I got up early Monday at our friend’s ranch near Hot Springs, SD and left for a road trip to visit my brother-in-law, Mark T.’s dig site. Here’s a photo of the morning light from their ranch –
Drove west through the Bighorn Mountains. Wow, they were beautiful. I stopped for a lunch break at Meadowlark Lake, up in the mountains and eat next to a rushing stream running into the lake. Just gorgeous. Photos of lake and one of downhill. ….
He’s been working in Jurassic sediments (much older than the Cretaceous I’m digging in; approximately 145 million years old) near(ish) the Bighorn mountains in southern Montana. The Jurassic formations have the classic long-necked dinosaurs (sauropods) that we all think of when we see those classic gentle giants depicted in movies and drawings. Some can be as long as 90 feet from tip of tail to nosey- nose. What a fantastic opportunity he’s created for himself and in pursuit of specimens for his future Dinosaur museum in his home town of South Bend.
Here are a couple of photos of the dig site with a bunch of huge bones exposed and getting ready for field jacketing in plaster soaked burlap strips.
The thing about getting what you wish for is that you sometimes get what you wish for! What? A 50’ or 60’ or 90! foot long huge, huge animal is huge! Every single bone is huge, the scale is somewhat unimaginable. Each leg, each rib, each vertebra is huge, heavy, hard to jacket, hard to move, hard to transport and are really encrusted in rock matrix that make the preparation and preservation of the bones back in a lab very difficult. Where we may spend an average of 50 hours to clean and prepare one hadrosaur vertebra, Mark’s crew will spend 2, 3 or 4 times as long on one diplodocus vertebra. I’m not sure what specimen(s) they have found but it’s likely a “diplo” or camarasuarus. See photo below for scale (they are “yoooohuge,” to quote a certain ex-pres).
Fun to visit with Mark and his team of diggers. We enjoyed a nice dinner back at camp around the campfire and singing and guitar playing by Aidrian R., from South Bend. Up Tuesday morning and helped out at the dig again until around 2pm, then left for the five hour return drive to my dig site. The distances are different here; a 5-hour trip is nothing to get around Montana; it’s a big, big state. Good to be back at my camp and ready to get back to the. Lawrence site to confirm if there’s anything left of him! And some prospecting around for new finds. My good friend, Jason B., from Bloomington is joining me this Sunday for my last week on site for this field season. We’ll put him to work finding Clarence’s head!