Monday, July 19, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scow trip, July 7, 2010.

The scow was pulled out of the river at Newcastle Beach in Drumheller late in the afternoon. It is now in storage on a farm in Consort, Alberta with plans to try again next year. Next year we will use larger crews at all times- this way we can get the scow off rocks when it is stuck on one. We will also explore some system (inflatable?) to lift the scow off rocks. Thin steel on the bottom will no doubt help slide over protruding rocks. Also considering bringing a support boat with a powerful motor for towing us off rocks when needed, taking crews off of the scow to field areas where the scow cannot stop, and scouting in advance for rocks, areas to stop scow, etc. Of historical interest is that where the scow beached is the site of the Charles H. Sternberg (and sons Charles M. and Levi) fieldcamp of 1912.

Philip J. Currie and Eva Koppelhus submitted this paragraph about their trip down the river today:

The final day of the incredible voyage began as the scow was pushed off its muddy dock at 7:15 AM. As on the previous day, Al Rasmuson and Bill Spencer tended the front tiller, while Tom and Phil took care of the back end. This was probably the most stunning day visually, as kilometers of badlands slipped by. Everyone wanted to stop and look for fossils, but we all knew we had a deadline to dock in Drumheller. Most of the day passed uneventfully, but the wind became stronger by afternoon. It pushed the scow into the rocky left bank as we passed through some otherwise moderate rapids upstream of Nacmine. Undamaged, the vessel twisted 360 degrees through the fast waters, and continued downstream. Half an hour later, however, it ground to a stop on another gravel bar. Even with the water levels so high on the river, it took a little time to push it back into the deeper waters downstream. Some of the staff of the Tyrrell Museum came down to cheer us on as we passed the vicinity of the museum, and again as we passed the train tressle near the west end of Drumheller. The trip was almost over, and in spite of fighting the wind as it pushed the scow back and forth across the channel, it had been a fairly easy day. As we approached Newcastle Beach, Phil and Eva remembered the rapids at the foot of 12 Street, close to their former home in Drumheller. Everyone was up for one last fight to get through, but we found the channel by the right bank and slipped through without any problems. As planned, the scow pulled into shore at 3:45, some thirty kilometers after departing the Morrin Bridge campground. There were many hands to assist us to unpack; and a truck with a crane from Dan's Oilfield Services was there to lift the scow out of the water. Lawrence Dohy (DRI) drove Al and Bill back to Calgary, while Tom and Tess dropped Eva and Phil off at their field camp in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. It had been an amazing journey, and the crew was unanimous in their determination to do it again next year at a more leisurely pace!
The pictures today were provided by Phil and Eva.

Scow trip, July 6, 2010.

While Darren was recovering from his medical incident of July 4th, the scow was moved from Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park to near the Morrin Bridge- a distance of some 39 km. It stopped for the night less than a kilometer upstream from where the American Museum of Natural History scow "Mary Jane" (used 1910-1912) was beached and abandoned after the 1912 field season.

Phil Currie and Eva Koppelhus submitted these comments for today's trip:

On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, the scow easily slid off the mud into the current of the Red Deer at 9:15 AM. Eva, Tom and Phil were still on board, but had been joined by Allan Rasmuson (Dinosaur Research Institute) and Bill Spencer (DRI as well) both from Calgary, and Tom's daughter Tess Owen from Edmonton. The wind cooperated, pushing steadily from behind, as the scow covered more than 40 kilometres at a blistering average speed of 4.2 km per hour. For a change, the great blue herons outnumbered the pelicans, and a mature bald eagle crossed our bow late in the afternoon. All would have been fine if Tom and Phil had not commented independently that the trip had been so smooth that nobody had got wet and muddy. Sure enough, shortly after, the scow ground to a halt on a gravel bar that spanned the river and connected two islands with each other and both banks. Lightened by the weight of three of the men, it was a relatively easy task to push the multi-ton vessel across the crest of the bar and back into the current. As planned, the expedition arrived more or less on time at 7 PM at the Morrin Bridge campground to meet Darren and Patty for Bar-B-Qued steaks and as assortment of side dishes. Eva and Phil enjoyed a quiet night on the scow (interrupted only by a short rain shower and the periodic slapping of beaver tails on the river) as the others slept in the tents in the campground.

Scow trip, July 5, 2010.

After Darren's medical incident of July 4th, a small crew stayed with the scow and guarded it today, leaving for points downstream on July 6th.

Scow trip, July 4, 2010.

This was not a good day for your blogger. I have been dizzy for several weeks and quite stressed out during the trip. This morning I was hiking to a higher spot in order to update this blog when I felt my health declining rapidly. I was alone in the badlands and staggering along like a drunken man, with my head very dizzy and not thinking properly. I saw some vehicles heading for the day use area in the Dry Island Park, and knowing I needed medical help, headed that way. I approached a group of hikers getting ready to set out. As I reached the first person, I gather I collapsed into some tall grass. Don't remember much after that, but it resulted in an ambulance being called and me being rushed to the Three Hills Hospital. This effectively ended my involvement in the scow trip and shortened it considerably. Blood tests revealed low potassium levels and low hemoglobin so I was anemic. That and the stress and exhaustion of the trip combined to bring me down. I am typing these words on July 8th and am still afflicted with exhaustion and dizzy spells- it really is an effort to write this.

There are plans underway to try the scow trip next summer.

Scow trip, July 3, 2010.

We left McKenzie Crossing this morning, making 12 more kilometers and managed to avoid getting stuck on submerged rocks. McKenzie Crossing is where secondary highway 590 crosses the Red Deer River. We floated down to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and then Philip Currie and I guided the scow onto the exact spot where Barnum Brown had his scow anchored in 1910. We had to dodge a few rocks as we landed and then of all things- a submerged shopping cart! After landing we set up a canvas tent on the site of Brown's camp in 1910, then Patty and I donned period clothes for some historical re-enactment pictures- I will post some of them later. We had a number of visitors including the scows carpenter Perry and his wife Alice. The pictures and video clip here were taken on the exact spot of Barnum Browns scow camp in 1910- an idyllic scene and satisfying after all the work to get here. We were serenaded by Coyotes (Canis latrans) tonight and then in the early hours an obviously displeased beaver (Castor canadensis) sharply slapped his/her tail into the water close to the scow waking us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Scow trip July 1-2, 2010.

Morning of July 2 here now. We got the scow pulled off the big rock. It was a tricky lift for the crane crew but they got the job done. We drove east and are now at Content Bridge where highway 21 crosses the Red Deer. Here and below the river is very placid without rapids and moves at about walking speed so will be less technically challenging. We will be going to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park over the next two days. Mosquitoes dreadful here. Nice and sunny and looks like a great day for a float.
On July 2nd we floated some 39 kilometres to McKenzie Crossing. We got stuck on gravel bars or rocks 6 times and were very lucky in two cases to have help. In the first case 8 kayakers pushed us off a gravel bar on which we were firmly stuck. In the second case, we got stuck mid-river in fast water at Trenville Park while dozens of tourists watched. Lucky for us, several young men jumped into the river and after much effort got us going again! When the scow works it works great, but when we have problems with rocks it creates a serious situation. However we did make excellent progress today.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scow trip, July 1, 2010.

Another frustrating couple days. We had Perry come and fix the scow best he could until thundershowers intervened. After the repairs were done we went to leave and discovered we were high centered on a big rock- no amount of pushing would help. We could spin the scow around, but not off the rock. Hours of work and we gained 6 inches. That rock, and our obvious inexperience on this faster stretch of river (leading to the previous accidents) forces me to pull the scow out and move it downstream to a section of river with no big rocks and a gentler gradient and more placid water. I feel it is simply too dangerous for us rookies to attempt it alone. It looks easy when you look at the river but once you are on it it is a different story. Later today, Dan's Oilfield Service and others will come to our rescue and drag us up the bank or lift us out of the river and take us downstream to Content Bridge where highway 21 crosses the Red Deer River. I continue to have problems uploading images- sorry.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scow trip June 29-30, 2010.

Not good news I'm afraid. We got away OK at 3:15 yesterday, but only a couple kilometres downstream hit a bridge piling side on. Some smashed drinking glasses and ceramic mixing bowls were the only minor damage in the kitchen. One of the tiller support blocks was smashed but usable, I was able to nail it back together. After that a leaning tree tried to swipe the tent off the scow. A collision with the bank shattered the tiller block again, and snapped a tiller clean in two. We then had a rough landing in which Patty fell and badly sliced her left index finger open which resulted in an ambulance trip to the Red Deer Hospital. A nasty thunderstorm ensued and we heard of a tornado in the area. We camped on some flat land right above where we stopped, the river now a raging torrent. We only made 12 kilometers yesterday. Perry is on his way to do some repairs. Travelling by scow is very challenging as we are discovering the hard way. In places it is swift (10 km/hr.) with shallow rapids, but placid for the most part so far. We hope to continue on again later today (10 am on the 30th as I write this). Seem to be having troubling uploading pictures so just sending this update.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Scow on truck and now packing!

A very quick update today as we are busy packing. The scow was loaded onto the flatbed truck 6:30 a.m. today with no problems. The scow and truck are now in Drumheller for the night and we leave for Red Deer tomorrow about 8 am. Now we pack and realize we have 5 of some things, 3 of others. This is what happens when you go to flea markets and antique shops over 8 years accumulating tools and equipment for this project! Much of the cargo is food and we will eat that en route so less to bring home and lots to sell back to the antique shops too! Will try to upload to this blog tomorrow when the scow is in the river. I am excited and very exhausted, stomach in knots the past 3 days, don't know if it is a flu bug, food poisoning, nerves and stress or all of these.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turbo stick test part 2

This is a test of the turbo stick, this time sending text and digital images. If this works, you are reading this and seeing two pictures of the scow as it appeared today with Canadian and Canadian/USA flags. Please let us know you are seeing this text and two images so we can know this turbo stick works for you.

Test message from turbo stick

I'm testing out the turbo stick up in Munson to make sure that it works. Darren and Perry are putting the finishing touches on the scow in preparation for it being loaded onto the truck and brought down into Drumheller tomorrow. It's looking like the real thing now. I can't believe that we're leaving in a scant few days! It's exciting to see a dream come true after all these years. : )

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Scow main tent internal infrastructure

4th blog today! The tent maker put the stove pipe opening on the wrong side which has necessitated a rethinking of how things will be arranged inside the scow tent. This "how to arrange things" was a thought process a year ago. To resolve this, Perry made a simple scale scow base atop of which a piece of plywood represents the tent (now 1 foot narrower than seen here), and then small blocks of wood correctly cut to scale and here identified as to bed, desk, table, etc. All 1:10 scale if I recall correctly. By moving these blocks around, one can explore the best configuration of things- obviously the stove should be kept away from the upright ice chest. For scale, the red upright rectangle represents your blogger, Darren Tanke, in height and width across the shoulders. These pictures show what we think is the best arrangement.

Scow expedition launch information

We launch on June 29th. Actual departure time is uncertain. The plan is to lift the scow onto a big truck from Dan's Oilfield Service with help from Cliff's Oilfield Hauling (both in Drumheller) on the afternoon of June 28th. The truck and scow will then be driven to Drumheller and stored in their trucking yard overnight. On the morning of June 29th, the truck/scow and several support vehicles will leave Drumheller. We will arrive in Red Deer mid to late morning. In Red Deer, the truck will proceed southward down Fountain Drive to the Red Deer River. The scow will be put into the water, and tied to shore. Then there will be at least 1-2 hours of rebuilding and attaching the scows infrastructure, loading it with supplies, putting the tent on, etc. Actual departure time is unknown, but we should be gone no later than 3 pm- I personally would like to be gone no later than 2 pm. Anyone living in or near Red Deer would likely see us there at noon.

To see where this will all happen, go to Google Maps and search "Fountain Drive Red Deer, AB". As Fountain Drive nears the river, it hooks sharply to the west- the launch will occur there or close by.

Crew tents

Here is a picture of the 3 crew tents. They are 7 feet (2.13 metres) square at the base and 7 feet (2.13 metres) high. Four tent pegs and a single upright wooden pole are all that are needed to set them up so they go up quick and easy. This design is based on pictures of c. 1912 American Museum of Natural History crew tents. Set them up on my front lawn today to air them out and to make sure they are finished properly and all the zippers worked. All have a zippered screen door for ventilation and to keep out biting insects.
These tents look a bit "limp" here. The premade tent poles are just a bit short so I will get some wood pieces to put underneath so the fabric goes taut. Many people driving down the road gawk at them as they drive by.

Regarding blog updates from the field

We will try to upload updates from the field every two days or so, maybe more. We are attempting something unfamiliar to us so there may be some technical or logisitical problems. We have an electric generator on board to charge up the laptops internal battery. We have a "turbo stick" which fits into the laptops USB port so we can upload text and digital images to this blog, via, I believe, a cell phone signal. We don't know what type of cell phone signal coverage we'll get on the trip. Cell phone companies are eager to show you widespread coverage across Alberta, but never exclude deep river valleys from their coverage maps. Some places along the river (valley bottom) have good cell phone coverage, others poor or none. My plan, if there is no coverage, is to climb up the badlands until I get a signal and post an update there. That said, be aware that there may be times I cannot do this, even if I want to. For example, maybe it is too late in the day and dark. Don't want to be hiking the rough badlands with just a flashlight! Maybe it is raining, or has been raining. When this happens, the clay in the Late Cretaceous rock swells up and the hills are very slippery. It is extremely unsafe to blog under these conditions and we will need a drying out day before an attempt can be made. I may do multiple postings on one day to "catch up" if need be.
I leave you with a nice view of the Late Cretaceous middle Horseshoe Canyon Formation a few miles upstream from the Morrin Bridge, about a 45 minute drive north of Drumheller. These rocks produce Albertosaurus (carnivorous tyrannosaur), Hypacrosaurus (crested hadrosaur), and Anchiceratops (horned dinosaur), among others. This area has no cell phone coverage so would be a typical view while posting to this blog- spectacular! Double click on the image a few times for the larger view.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Scow construction progress: June 25, 2010.

Perry continues to be ill but bravely plugs along on the scow. We were hit by a massive thunderstorm this evening which interrupted his work. It has rained so much here this spring that there is some kind of moss growing in my gravel driveway! Perry got the bed frame done (intentionally tall so we can store many things underneath), one tiller completed, the removable wooden doors installed (they simply slide up and out on grooved edges) and most new wood additions stained.
Patty picked up the tents in Calgary (now waterproofed), we will install the tent on Sunday. Tomorrow (Saturday) is the last day for major supply purchases.
I also picked up the "Peter C. Kaisen" nameplates for the scow and wanted to show them here, but this blog seems to only allow 5 images per entry. Therefore, see blog entry previous to this one for a picture of the nameplate.

Peter C. Kaisen: our scow's namesake

The 2010 scow is named after Peter C. Kaisen (seen here in 1912 second from the left on the scow Mary Jane), a paleontology technician at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) from 1898 to 1936. In 1897, he was a section boss on Union Pacific Railway working in Aurora, Wyoming, USA. At this time the AMNH was working on the now famous Como Bluff dinosaur quarry, he left the railroad and joined the AMNH crew at the Bone Cabin Quarry in the spring of 1898. He worked there constantly until the fall of 1899 when he moved to New York City. He was one of Barnum Brown's "right hand man" and worked extensively with him in the field. He was part of the scow expeditions on the Red Deer River, Alberta from 1910-1913 and also worked with Brown in 1914 in Alberta. He collected, prepared, and mounted a great many specimens for the AMNH, mostly dinosaurian and a large number of these from Alberta. He worked with Roy Chapman Andrews and the AMNH team in Mongolia in 1923. His last fieldwork was done in 1932. He died on March 18, 1936.
Kaisen's work and legacy is largely eclipsed by that of Brown. He was a fellow technician and kept good and interesting fieldnotes (Brown wrote very few, if any) and for that reason the 2010 scow is named in honor of him, another unsung hero of vertebrate paleontology.
I picked the nameplates for the scow tonight and show one held in place. AB2421971 is the scows registration number- required by law, certainly nothing Brown had to deal with in 1910!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scow project update, June 24, 2010.

Despite now being ill and bombarded with mosquitoes, Perry has soldiered on and made progress on the tillers and their supports (including a nifty idea using a block of wood to hold the handle of the tiller in place when not in use, but still readily available if need be); metal brackets for towing and attaching anchor chain; a tapered ladder (extra stable and required in case of high banks need to be scaled to explore badlands and/or pitch camp); internal tent framework for attaching shelves and to pound nails in to to hang things (pots, pans, tools, etc.) onto; and a tall flagpole. The latter will launch with current Canadian and American flags flying and later on, when the Grinde's join us, they will add a Danish flag.
I talked to more newspaper media today (Brooks Bulletin, Provost News, and the Calgary Herald).
Also looking into insurance for the trip.
A nice lady who works in Dinosaur Provincial Park came to Drumheller today and donated almost 30 jars of preserved beans, beets, peaches, dill pickles/carrots, salsa, pears, and tomatoes for the trip. Patty got a turbo stick (fits into laptop USB port) so we can upload to the blog from remote locations (weather, technology, and cell phone signal permitting) and she is testing it out now. The river is full of water and the weather forecast for the June 29 launch is great!

2 newspaper links regarding the scow trip

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scow construction progress: June 23, 2010.

A hot and muggy day with thundershowers in the evening. Went up to look at the scow tonight. Mosquitoes there were big, numerous, and aggressive! Between several downpours Julie-Anne finished the antique wash finish on the scow. Perry finished changing the walls around on one end and is working on some of the finer details, one of which included a quick release system (seen here) for the taller tent poles in case we need to lower the tent while floating on a windy day (the Sternberg's and Brown's crew had to do this with theirs on windy days). Perry has now completed some final details on the expedition rowboat.
I was on the radio on two stations this morning and got an email from a TV station in Calgary. Also talked to the Drumheller Mail newspaper. Hopefully more media attention tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scow construction update: June 22, 2010.

Drumheller and area were hard hit by a bad thunderstorm and heavy rains this afternoon and evening. There were even tornado warnings out. So Perry did not get much work done on the scow today. The pictures here show the scow being worked on last night. Patty took the tents, etc back to Calgary for waterproofing today and will pick them up on Friday. Because the tent chimney hole was put on the wrong side, the wood walls on one end of the tent support have to be changed around, otherwise the stove is mostly blocking one doorway. Here it can be seen that Perry is swapping the walls around.
As I was typing this the phone rang and I was interviewed about the scow trip by the local FM station. I am also to be interviewed by another station tomorrow morning. We were already in the Red Deer Advocate newspaper a week or so ago.
Will be getting a "turbo stick" for my laptop tomorrow and with this should be able to update this blog remotely during the trip, weather, technology, and cell phone signal permitting. There are some areas in Alberta still without coverage- I think the area below Drumheller down to around Dinosaur Provincial Park may have little to no coverage, but I guess we'll just have to see.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Scow construction update: June 21, 2010.

No pictures today, but a few updates. Perry has added some short wood uprights along the sides of the scow to hold the tillers in place when not in use. It turns out the lack of waterproofing on the tent was not the tent manufacturers fault, they had bought 1,000 metres of canvas from a supplier and it was supposed to be waterproofed material which it turned out was not! They tested the unused canvas material at their shop and had the same unwanted results as us. Tomorrow Patty will take the scow tent, crew tents, and 3 tarps back to Calgary to have them properly waterproofed.

All this rain recently had caused some fears of flooding on the Red Deer River, but we can see now the river is dropping steadily over the past 2.5 days- we gauge this by a small island in the river and how emergent it is from the water. It was 6 inches emergent for months until about a week ago when it was completely submerged, but now several inches are showing. There have been many media reports about flooding in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan the past few days. Be assurred this is not affecting us. Those places got much more rain than here, are hundreds of kilometres to the south, and importantly, are far downstream from Red Deer/Drumheller or are on river systems not attached to the Red Deer River.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scow construction update: June 20, 2010b

Julie got all the painting done but still needs to do a few minor touchups. We got the tent on the frame tonight, everything fits great. One drawback was when we tested the tent for waterproofing, the water dripped through the roof and soaked through the sides, so a new problem that will have to be addressed and soon! The yellow nylon ropes seen here will be replaced with natural hemp rope.

Scow construction update: June 20, 2010a

A sunny and warm day! Perry has hired on a short contract Julie-Anne May, a summer employee in the Royal Tyrrell Museum's Design Department. Today she is applying a watered down gray latex paint to darken the otherwise bright new wood on the scow. Perry is installing the anchor points (clevises) for the heavy ropes we brought to him today. He is also beginning to make a bed frame which is seen in one picture. If all the painting gets done, we will try putting the tent on tonight and test its waterproofness. I will post more pictures later tonight.

Friday, June 18, 2010