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Discovering Dinosaurs

Bureau of Land Management
Environmental Education Electronic Field Trip














Excavation Journal

June 12, 2001: Dino Shock Absorbers

By Art Ferraro

Dave told us the day before that he wouldn't be on the site until 10:30 am so we had a chance in the morning to review our tape and still images. We got to the rendezvous point around 10 am and spent the better part of the half hour waiting for Dave and company slathering sunblock and insect repellent all over our exposed skin. Since today would not have the steady wind yesterday provided for us, we were expecting a blood bath from the gnats.

One of the reasons Dave was going to be later was that he was bringing in the trailer that would haul out the large jacketed pieces of the dinosaur. Yesterday, Dave had mentioned that he was concerned about how to pack all the rocks into the small trailer so they wouldn't get damaged on the dirt road while being towed out. He came up with a great idea and decided to borrow a few used automobile tires from the local tire dealer in Big Water. They had become good friends a week earlier when the crew had a blow out while coming back in for the night. We saw them pull up around 10:40 am with about 8 former tires turned "dino shock absorbers."

Today Dave was accompanied by Barry Albright, Nikki, and Barry's friend Alex who was 13 and visiting from South Carolina. After exchanging hellos we were treated to having our heavy television production gear get a free ride into the site on the trailer that Dave had brought. At the beginning of this project, when Dave applied for the permit from the BLM to do the excavation, he requested permission to drive a vehicle into the site twice to allow them to carry equipment in, and more importantly, carry the dinosaur out. This turned out to be a very good move, since some of the jacketed pieces were in excess of 200 lbs and went up to 350 lbs.

After the trip in, Dave and Barry positioned the trailer about 40 yards from the site, and together they did an inventory to make sure they had all the remaining bones. Once that was accomplished the crew started moving the smaller jackets down by the trailer.

Because the one jacket was so heavy, Dave had asked Alan Titus to call up some of his BLM friends to join us later so we could move the largest piece. After 45 minutes, the crew of four had moved everything we could without the extra help so we broke for lunch under the shade of one of the junipers and waited for help to arrive.

About a half hour later, three other BLMers and one student from Kanab showed up and we immediately got to work on the largest piece. The plan was to take two tarps and fold them in half to increase their strength. Then criss-cross them underneath the largest jacket. This would allow up to eight people to have a handle to hold onto while moving the object. Once everyone got a grip, Barry yelled "1, 2, 3!" and everyone lifted. Slowly the rock came off the ground, and many grunts later, was set down 15 feet closer to the trailer. More importantly, it was now finally out of the "bomb crater" where the dinosaur had rested for millions of years.

After about three more counts by Barry and grunts by the collective crew, the largest jacket laid next to its smaller cousins which allowed for the final phase, the packing of the trailer. This actually took longer than I thought, but it was so important. Dave, Barry, and Nikki took special care to pack all the jackets so that they would be balanced in the trailer and also fully protected. They ended up using all of the tires they had borrowed and all of the pads they had used during the excavation. I found it more than a little ironic that we were using petroleum based tires to protect the bones. Call it a homecoming of sorts for the collective dinosaur itself.

After packing was complete, the crew had high fives all around. The padlock was put on the trailer and, with our camera gear hitching a final ride, the trailer, dinosaur and all, drove off into the sunset. The perfect end to a very successful day and excavation. Barry and Dave were very excited to have this one behind them. Tomorrow they plan on coming back to the site to do the final reclamation of bomb crater. When they are done, nobody will ever know we were there. Then it's off to yet another site about 20 minutes away by car where they will be working for the remainder of the summer. Later this summer, we at the BLM Training Center will be logging the footage we shot on these trips and turning them into videos to be used in the BLM Electronic Field Trip on October 25th. It will be exciting for us to bring our experience to so many of you who have followed this dig and want to learn more about paleontology, BLM Lands like the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and science in general!

As for Lemitchel and me, we made it back to Kanab tonight and will be spending the next two days at other National Monuments getting video and still images for BLM to use in posters and brochures before heading back to Phoenix. But I doubt those days will top the ones we had on the dinosaur dig, where we truly had an adventure in the past.

Nikki Hemmesch is a senior Natural Sciences major at the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota. She's spending the summer working for the Museum of Northern Arizona on dinosaur excavations and surveys.

Lemitchel King is a sophomore Broadcast Journalism major at Langston College in Langston, Oklahoma. He is currently in BLM's STEP program and will be working this summer for BLM NTC's Video Services Unit.

Last updated: 10-23-2009