Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CRETACEOUS SUMMER 2014: The End of a Field Season, the Ongoing Discovery of Deep Time (blog #11)

Hallelujah for seasons of exploration in the fields of Montana and into our minds, gaining deeper understandings of LIFE and one another! Hallelujah for the concept of DEEP TIME and how the study of dinosaurs and other life forms from 75 million years ago engage us in the matters of existence.

Monday, July 28th, was one of FAREWELLS. The gentle and gradual gathering of different paleontologists and volunteers over the month of July has now dissipated. At noon, my Chiboogamoo and I were awaiting our departure from Camp Makela. The Branvold Bone Crew had left at 10:00 a.m. Soon afterwards, the Egg Mountain Rubble Rousers left for their dig site with David Varricchio.

JULY 28TH CAMP MAKELA PHOTO. At the end of a late morning, members of Camp Makela break up to go their various ways. I, Hallelujah, asked to be in this group photo and my great ichnologist husband consented.  (photo by Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin)
BRANVOLD CREW DEPARTS CAMP MAKELA. The crew that worked in close quarters on the Branvold Bone Bed left before us. Lazaro, from Cuba, travels on to New York to see the American Museum of Natural History there. The others return to Livingston to continue their paleontological work there.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Camp Makela's distinctive teepee has been taken down in the beginning preparations to winterize the camp. The camp's manager, Brian, has also dismantled the shade cover which stood in front of the food trailer. Tent hill now only has 2 tents remaining on it. 

TEEPEE DOWNING. Sadness plucked at my heart seeing the Camp Makela teepee come down. I had assumed it stayed up year round. But considering the harsh winters in the Two Medicine Formation, it makes perfect sense. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Our tent is stowed in our luggage and we departed with Jared Heuck, who is put a few hours in at Egg Mountain before he drove us to Great Falls, where we overnighted before returning to Atlanta. Just before we left camp, the rabbits and ground squirrels scurried around the trailer where "Team Ichnology" had been resting and collecting our thoughts before saying goodbye to the Two Medicine Formation.

AWAITING TENT DOWNING. The dramatic sunrise photos you have seen here on this blog were taken east of where I am sitting. What a glorious place to camp.  (photo by Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin)
Glancing around the space where we consumed cups of coffee and hot bowls of oatmeal, I notice now how nicely marked the cabinets are in our food trailer. Previous Camp Makela dig crews have left their artistic dinosaur images above labels of cereal, condiments and spices, and cookies. 

Upon further noticing, I collect titles from the bookshelf next to the water cooler. It is filled with dinosaur-themed books such as Jurassic Park, The Dinosaur Hunter, and The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt -- appropriate titles for this crew!

It has definitely been a privilege to be present at such a significant dinosaur dig, to meet the paleontologists and dig volunteers -- some hailing from Japan, Sweden, Cuban, and England -- and to assist my husband on his assessment of the ichno-assemblages in the Two Medicine Formation. Thank you Chiboogamoo! Thank you David Varricchio! Thank you dig crew participants one all! Thank you Camp Makela! Thank you BIG SKY MONTANA!

Here are some other photos that capture the morning of our departure from Camp Makela and some of the discussions among its paleontologists. What are endings in juxtaposition to beginnings? Deep time as expressed in findings from the Cretaceous--how does it speak to us today? Time is so relative: isn't it?

READYING TO DEPART. I will miss the flurry of activity that takes place around 7:30 as dig crews ready to depart. Monday, July 28th, Camp Makela inhabitants stayed busy packing, sharing information, and saying good-bye.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
SHARING FINDINGS. Tony Martin, ichnologist extraordinaire, shares the location of dinosaur-bone sightings he and I made on Sunday, July 27th, when we were prospecting for trace fossils. My honey had suddenly developed "osteo-vision," as he calls it.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
COLLEAGUES CONNECTING AND COLLABORATING. David Varricchio and Tony Martin have know each other since graduate school days in the late 1980s. Over the years since then, they have had the opportunity to collaborate. Here they are discussing the ichno-assemblages identified by Tony and make plans for how that information will be expressed.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
"TEAM ICHNOLOGY" READYS TO DEPART. Thanks to Lee and Ashley Hall, who started calling my Chiboogamoo and me "Team Ichnology." It has been wonderful to accompany my very own ichnologist throughout the Cretaceous. It helped to further develop my "ichno-eyes," and to develop "osteo-eyes" as well. What a fun journey it has all been. I am so very grateful.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
STOP AT EGG MOUNTAIN. On our way out of the Two Medicine Formation, we stopped to say goodbye one more time to the Egg Mountain crew. Tony and David also discussed Tony's work on the trace fossils at the famous site where a Troodon egg clutch was discovered by David.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
WI-FI AT CAMP MAKELA. I'm so grateful for the Wi-fi at Camp Makela, which allowed me to blog about my experiences of my "Cretaceous Summer 2014" with Tony Martin, and to broadcast it on Facebook.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
That's Coffee With Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. What does our finding of dinosaurs and the existence of other creature's lives 75 million years ago mean to you? What do you think of deep time, a sense of life so far back it is difficult for us humans to imagine?

THE DIFFERENCES POST FIELD WORK. This Super 8 Motel provided all the comforts of home with its hot shower, toilet, and bed, but my Chiboogamoo and I lamented the loss of our fresh air and freedom.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
FINDING DINOSAURS IN GREAT FALLS, MONTANA. This Sinclair gas station is right next door to our Super 8 Motel. We were not without our dinosaurs last night.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

CRETACEOUS SUMMER 2014: Impressions, Imprints, Love, and Friendship at Camp Makela (blog #10)

IMPRESSIONS AND IMPRINTS. What is time? How do we fathom geologic time? In the Cretaceous 75 million years ago, did clouds like these drift above the Maiasaura's heads and over the invertebrates burrowing in muddy sediments? Who are we in relation to this far distant past? What is love, friendship, and being human all about? These clouds hovered over my head at Camp Makela on the evening following horrific winds with speeds of 55 miles per hour that imprisoned us indoors for hours before they subsided. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for the Camp Makela paleontologists, love, friendship, and being human! Hallelujah for the bon vie at the camp set in the Two Medicine Formation! Hallelujah for this precious Earth and its fearsome beauty!

Time dwindles here for me and my Chiboogamoo at Camp Makela. Our days lived at the foot of the badlands can be counted in various ways...

#1 WAY TO COUNT TIME: The paleontologists and volunteers arriving and departing. Let me introduce you to a special paleontological couple!

Ashley and Lee Hall, Both paleontologists, decided to take a vacation from their day jobs in Los Angeles to work on a dinosaur dig in Montana! Ashley wears a couple of hats. She works as a paleontologist educator at the
-->Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Page Museum at the Labrea Tar Pits. Then she is also the curator for fossils from the Kaiparowits Formation at the Raymond M. Alf Museum. Her husband, Lee Hall, is not new to Camp Makela! As a Montana State University paleontology graduate, he spent considerable field time in the Two Medicine Formation and elsewhere, even as a camp manager. In L.A., Lee works for an environmental consulting company, which does surveys for pre-construction, construction, post construction. He gets fossils to museum and provides resource mitigation for concerns in such arenas as archeology, paleontology, and biology. -->
AT THE GATEWAY TO THE DINOSAURS. Lee and Ashley Hall arrived at Camp Makela on Saturday, July 19th (the same day as me) from Los Angeles for one very full week of fieldwork in the Two Medicine Formation. spending the majority of their time at the Egg Mountains site, and making contributions to the summer's discoveries at this world-famous dinosaur nesting site. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
TAKING AN ICHNO-TOUR. Both paleontologists, Lee and Ashley Hall were familiar with my husband's extensive work in the field of both modern and ancient ichnology and wanted to spend time with him. Tony Martin (aka Chiboogamo) was delighted to take them around the Two Medicine Formation east of camp to show them ichnological "treats," such as coprolites that were well studied by paleontologist Karen Chin, and what he has been studying on-and-off for the last 14 years, and more recently--two weeks. In this photo, they are examining the fossil cocoons at Pete's Pupa Peninsula. (photo by Hallelujah Truth) 
DIRT TIME WITH RUBBLE ROUSERS.  Spending the majority of their time at the Egg Mountains site with the "Rubble Rousers," the Halls made a significant contribution to the summer's discoveries at this world-famous dinosaur nesting site. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
MAKING CRETACEOUS OOZE.  The night before their departure from Camp Makela, Lee and Ashley worked late into the evening, adding water to pulverized mudstone to create an ooze that - when pressed through the screens you see here - would reveal missed fossil bone and eggshell fragments. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Their love of paleontology is a strong bond between the Halls and has resulted in such creative expressions in their relationship. Lee devised a creative way to propose to Ashley which involved imaginative use of the movie, Jurassic Park. They made their dinosaur-themed engagement available for the world to see here at Jurrasic Park Proposal, which has more than 70,000 views! You will not be surprised to learn that their honeymoon was also paleontologically themed. Fans of Ray Troll, they traveled into the North American Mesozoic using a map from his collaborative book with Kirk Johnson, Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip. Stay tuned for more from the paleontologist couple, The Halls! It was sad to say good-bye them on Saturday, July 26, but in geologic time, this brief blip in time means little. Hurray for the Halls!

#2 WAY TO COUNT TIME: Friendship, food consumption, showers taken or not taken and bathroom visits...

Staying at Camp Makela is "cozy," says one the Rubble Rousers. The site, where some stay the entire field season of approximately 31 days, has its creature comforts! 
THE FOOD TRAILERS.  Camp Makela has two trailers designated for food! And all who stay here, they never need worry about going hungry. The food trailer shown in this photo provides breakfast and lunch foods that all Camp Makela folk make for themselves. Cereals, milk, teas, coffee, breads, meats, cheeses, endless variety of chips, and cookies abound in abundance. The other trailer is the "dinner" trailer and Camp Makela denizens take turns cooking and washing dishes. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
HAPPY HOUR AT CAMP MAKELA.  Once Cretaceous fieldwork is completed, Camp Makela relaxes. Inhabitants converge for an adult beverage and discuss "finds" for the day. Overall, it is pretty darn exciting and relaxing. See the shade cover here in this photo? It was damaged in the high winds experienced a few days ago and was taken down. Four more days until the end of this field season. Ahhhh....(photo by Hallelujah Truth)
CAMP MAKELA SUNRISE.  Early morning risers like me are rewarded at Camp Makela! The slow sunrises seem to take an hour from 5:00 am to 6:00 am! From my tent, I amble toward the "facilities" which are embodied in a small white trailer with green lights beckoning when available and red lights indicating otherwise. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
THE FACILITIES.  Hallelujah for such wondrous bathroom facilities at Camp Makela! For one who has camped in the absence of a place to "sit" to do one's business, this bathroom trailer is greatly appreciated. Few here take showers in order to conserve the water, which is quite precious. Showering in Choteau on Fridays is often enough! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
I'M WATCHING YOU POOP.  Word had it that there was an awesome work of art in the "men's room" at Camp Makela. With encouragement, I entered the sanctity of this bathroom facility to procure this image for you! There you have it! Tyrannosaurus rex watching you poop, and don't you forget it! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Whoops! This blog entry is long enough, and it is dinner time here at Camp Makela. I am called to join the camaraderie, to my love's side at the table where we are consuming beef stroganoff engineered by, yes, Chef Emmy Hill! I would have like to share images and thoughts about the following. Stay tuned...

#3 WAY TO COUNT TIME: Sunrises and sunsets...
#4 WAY TO COUNT TIME: Trace fossils found...
#5 WAY TO COUNT TIME:Critters heard or sited...
LOVE IN THE CRETACEOUS! Thank you honey for being my companion, my teacher, and editor! You are the reason I am here loving you in the Two Medicine Formation and learning about geologic time first hand!
That's Coffee With Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. Let me know how you count your days and ways in this world.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

CRETACEOUS SUMMER 2014: Wind Swept Day at Camp Makela (blog #9)

SWEPT AWAY IN THE CRETACEOUS. High winds increased in intensity throughout Thursday morning (July 24, 2014), making it difficult to move throughout the badlands from outcrop to outcrop searching for fossil traces. In this photo, my beloved Ichnologist stands atop an outcrop documenting our fossil finds before the winds forced us inside. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for the Montana BIG SKY extending out before us from Camp Makela as Chiboogamoo and I walked into the Cretaceous to search for trace fossils. Hallelujah for refuge later in the morning in our camp's communal trailer from high winds sweeping through that BIG SKY and the resulting camaraderie in such close quarters!
50-MILE WINDS ENDED CRETACEOUS FOSSIL SEARCH. "Team Ichnology" was the first to retreat from the high winds to Camp Makela's food trailer. We were followed by the Egg Mountain Rubble Rousers. The Brandvold Bone Bed crew came in last since their dig site was cut into a hillside and protected by a large black tarp, which provided some protection from the strong winds. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
"Team Ichnology," as Chiboogamoo and I have been dubbed by our camp compatriots, continued our survey of the Two Medicine Formation's badlands moving from outcrop to outcrop. The delightful coolish morning temperature made it easy to climb rocky hillsides, steadying our feet as we peered down at the eroded rocks looking for plant root traces, tracks, burrows, and coprolites. 

Then the winds started. First, we continued our work, being pushed this way and that each time we reached the apex of a hill. As my hat began to refuse to stay atop my head and the grit blew into my eyes, which were already dried from the wind, it became distracting trying not to fall and to see clearly enough to find trace fossils.
TWO FOR ONE ICHNOLOGICAL SPECIAL. One of the "finds" Team Ichnology discovered on this windy Thursday morning was this hadrosaur track with vertical burrows. This trace fossil shows us that after the hadrosaur had stepped in a muddy fluvial sediment, its track was filled with sand. Later invertebrates burrowed in the sand filling the track. (photo by Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin)
Although our findings for the morning had been successful, the trace fossils were randomly scattered throughout the outcrops, with many outcrops offering nothing but highly eroded rubble bearing blank faces, absent of ichnological information.

BRANVOLD BONE BED CREW. Team Ichnology was in the neighborhood of the Branvold Bone Bed and dropped in to say "hello" to their Camp Makela comrades and see how their work was progressing. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Finally, as the winds continued to pick up speed, our prospecting for trace fossils became too difficult and felt somewhat dangerous as we kept losing our balance on the loose rubble, which felt like marbles under our feet. We decided to head back to camp after repeatedly doing the "Two Medicine Formation sleigh ride," as Lee Hall describes the quick precarious fall down the badlands slope. "Safety takes precedence over science," my Chiboogamoo exclaimed!

When the winds finally died down after dinner, many of us had to put our collapsed tents back up.
CHIBOOGAMOO TO THE RESCUE. My husband persevered throughout the day making sure our tent and all of our belongings did not blow away. Here he is after dinner re-staking it to be ready for bed time. Thank you honey! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
As the sun set on this windy Thursday July 24th evening, we had savored calm blue skies with fluffy clouds for several hours. The fast winds were to return the next day.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me! Stay tuned for for several more blogs from Camp Makela. Team Ichnology returns from Cretaceous Summer 2014 in three more days.

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)