Category Archives: Clash of the Titans

Gone with the Wind

Things can get pretty windy out here. We are used to that. Last night things got a bit windier than usual. Lisa and I crawled out of our tents in the middle of the night to batten down camp, after a while there is nothing else to do but wait and see what holds up and what fails. So we went back to bed. Most of our crew is new to fieldwork so the deafening winds were responsible for a fair bit of unease. Especially when people’s tents were blowing down on top of them with each gust. A few collapsed their tents and slept in the truck others finally collapsed from exhaustion themselves. despite getting smacked by their tents.

At one point Lisa got something from the kitchen tent and started walking away. Five feet later she turned back and the shelter was gone. This despite the wire cables and foot long augers that were bolting it to the ground. I was relieved because that dang tent was making such a racket in the wind that it was keeping me awake. When it suddenly became quiet enough to sleep, I had a feeling the shelter had excused itself from camp. Indeed, in the morning when I crawled out of my tent I was a bit shocked to find the destruction left behind.

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Scrambled eggs anyone?

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Lisa surveys the scene.

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Aha! That’s where our kitchen shelter went!

Creeper

Respite! A bit of cloud cover cooled us this morning and the mood was visibly lighter among the crew. We headed to Kate’s Ridge and got the jackhammer running. We made some great headway with the site but aren’t yet sure if our days of labor will pay off–is there more bone lurking in the hill or not.

Walking back to camp yesterday, Lisa noticed some theropod bone on a little ridge. Today she, I, and one of our students spent three hours sweeping the hillside looking for the source of the bone trail. Finally, just when we were losing our excitement, Emily found some fragments that looked suspiciously like they were close to the source. A bit more hunting and we found more good looking fragments. Just when the afternoon was waning and the temp was nice and cool it started raining on us. So we closed down and headed back to camp.

We nicknamed the site The Creeper because tantalizing tiny fragments of bone kept us creeping up the hill all afternoon.

Home not so Sweet Home

Some of our crew brought tents that weren’t made to withstand the major wind we get in this area.
Damien Stone NCSU Biology student hold his bent tent poles. He learned the hard way that you don’t put your tent on top of the ridge and if it does blow down, you don’t try to put it up again until the wind stopped.

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Damien with his bent tent poles.

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Grad student Khai donning his “wind breaker”

Brutality

Today was a rough day. Pushed the crew to the limit. We’ve been wondering whether we had all gone soft over the winter, but many of us were used to fairly brutal temperatures during field work. So we decided (against our better judgement) to record the temperature on site today. I was fairly shocked at the result–117 degrees IN THE SHADE at 1pm. But then again, once Susan shouted out the temp to me, everything made sense. With the sun beating down on us while we were picking and shoveling folks were dropping like flies. I kept a close eye on those that were overheating and somehow we all made it through the day.

For me, backpacking the jackhammer up the 200 foot cliff to Kate’s Ridge was the major feat, especially when it shifted on my back and nearly flipped me off the side of the hill. Then I descended to meet Lisa and haul up the fuel and bits. All in all, we were one exhausted crew that night. Job well done.

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Lisa takes a turn on the jackhammer. Unfortunately, Dino’s don’t dig up themselves.

Crew al Dente

Crew shot in Grand Junction Colorado. Day 1

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After car troubles in Grand Junction put us back several hours, we finally rolled into camp at around 8 pm and began furiously working to get our camp set up before dark. Luckily we had clear skies unlike last time when we set up during a rather nasty rain/wind storm, which tends to complicate the matter.

This morning we got the rest of our act together and loaded up to check out the sites we found last year. It was clear that after the long drive, major shift in elevation from North Carolina, and the unfortunate and rather oppressive heat wave that hit the western USA this weekend, the crew was in bad sorts today.

We went first to Lisa’s site, where we had left a capped limb bone in the hill last year. After a brief stint of picking and shoveling, we did find a few more bits of bone, which was encouraging so we left a bit of the crew at the site and moved on to the sites farther away.

There we had found the lower leg of a new theropod dinosaur. I had a feeling that we had collected all that there was of this animal last year, but more of the skeleton might allow us to diagnose this species and understand its implications for the evolution of theropod dinosaurs in North America. After waiting a long long year Lisa and I were totally stoked to get back to the site. We opened up a large area in the hill but so far no bone… We’ll keep digging on it tomorrow but morale is low, that may be all there was of this animal that preserved.

Everyone was suffering in the near 100 degree heat today, no shade. Most of the crew ran out of water (they wont make that mistake again) and everyone was overheating during our picking and shoveling stints. Tomorrow with any luck we will be more acclimated!