Thursday, July 24, 2014

CRETACEOUS SUMMER 2014: Momentary Miracles and Characters at Camp Makela (blog #8)

MORNING RAINBOW OVER CAMP MAKELA. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for rainbows and being here NOW in the miracle of each moment! Stepping out of the tent on the morning of July 23 at Camp Makela, I was greeted by an immense rainbow arcing from one side of the mountainous horizon to the other. Hallelujah! But within minutes, a gray cloud curtain draped over this miraculous natural performance of light refraction that brings us humans so much awe….enjoy the miracle of each moment!

OUR TENT (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
On this rain day, the second since my arrival, the generator came on at 5:00 a.m., casting a large humming sound across the accumulation of tents, trailers and trucks here at Camp Makela. The energy supplied by solar panels had been depleted.  Beginning around 6:00 a.m., various Egg Mountain dig volunteers wandered into the coffee-breakfast trailer where I was writing this blog entry to learn about the day’s plans. Sustained rains allowed them to go back to bed.

During this rainy morning, my Chiboogamoo sat across from me reviewing his field notes and contemplating various ideas related to what he has “read” from the rocks in the past few days here in the Two Medicine Formation. Rain days are opportunities for reflections—like this blog entry I am writing now.

What am I doing here grappling with information about deep time? How do I integrate the knowledge I am gaining about excavation of bits and pieces of Cretaceous mammals and dinosaurs and the exploration my husband Chiboogamoo does regarding traces of ancient vertebrate and invertebrate behavior?

I am intrigued by this entire operation—the environment here in central Montana, the educated paleontologists conducting the dig, and all of those who have gathered from countries around the world, like England, Japan, Sweden, and Cuba. I like being stretched by diving into the unfamiliar and somehow making connections with it through the person that I am.

Perhaps, one of my strongest connections is through the people—the paleontologists and volunteers inhabiting this Cretaceous landscape  and learning from them, whatever they want to share.

This blog entry consists of three of the 15 personalities now residing at Camp Makela, who love working at a paleontological dig site surrounded by rolling hills and geological structures that have been whimsically named, Thunder Dome, Flaming Cliffs, and Butt Rock.

AT THE ALTAR OF THE CHURCH OF ICHNOLOGY. Kneeling out in the badlands of the Two Medicine Formation, Tony Martin gets a closer look at fossilized burrows. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
As one who loves to document the every day miracles of my life, I have a favorite subject! Yes, Chiboogamoo, my husband! Ever patient, gentle, and kind, Tony Martin is a delight to wander with on the Cretaceous sediments of the Two Medicine Formation, scanning outcrops for evidence of life that took place 75 million years ago.
I trail behind him looking for opportunities to capture a photo of him in this vast and various Montana landscape. His concentration on the rocks beneath his feet fascinates me. He pauses, stoops down to the ground to scoop up a rock, and reads it! Nodding his head, he announces to me something like this, “You can see the backfill here where the animal pushed back the sediment in the burrow. In this one, you can see its leg impressions.” Or, “This is another toe of a hadrosaur track. Look at how the mud was deformed here.”
TRAILING THE CRETACEOUS WANDERER. After waiting out the morning rain on July 21, my Chiboogamoo led me into the rolling hills beyond the Egg Mountain dig site in the late afternoon to prospect for trace fossils. I trail behind him to capture him in this dramatic landscape. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
He may gently place the specimen down and walk on, leaving me to follow. He may stop to take a GPS reading, measure the specimen, and make a note of it in his small yellow book that he keeps in his field vest pocket. I too look for rocks that tell stories of past events, for example, colonies of crayfish living together in a system of burrows or wasp cocoons from which the animal possibly never emerged. He has taught me well through his methodical practice and careful explanations.
RECORDING HIS ROCK READINGS. There is just something about Tony Martin that thrills me. Doesn't this photo capture part of my awe? His patience in observation and recording those observations allows me to pause in this Cretaceous environment and feel a certain reverence. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
ULF ON HIS LAST DAY 2014. Ulf puts his excavation tools away on his last dig day at Egg Mountain. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Ulf Schyldt left Camp Makela today (Thursday, July 24) to return to his home country, Sweden. This July 2014 signals his fifth dig season at Egg Mountain, and it shows in the way he moves around the dig site, steadily digging, identifying bone fragments, labeling them, and gently assisting other dig volunteers or “rubble rousers” as I have been calling them on this blog. 
WEST OF THE MAIN QUARRY. As Ashley and Lee Hall engage in new explorations west of the main Egg Mountain excavation site, Ulf (center right with brown hat) counts how many Troodon eggshell and other dinosaur egg fragments have been collected that day. To add to their excitement, a filmmaker named Vera (bottom right with black hat) interviews the dig crew about their experiences and knowledge of the Egg Mountain dig site. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Thanks to the beauty of the Internet, Ulf found his way to the Two Medicine Formation and being an Egg Mountain crew member. He will be back next year. For the time being, he returns to his day job working in Swedish politics and in his free time playing Dungeons and Dragons and with flight simulations.

Farewell Ulf! You will be missed!
FAREWELL ULF! The Egg Mountain dig crew assembled for this last photo opportunity with one of the anchors holding down Camp Makela during the month of July. Ulf celebrated with the crew the night before by making Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and green beans. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

DEDICATED DIGGERS. One of the activities of rubble rousers is sifting through the pulverized mudstone for bone and eggshell fragments. Emmy, left, and Eric may be lying down on the job, but they perform their responsibilities up close and quite seriously. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Emmy is smart, fast-talking and a great story teller. At Montana State University, she is a chef with food services and she is majoring in geology. Everyone here at Camp Makela relies on her for weather information (apparently she excels at meteorology), good cuisine, and entertainment (games of Catan and Cribbage included).
As an Emmy-plus? In addition to being a dedicated and skillful rubble rouser at the Egg Mountain dig site, she takes her fingernail glamour seriously and has an internationally appreciated blog, The Daily Lacquer, about her original nail art.
THE ANOMALY. Emmy is a geologist who sports acrylic nails as a personal style choice. She cares for them at the dig site by wearing gloves. Not surprisingly, there are a few bets on her breaking at least one or more of those nails before the end of dig season. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Stay tuned for additional blog entries about Camp Makela characters. That’s Coffee With Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me! What are your ephemeral miracles? What questions or observations do you have about these three personalities comprising some of our Cretaceous Summer 2014 crew at Camp Makela in the Two Medicine Formation of Montana?
HALLELUJAH MUSING. Being sure to attend to my introverted tendencies, I take joy in sitting up by our tent at Camp Makela to reflect about my Cretaceous Summer 2014. (photo by Tony Martin)

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