Digging Wyoming dinosaurs – camp life

This summer’s dig at Dana Quarry’s finds having been shown it is now time for some photos of camp life. Here’s a nice view of the camp.

On the left is a large, flat area, mostly bulldozed debris from the dig, where we set up our tents along the edge. Most of the area had to be kept free to provide space for turning vehicles and bulldozers.

One thing about ‘Kirby’ Siber’s digs that is really important is how he treats and sees people who work there – be they Sauriermuseum employees, volunteers, or his daughters (who may belong to either of the two other groups). As I have mentioned before, during my 2003 stint I found that ‘Kirby’ makes sure they all are as comfortable as can be, and well fed. That’s still true today in 2012! On the photo, you can see the same old trusty kitchen trailer, the roof of which by now sags so badly that I had to watch my head in places, and a shade roof and wind-breaking plank wall over the dining table. This version at Dana Quarry is much more robust than the old one at the old Howe Quarry camp, but it is also more exposed to the wind. Note that there is the same old van, too!

Here’s a panorama shot that shows the entire camp and some of the landscape around it (click for full size – well, blog tolerable reduced size that is still a whole damn lot bigger than the preview).

As you can see, the bulldozed debris forms a sort of terrace, facing a large open area. The wind mostly blew from this direction, and right at our tents. Some days, several of the tents were totally flattened, and one had both main poles cracked. I spent one night lying in my tent stabilizing the two affected corners with my hands for two hours.

The next morning I detached one of the lines from the downwind corners, and doubled the attachment for the opposing corner with it. After that, my tent weathered the weather just fine.

You can see another important location in the panorama, too: the loo. It was only for – uh, the solid stuff. Quite comfy, with a proper seat and with walls all around, and thus no wind…. I have experienced much worse on field trips and digs. Here it features prominently in an evening shot (HDR to the rescue).

At the dig we got up fairly early – no sense wasting the early, fairly cool hours sleeping or eating, only to fry in the sun later. We fried anyway, though….. Our dear dig leader, Tom Bollinger would wake us with various animal sounds, each day a different one. This started when on the second day we made fun of the coyote concert of the previous night, an occurrence that was to repeat itself every night. Thus, we got the wolf, monkey, coyote, ass treatment, and so on, as wake up calls.

We took a short break at around 11, and later a long lunch break of usually three hours – you simply can’t dig properly during the noon heat. In the evening, the routine was simple: the girls would leave first for the trip to the shower, with us three men continuing to dig for a while, then cleaning up and getting all the tools stashed. We always urged the girls to leave early, so that we would still have some sunlight left for our shower. The wind picks up a fair bit right after the sun goes down, and it can get surprisingly cold even in August when you’re out in the middle of a field, naked and dripping wet, in that evening wind. Still, we tried to make the most of the cooler early evening hours.

Now, the shower – maybe it is best explained by a photo:

This is the center of a center pivot irrigation system next to the quarry. Some cattle rails and a hose – there’s your cow-proof shower! The last day I was there it was even turned into a luxury field shower by the addition of more cattle rail and large plastic pallets for a more solid flooring! Yay!
The hill in the immediate background is mostly natural, but heightened by quarry debris :)

I’ve mentioned food before. It is not something Europeans are typically used to if you have to drive a good hour just to get to a supermarket, and being without a fridge – well, let me just say that I do not know of a single household in Europe that doesn’t have one. Here, we had to fiddle with lots of cooler boxes and bagged ice. Doable, but still annoying. Luckily, one colleague likes to cook in the somewhat austere kitchen trailer, and thus all others were at most pressed to serve as kitchen helpers. I intended to cook one evening, too, but for a variety of reasons we ended up going out for a steak dinner, so I was spared – or should I better say the others were spared?

Breakfast! I am – as always when visiting the US – shocked by the amount of sugar Americans have early in the morning. You can’t get any cereals that do not taste like pure sugar!

Dinner often was after dusk, luckily I had a 3 D-cell LED Maglite. More a weapon that a flashlight. I put it on the table upright, and the tin roof reflected the light well enough.

The temperatures were pretty high throughout my stay, even if we had some days the locals called ‘cool’. The thunderstorm that threatened to flatten our tents brought quite some rain, and as a consequence I had a nightly visitor in my tent. Rain had wet the inner side of the outer tent, and someone that night decided that the space between the inner and outer tent made a nice, cosy and humid hide-out. I kept hearing someone rubbing against the tent, but as opposed to typical mammalian sounds there were no steps to be hear. Rattlesnake? Me no want this close…. I went for a look, armed with my trusty powerful Maglite. And when I saw what made the noise I fetched my camera. Here#s the little bugger who tried to climb up my inner tent membrane:

More camp life in the next post, including a Paleontological Tailgate Party, distinguished visitors, a Dude Ranch heli, and a discussion of quarry footwear.

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About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in lower vertebrates, Sauriermuseum Aathal, Travels. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Digging Wyoming dinosaurs – camp life

  1. Koen says:

    Sounds like a blast! How big was that salamander? Looks like a highly terrestrial one. Any bodies of water nearby?

    • It was about 10 cm long. No “bodies” of open water nearby, but there is a small stream a few hundred meters off, which is fed by water running off from the irrigation system, too, and thus permanent.

      and yes, it was great fun.

  2. Pingback: Using Hugin part 1: easy! | dinosaurpalaeo

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