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

Scow construction update: June 18, 2010b.

#2 of 2 postings for today.

Scow construction update: June 18, 2010a.

Perry has made great progress since the last construction update as the pictures attest. Seems I can only post 5 pictures at a time so this will be #1 of 2 postings today. Staining of the scow and tent installation will happen this Sunday.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Scow project update: June 17, 2010.

Darren is back from the field, having been thwarted by intense rains and strong, cold winds. I've been gone 3 days, but there have been several developments on the scow project which I relate here. Perry now has begun to work on the scow rain or shine as time is running out. An assistant will help him with some of the staining work on the scow. He is now working on the frame that will hold the tent up. I will likely see the scow tomorrow and post some pictures then. Patty got all the crew and scow tents today in Calgary. Our request for a permit from the City of Red Deer to launch the scow on their property was approved. We are looking into getting some name plates made up for the scow and rowboat. Also getting a small metal tray made up for the old stove to act as a catch basin for ashes and unburned coals.

All this rain has swollen the Red Deer River and it has sped up considerably over its normal slow speed. Hoping this will not affect our launch and subsequent travels. The weather forecast looks good for the most part over the next 3 days, but rain is called for again!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Scow 2010 crew introductions: Tess Owen

I have been fossil collecting as long as I can remember. The first fossil I ever found was worm burrows found underwater at Pigeon Lake in an otherwise nondescript khaki-coloured rock intended for my rock collection at the age of six. My Dad (Tom Owen) and I first began looking for petrified wood alongside the North Saskatchewan River when I was seven or eight and, after a fortuitous dinosaur bone discovery again at the cabin (by my father) the shift turned to finding bones on the riverbed instead. I found my first dinosaur bone at age 9 by the Edmonton JCC, a small black bone that was evenly split in two. Since then we've scoured the river valley in the Edmonton region and made it a goal never to return home without at least one fossil.

Not long after we began dinosaur 'hunting', my dad became a paleo-trustee with the Royal Tyrrell Museum and we began confirming sites around the Edmonton area. When I was twelve (in 1994) one of the sites in a nearby creek had been vandalized, and when we went to survey the damage I stumbled across a sandstone slab with Albertosaurus skin impressions. To make a long story short, the Tyrrell collected the piece (a Mr. Darren Tanke came and rock sawed the piece out and we made introductions), I found myself achieving my 15 minutes of fame before I was 15, and for a short time was very popular at my Junior High school. It also fueled my love for palaeontology.

Dad and I continued to collect fossils around Edmonton, and when I finished high school I joined the crew at Dry Island in 2000 to volunteer at the Albertosaurus bonebed. I have since returned about 3 times. I joined a rock band and toured Alberta as the bassist and backup singer, and when that ended I returned to University at the U of A to study for my B.Ed. While I did not go into Palaeontology, I still kept tabs on natural sciences. I was a member of the U of A Palaeontological Society, and in January 2005 I joined Dr. John Acorn and a motley crew up to High Level to band owls. I also continued to investigate bonebeds in and around Edmonton. I also met my husband, Jason Aboughoushe, in 2003 while taking a year of studies at Grant MacEwan College. We married in October 2007.

Since 2007 I have been a teacher with Edmonton Public schools, teaching elementary in various subjects (including music, science and English language arts) to various grades. Jason and I also own a few properties that we rent out and fix up. Beginning in the fall of 2010, I will be catering to classrooms in a new capacity, with a business I've developed called PaleoKids. I will be hosting in-class workshops and 'educational adventures' centered around Dinosaurs, Geology and Natural history. My intent is to foster a continuing love for paleontology and natural history such as I had as a child. I will also be embarking on a different journey, as Jason and I are expecting our first child in January, 2011. I intend to use my experience on the scow trip to help develop resources and activities for Albertan students, and to help satisfy my love of adventure and paleo-discovery!

Scow project update: safety equipment carried

A blog reader brought up the suggestion of bringing a fire extinguisher, which prompted me to bring up the topic of safety equipment and what of that variety we will be bringing. I doubt the 1910 expedition had much in the way of safety equipment, but my health and safety training and policies at work have guided me as to what to bring, etc. Patty and I have been just recertified in Standard First Aid and we are there the entire trip. We bought a $130.00 large and fully stocked first aid kit so are good there. May bring a stretcher just in case, but I do know how to make one out of a single length of rope if need be. We will have a cell phone in case we have to call for help. Patty may also be setting up a Skype account. Also will have a "turbo stick" which will click into my laptop so we can be in touch with you, the reader through this blog, and emergency services if need be. Fire extinguisher?- you bet, we got a 20 pound ABC one, shiny and red- cost $140.00. The expedition rowboat and scow all have bailing devices, floating life rings, floating rope, whistles, etc as required by nautical law. We have life jackets for everyone and will use them when we are floating down the river or rowing across. Patty and I also recently took a boating operators/safety course and are certified. We will have lots of pails and all the river water we need if we have to fight a fire, or putting out campfires on shore. I did have a concern about chopping lots of wood for the stove (and the enhanced risk doing that), but we now know it does not need that much and sticks the diameter of your forearm are all that are required and these are easily procured and can be broken carefully underfoot (I will have steel-soled and toed workboots) into the required lengths, or cut with a hand saw. We are also bringing some basic medicines such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Immodium, etc. Also bringing bug spray, sun block, etc. Now we have to deal with West Nile Virus (not an issue in 1910), so all our tents, though designed to look 1910-15 style, will all have mosquito netting doors and windows. Hantavirus is another possibility, but we will have a few mousetraps on board and will regularly monitor the scow for White-Footed Deer Mice and respond accordingly (I also have training in Hantavirus exposure/response). Do the blog followers have any other thoughts or ideas regarding health and safety for the trip? I think I have everything covered, but any other ideas are welcome.

A June 17th postscript: We will also have a radio with continuously updated weather broadcasts. It also has a setting which will automatically turn the radio on if a weather alert bulletin is issued by Environment Canada. This radio was tested recently in the field and was very useful for fieldwork planning and, in one case, receiving a detailed weather alert in advance of a storm front we would otherwise have known nothing about.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Scow project update, June 13, 2010; testing the stove (part 2)

Today Patty tried baking some muffins in the scows old oven. Here we see before and after pictures, as you can see, it worked! It is a recipe from a 1915 cookbook.

Scow construction update: June 13, 2010.

A beautiful hot and sunny day here. Perry is now doing the final installation of the upper deck planks. He will begin the frame for the tent soon. I am in the field for the next 8 days or so; Patty Ralrick will be maintaining the blog during that time. The new wood reflects a lot of light and is somewhat painful on the eyes- Perry will give it a final coat of stain to darken the wood a bit.