Monday, May 31, 2010

Scow 2010 crew introductions: Judith Williams

Alberta author Judith Williams joins the crew for two weeks of the voyage. With several international book awards in children's non-fiction, Judith's role is to document the adventure for an upcoming book for young people.

Judith's previous work includes books on such topics as forensic science, severe weather, endangered animals, the rainforest and palaeontology. Her particular fascination with dinosaurs resulted in two books:

Discovering Dinosaurs with a Fossil Hunter is a primer for early readers describing the work methods of palaeontologist Dr. Phil Currie.

Discovery and Mystery of a Dinosaur Named Jane recounts the startling find and recovery of an unidentified tyrannosaur fossil. This title won the Silver Award for Juvenile Non-Fiction from the book review magazine ForeWord, and was selected as an Outstanding Trade Science Book for 2008 by the National Science Teacher's Association and Children's Book Council (USA).

Besides writing, Judith mentors and teaches creative writing to youth in Southern Alberta. Prospecting for fossils is one of her favourite pursuits, so she looks forward to participating in this unique palaeo adventure - dinosaur hunting - just as it was done a century ago.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mystery dinosaur quarry project/scow trip

As many of you may know, here in Alberta I look for lost dinosaur quarries and identify mystery dinosaur quarries using trash left behind by field workers long ago plus any bones left on site. A lot of quarries were never properly documented as to provenance so current paleontologists cannot know exactly (spatially and especially stratigraphically) where a given dinosaur skull or skeleton came from. This is especially true for quarries in the extensive badlands upstream from Drumheller. During the scow trip I hope to relocate some lost dinosaur quarries and mystery quarries and try to resolve who was there, when, and what was taken out. Recently a contact sent me pictures of an old dinosaur quarry he found near the Morrin Bridge where part of a hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) tail (top picture) and newspaper was left behind long ago. You can see the newspaper in the attached picture that much of it is still there- more than enough to figure out the who and when part of the mystery. For example, if it is a New York Times newspaper from August 15, 1912, then we know it is a hadrosaur likely collected by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) later in their 1912 field season. A perusal of the 1912 AMNH specimen lists and process of elimination soon identifies what came out of the quarry and its mystery status is resolved. Precise locality data can then be shared with the institution curating the fossil. Click on the newspaper image one or two times to enlarge it and you can still plainly read the newsprint. I plan on collecting and examining this newspaper in detail during the scow trip so will report my results this summer.

Scow project update, May 29, 2010.

A rainy and even snowy (yuck) day in Drumheller. So.............. we are now only a month away from launching! This rain is welcome as it rehydrates the parched land and will raise the level of the Red Deer River, but it intereferes with Perry's construction work on the scow.

Today I will see a man about making up a sheet-metal adapter between the exhaust pipe on the back of the wood stove and the lengths of stovepipe themselves that will rise vertically and extend through the roof of the tent (through a square of fire-proof material sewn into the canvas). The crew and scow tents are all being made now in Calgary. We slightly reduced the main tent on the scow in size from 16' X 12' to 16' X 11'. Reducing the width slightly allows the tying of the tent to a supplementary external wooden frame and especially for storage of the tillers and wooden gangplanks.

Patty got her reprint of the 1915 "Five Roses Cookbook" and will try some of these recipes soon.

I will write up a news release on the upcoming scow trip soon so don't be surprised if you see us in your local newspaper or on radio in Alberta (and Canada- hopefully!). Also will be in various paleo blogs.

Have been exploring how to upload images during the trip to this blog. Looks like I will take good quality pictures with my digital camera, load them onto my laptop (we will have some modern technology on the trip), take laptop up to a higher point out of the river valley (where needed) until I get a cell phone signal, insert a "turbo stick" into the USB port on laptop, log on to this blog and upload scow trip pictures and text. I hope to do this every two days (maybe everyday)- weather, and cell phone signal coverage permitting. More photos can be uploaded after the trip is over (August 7-8).

Several people have kindly offered donations of cash or food (preserves, jams). We will gladly accept these. Anyone who donates will be acknowledged in future publications, talks, etc. Donations can be sent to:

Darren Tanke
2010 Scow Project
1120-2nd Ave West
Drumheller, AB

Alternatively, donations could be sent to the Dinosaur Research Institute in Calgary who are helping fundraise in support of the historical awareness and scientific aspects of this project and are administering cash donations. Let me know if you wish to donate through them; email me at:

Friday, May 28, 2010


On May 25th, I was in Calgary and got the scow formally registered with the Canadian Federal Government as a boat. The scow is now known as AB2421971 in government (Transport Canada) records. I have actually been dreading doing this for years as the scow is so atypical from a normal boat. I had contacted the government on several occasions beginning 6 years ago asking for clarification and a special exemption from the rules as the scow did not really fit their parameters of boat types. They never replied. I was tempted to just go ahead and not register the scow and take a chance, but new rules indicated I MUST register the scow. However these new rules included a "home built" category which the scow fit into nicely. All I needed was a bill of sale from the carpenter and I was quickly and efficiently registered by a kindly Service Canada representative. Cost? It was free!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The soaps we'll use on the trip.

This is a question that has come up on occasion. What soaps will we use during the trip and what is their impact on the environment? Of course, we have to wash clothes, dishes, and ourselves during the trip. We could use regular soap and bury the dirty water, but that will just eventually find its way into the ecosystem. Patty and I have searched around and found several liquid soaps that are plant-based, are biodegradable, are phosphate-free, and contain no harsh chemicals. So we can keep clean and have a clear conscience using these products.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Scow construction update: May 24, 2010.

Went up to Munson, AB tonight- lousy with mosquitoes. Perry is getting ready to put the top deck on and needs to do some waterproofing of the plywood and decking. A few pictures are given here to show the latest progress.

Scow 2010 crew introductions: Tom Owen.

Born and raised in Edmonton, I am married to Lynne Ruzicka and have two children, Joe and Tess. Tess has also been invited to experience a portion of the scow trip. One of my sisters, Susan Owen Kagan, is employed in the paleontology laboratory at the University of Alberta (Edmonton) as a fossil preparator.

I am a professional lawyer and an amateur paleontologist. I often wish it was the other way around. Dinosaur hunting has blessed me with lifelong friends and memorable adventures. It has provided both intellectual and physical challenges. It has brought my family closer together. Very simply, it has made me very happy.

The chance to recreate history by travelling on the scow stirs my imagination. And I hope to advance the science in some small way, by assisting my dedicated professional companions in their researches.
[It should also be noted that Tom is a board member of the Dinosaur Research Institute, who are helping sponsor the scow trip].

Canning jars

Since this project was first conceived about 7 years ago, I have been buying all sorts of period tools, equipment, etc to kit out the scow. Today Patty and I went through some of the many antique or replica canning jars and began washing these out as well as cleaning out a few antique cans. Some of the former are identical to a partial jar I found in 1930 Royal Ontario Museum Centrosaurus quarry in Dinosaur Provincial Park. These jars are timeless in design and thus are perfect for the scow trip. We won't use these jars for actual canning (as the rubber seals made for them are no longer made), but they still have a good glass on glass tight fit which will keep out mice and insects. We'll use these jars for things like dried fruit, nuts, rice, pasta, rice, etc.

Bannock bread recipe

Here is one staple item we will eat regularly, particularly for breakfast. They are rather crude looking, but surprisingly tasty, especially with added dried fruit.

Ingredients: 1-2 teaspoons of sugar; a pinch of salt; 2 teaspoons of margarine, bacon fat or shortening; 1/2 cup of flour, fine oatmeal, cornmeal or rolled oats; 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder; water, milk or egg; dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc) if wanted.

Cream first 3 ingredients, then in a separate bowl blend the flour, baking powder, and dried fruit. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients, add enough milk, water or egg to make a tacky but floury dough. Grease frying pan with bacon fat, margarine or shortening, cook (medium heat) as per a pancake, flipping once per side. Takes about 5 minutes to fry. Serves one. Can be smothered in jam, honey or syrup.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Scow 2010 crew introductions: Jordan Mallon.

I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario where I did my undergrad in vertebrate paleontology at Carleton University. My Bachelor's thesis assessed sexual differences in the horned dinosaur genus Chasmosaurus. A few years ago I moved to Calgary, Alberta to start my Ph.D.

My dissertation focuses on the evolutionary paleoecology of the large herbivorous dinosaurs from the Dinosaur Park Formation. In short, I'm using tooth wear and various skull measurements to determine what these different dinosaurs were eating through time and whether the structure of their trophic relationships was altered.
My interest in horned dinosaurs has carried over from my undergrad, and in my 'spare' time, I still enjoy researching them. Right now, I am working on resolving the palaeoecology and evolutionary relationships of Anchiceratops and Arrhinoceratops from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation of Alberta. Darren's scow trip comes at an opportune time because it will give me the chance to revisit the quarries where some of these animals were found and to verify their distribution in the rock record. This type of groundwork is important for assessing species identification and biostratigraphy. I expect to be on board the scow for a few weeks between Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and the town of Drumheller.

Scow construction update, May 23, 2010.

A variety of construction pictures taken on a windy and chilly day. Big progress!! :) The heavy upright wooden dowels (called "tholes") will be dropped down into predrilled holes in the heavy wood blocks so will not be as high as seen here. The heavy blocks of wood for and aft will be attached to scow with heavy bolt/screws. In some shots you can see a long narrow piece of wood (square in cross section) that spans the width of the scow. This demarcates one end of the tent. Also shown: steel straps to help hold the sections together, the well for ice storage (still needs to be lined with tin sheeting), and the 1:1 scale mock-up clevis (longer 2X4 piece atop a shorter length) which ropes attach to when we tied up to shore. Even though the tiller is off center on the heavy wood block, it did not require much downwards pressure to raise it up and down.

Scow project update, May 23, 2010

Patty and I have begun shopping and buying foodstuffs for the scow trip. Today we were getting bacon that requires no refrigeration, canned fish, and Tetrapack boxes of milk that require no refrigeration until opening. We scored big on the bacon, but bought out the entire supply of boxed milk in Drumheller. Patty, who is also the expeditions cook is also experimenting here at home trying out old recipes such as bannock bread. If any blog followers have good, easy to make nutritious recipes dating to about c. 1910-1920 be sure to send them along to:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Scow update May 20, 2010.

After work today Perry and I went to the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site ( in East Coulee, Alberta, about a 10 minute drive from Drumheller. There we were able to select some heavy timbers and have them cut for the scow. These pieces will make up the heavy blocks on the scows midline at the bow and stern and will hold the steering tillers in place between two heavy wooden dowels. I am attaching here a short video of the sawing work, more as an experiment to see how it looks on this blog. Thanks to Robin Digby of the Atlas Coal Mine for letting us have the wood and cutting same for us. There were tons of mosquitoes here- the entire regions has been plagued with these pests the past couple days. Hopefully they will be gone during the scow trip!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scow construction update, May 16, 2010.

+25 and sunny today! Perry is busy putting the plywood under deck on now. Top planks will follow. The white material is highly bouyant material which fills 99% of the inside of the hull. The one open rectangle shown in the first picture will be our storage well for blocks of ice. A removable lid will be inside the tent so we can easily access ice for our ice chest or any food we have in there for cold storage.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Red Deer, Alberta; May 8, 2010

Some archaeologists from Calgary and Edmonton had table displays in Red Deer (about a 1.5 hour drive from Drumheller) in a shopping mall on May 8th. We were invited to attend and set up a scow table display as seen here. We had lots of interest from the public and handed out lots of brochures. Seen behind the table is my girlfriend Patty Ralrick who will also be the expeditions cook.

Expedition rowboat

Perry has almost done staining the wood on the rowboat, here part of it it is seen upside down and leaning against his table saw.

Expedition toilet

Perry with his latest creation a couple days ago, the "Thunderbox". No squatting over a slit trench for us!

Pancakes made the old way

We recently tried making pancakes using an antique pancake maker we will take on the scow. It was a disaster! It would cook OK on one side but stuck on the other, or the pancake split down the middle, sticking to both sides. Any ideas? We used oil to act as a separator but the metal must be just the perfect temperature for this to work. The pancakes worked in a standard frying pan.