busy today in our four open quarries. In North quarry, several large bones were removed, including a fibula, ulna and ischium. The team also started excavating a very large femur and an ischium. Both Gar and Ivarrest quarries uncovered many, many teeth. The team in the Triceratops quarry continued work on the thescelosaurus backbone, which is in three pieces and includes more than 20 vertebrae.

When we returned to camp, Mark had rounded up some of the guys to help put a temporary cover over the roof to keep the rain out.

Storm clouds came up over camp, producing a beautiful effect in the sky at sunset, and even a rainbow. There were many cameras, phones and tablets aimed at the sky tonight!

Friday, 24 June
Our breakfast was served an hour earlier, and after we had eaten we packed up our laundry and lunches, and crammed ourselves into the vans for a day in town.

Our first stop was the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Dr. Chadwick wisely suggested that we arrive early to beat the crowds, as it is a very popular attraction. We spent about an hour visiting the mammoths (and the gift shop).

Next on our agenda was laundry at the Hot Springs laundromat, which was also a convenient place to eat our lunches.

We made our way from there to the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, where we got a special sneak peek at a Tyrannosaurus Rex being prepared by Dr. Peter Larson and his team for a museum in the Netherlands. Dr. Larson even very graciously agreed to photos and autographs for some excited fans in our group.

Many in our group noted that the Dairy Queen was only a short walk down the street, so we took a quick detour for some tasty frozen treats.

Meanwhile, back at Camp Cretaceous, a storm blew in, bringing some very strong winds with it. Several tents sustained damage, ranging from moderate to severe. A corner of the big white canopy was pulled loose, and the plastic sheeting that had been so carefully installed on the roof yesterday was unfortunately shredded. Kathleen was alone in the camp at the time, but was safe inside the building.

We returned from town a little tired from the day and ready to welcome the Sabbath.

At the end of the third week, we had discovered, located, and catalogued 955 fossils.

Saturday, 25 June
In first hours of the morning the Southern outdoor education grad students and their families arrived, after a long trip that unfortunately included some car trouble. But they were relieved to find that we had already prepared some tents for them. They joined us for our customary biscuit breakfast.

After we ate, we made the short trip over to the neighboring pasture to join a ranch family for "branding day". This was a unique cultural experience for most of us, and an honor to be invited to such an important event.

We returned to camp around noon for Sabbath worship, and Stephan gave the message.

Just after lunch we left for Harney Peak, which is the highest point in South Dakota. One brave group hiked up to the old fire lookout building at the top of the peak, and another group decided to enjoy Sylvan Lake at the base of the peak. We returned to camp quite late, but were surprised to find that a late dinner was being served so we wouldn't have to go to bed hungry!

Sunday, 26 June
Today begins the last week of the 2016 expedition. Now the mantra is "find no new bones" as the work concentrates on extracting fossils that are already exposed, cleaning the quarries, winterizing them, and closing the work sites.

We were happy to have our guests from Southern join us in the quarries today to get some digging experience.

The team at the Triceratops quarry continued to work on the growing chain of vertebrae—now up to more than 35! At Ivarrest quarry, the team found that the wind had relocated a number of items to the nearby canyon, but order was soon restored and they went on to uncover partial crocodile and lizard jaws. At Gar quarry, the team continued to find many, many teeth. The team in North quarry uncovered some beautiful ribs and vertebrae.

In the evening, those who are taking the class got very serious about studying for their upcoming final exam, and the kitchen was much quieter than usual.

Monday, 27 June
This morning we enjoyed a special all-music worship thanks to Katherine and Jessie from the Southern grad program.

We were busy today trying to bring things to a close in all of our quarries. In North quarry the big bones are starting to come out of the ground. The North team removed a large ilium and cast a femur to be taken out tomorrow. Ivarrest quarry found several small theropod bones of interest. The Gar quarry team continued to uncover many exciting finds, including a large vertebra and theropod bone. At the Triceratops quarry, the team was happy to find the end of the tail they've been chasing.

Around lunchtime, the students left the quarries early to get some extra study time before they take their final tomorrow morning. The anxious study session continued into until dinner time and resumed again as soon as the food had disappeared.

A storm came up over camp in the evening, bringing some rain and cooler air.

Tuesday, 28 June
Just after breakfast and worship, those of us taking the class began the final exam. The test-takers appeared in the quarries a couple of hours later looking mostly relieved.

Our friends from Southern Adventist University spent the morning digging in North quarry, and then began the long trip back home again around lunch time.

The Triceratops quarry team spent the day carefully removing the tail, which had to come out in five sections. At Ivarrest quarry, the team removed a few teeth and small bones. A very important discovery was made in Gar quarry - a mammal jaw with teeth intact.

This was the last official day of digging, and in the evening we returned to camp with our dig kits.

Wednesday, 29 June
Our last day in camp was a busy one. Most of us spent the morning packing up the kitchen, cleaning the building and loading boxes of fossils into the trailer to bring back to the museum.

Ivarrest and the Triceratops quarry were officially closed in the morning. Gar quarry stayed open for about an hour so the team could remove two exposed bones. North quarry remained open until well after lunch as several larger bones still needed to be excavated and removed. By the end of the day, all quarries were closed and our supplies and equipment were safely stored in the little shed down the hill.

Back at camp, we spent the afternoon taking down tents and packing our personal gear in the trailer.

We had a feast of leftovers for dinner, then spent the rest of the evening making last minute preparations for our morning departure.

At the end of the 2016 season, we had recovered 1226 bones, teeth, etc.   [Addendum: two participants spent a few days after the expedition left and recovered an additional 42 "miscellaneous" fossils. The grand total for the "extended" 2016 season was 1268.]

Thursday, 30 June
The expedition caravan pulled away from its home of four weeks at 8:08 am leaving a packed up and empty Camp Cretaceous.

Friday, 1 July
The expedition arrived safe and sound at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, TX by 10:30 am.

2015 top of page 2017


© 2001-2024 by Southwestern Adventist University and Earth History Research Center