|What happened to the rest of her?
If there was ever a roller coaster year, 2011 was it;
big highs and big lows. We began the year the same as last... in the wet. May, 2011 was a rainy cold, miserable month. We
tried to get out and do some exploration, but alas it was too wet to even think about driving out most days. As it turned
out , the rain wasn't completely bad. All the indoor time gave me the opportunity to finish a good
deal of the interior finishes to our new building and prep lab. I wasn't able to get everything done as I liked, but the
final result came together nicely.
Once we finally made it out to the field, things got real interesting. A new
ranch in Wyoming was producing and producing well. I made a bit of a convoluted deal to get access, but I thought it would
be worth it, given the untapped potential of the ground. A quick survey of the land revealed numerous Triceratops and Edmontosaurus
partial skeletons and of even greater interest something the rancher thought was an Ankylosaur. He was right! A quick
look over the spot revealed a very rare Edmontonia specimen that was coming out in various places. As we dug back we got more
and more excited. Ankylosaur scutes were everywhere! Not only was there lots of them, but they were in excellent shape. Unfortunately,
our euphoria quickly turned to confusion. The more scutes we found, the stranger the dig became. There were no bones.
We dug and dug and dug. Nothing. Just a large pile of scutes. We removed half a mountain and unfortunately, in the end, we
had over 400 scutes, one badly weathered rib, and a of couple toes! The trouble is, 400 scutes one rib and a couple toes
do not make a skeleton. Frustrating. LOL! As near as we can tell, the Ankylosaur must have decayed and disarticulated
on the floodplain, leaving the pile of armor and a handful of bones. During a minor flood event, the armor
which is more dense and more hydrodynamic (like little frisbees), than the other bones, was picked up and washed into a nearby
oxbow lake. Here, they were sorted and concentrated. Very interesting from a scientific standpoint, but not very interesting
to museums looking for a great, mountable display piece.
Two other duckbill skeletons on a different ranch
looked very promising, until we actually began to dig. Then they too petered out. Our giant sea turtle site
yielded a little more of the critter, but that too ended abbruptly. Another deal I had in the works with a different land
owner fell looked extremely promising (virgin ground), but then that too imploded, leaving me frustrated and scratching
my head. Lady luck just didn't want to smile on us in 2011 no matter which direction we tried. Eventually, our solo field
time ran out, and the tour season hit us with a vengence. We were so busy with tours (which was great mind you), that we had
little time for anything else. Guests were coming from all over the country.... Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, Texas, Florida,
Wisconsin, California etc. One very interesting call we recieved was from a guy working for FORD motor company. He explained
that they had a contest called "GO DO FORD EXPLORER." People were asked to write an essay on what they would "go
do" with a brand-new decked out Ford Explorer if they had one for one week. One of the winners wanted to go on a dinosaur
dig and the guy on the phone wanted to know if we could provide it for them. WE were more than happy to help. The contest
winners were a nice family from Illinois with two great kids. The one is sure to become a paleontologist one day given his
enthusiam and hard work. The commercial they filmed on our digs turned out great. It wound up being more of a commercial for
us. If you haven't seen it yet, please visit youtube and check it out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lnCfmqoxWA0 It's great!
Since none of the skeletons we were going for had panned out, time was short, and tours
were high, we decided to focus on our bread and butter site the "Tooth Draw". This turned out to be a great decision,
because we were able to really get in there and see what was going on with the deposit. A lot of very interesting and important
specimens came out this year, including a gorgeous left dentary of an adult T. rex. If you'll recall, several years ago
we found a partial T. rex Tibia from the TD-west about 150 yards away. It's a stretch, but possible that the two were
from the same animal. If that is the case it is possible that we have a disarticulated T. rex in there somewhere. Wouldn't
that be something! Next summer we intend to spend a good deal of our time chasing that bone bed in the hopes that somewhere
in its depths a new Rex lies in wait.
At the begining of September our summer was unfortunately (or fortunately
depending on how you look at it, LOL) cut short. We were called on to do the L.A. County Fair and their Jurassic Planet exhibit
again and this time, we were ready. This time, my whole family tagged along and my wife ran the sale booth. This time,
she handled the customers, while I did the educational shows. One morning we had over 22,000 kids come past our displays.
It was a lot of work, but well worth it. We sold out of nearly every common and commercial fossil we brought along. I did
over 150 educational programs/stage shows, sold lots of books, made lots of contacts, and met lots of really nice people.
Add to that, I just finished writing my first historical fiction novel, and who could complain!? My new book
is now happily on its way to the printing press. YAY!!! It has nothing to do with dinosaurs and took up most of my nights
for 4 years, but hey, it was a fun experience.
So, even though a big skeleton eluded us this year, 2011
wound up being pretty great after all. Imagine that.
Well, what can I say about 2010? Hmmmm.... well.... I spent more time sheet-rocking, painting, and waterproofing our
new building than digging bones!!! LOL!
2010 was an amazing, but often frustrating summer.
Changing over from the motel to the new facility and trying to build the Dinosaur Field Station from scratch, with limited
time and no finances was complex, challenging, and difficult. WE had difficulty with the land developer, the neighbors,
the county, the rural elecric company, and the contractors. Before the summer was out, we nearly (note I said nearly,
primariliy because my dear wife had much better sence than I) had a string of plumbers, and plumbing inspectors
hanging from the trees of our property! I won't elaborate much further than that. Suffice to say, a good many of the above
lied to me during our 6 months of planning and preparation. What should have been a fun and creative experience was turned
into a nasty WWF wrestling match where the rules of the game changed at my opponents whim. The economy in 2010 didn't
help much either.
Thankfully, by the end of August however, we had passed through the storm
and are now set for smooth sailing for 2011. The facility is not 100% operational and isn't expected to be for some time,
but its a great start.
In the end, I think the effort was worth it, because the property
(and please go the facebook to see the photos) is absolutely gorgeous. If you are looking for that remote, real SD feel, a
place to camp under the big blue sky, our little mountain hideaway is perfect. The sunsets are incredible and the peace and
quiet is to die for.
I would like to thank the director, board of directors and folks at
the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche for allowing us to set up our displays and do our orientations there this year. They
were great and very supportive and we are very appreciative.
Also, another thanks to our
wonderful land owners who have been steadfast and supportive all this time. We could not do what we do without you.
As far as the digging is concerned... we managed to spend a good deal of time at our main tour quarry Tooth Draw
and wound up finding a lot of really good material. Lots of nice T. rex and Nannotyrannus teeth as always.
We also managed to extract most of our giant sea turtle from the Pierre Formation. This puppy is going to have a shell that
is somewhere between 6 and 8 feet across. It's in pieces like our Plesiosaur, so it will be quite the challenge to put
back together, but hopefully, it will be worth it in the end. Right now, certain experts have suggested that it is a
new species, but it is really too soon to tell. WE also began excavating at our new Jurassic age, Morrison quarry below the
Dinosaur Field Station, and found a handful of "little" brontosaur things. We expect there will be more if
we can adequately develop the property, but it will take time. Time and Patience... two things a paleontologist understands.
Where oh where does the time go? I know I should be updating these postings a little more than once per year, but
who can find the time??? The summer of 2009 was a busy one with little time for solo field work. The Spring and early summer
was pretty wet, preventing much exploration in April, May or Early June. Late June, July and August were packed with not only
our regular tours, but several large group tours. One of those tours was for the Young Presidents Organization, an international
club that encourages top CEO's/Executives and their children to go on parent/child learning vacations. The kids and adults
had a great time and we scored pretty high on their reviews (92 out of a possible 100!!!), so hopefully we'll see them
again next year.
The summer months were also busy with other personal things. Our youngest
son, Stephen turned one year old in August and boy is he a handfull. Running a 60 year old motel and chasing a 1 year old
toddler is definately not an easy task. Our oldest son, was getting ready for kindergarten and given those two things the
motel quickly became expendable! We placed the motel on the market for sale (I know, not the best timeto sell, but the motel
is no longer needed and is becomeing more of a burden than a blessing). Hopefully, it will sell this winter and we can focus
solely on the digs next summer and move to phase two... our own small museum!
In the midst
of all that, we also decided to buy a new house in Florida, (time was definately right to buy!) so we could finally fly
south for the winters. We're there now, and right now it's sunny and 85 degrees. I'll take that over the 12 inches
of snow and 40 degree temps in SD right now! It's November 1st and it's pretty nice in the Swamp! We even went shark
tooth hunting this weekend, and perhaps we'll have some Megalodon teeth in the near future.
the end of summer, however, we made a few discoveries we will need to work on next Spring. The first is a potential Edmontosaurus skeleton
we call "Splinter", because it weathers to splinters very fast. A foot or so into the hill though, the bone
turns very nice. We have recovered a handful of things from this skeleton including a nice sternal, a few vertebrae and some
ribs. The remaining exposed pieces (look like scapula, ribs, another sternal, etc.) were covered and re-buried, hopefully
protected from the coming winter storms.
The second thing of note was a small weathered trail
of large plesiosaur podial phallanges and one broken neural spine. This was recovered about 1 mile south of our MOD "Doc"
site. The bones that were recovered were 2-3x as large as Doc, so it was definately a big boy. Hopefully the rest is in the
hill somewhere, but the trail on the surface died and nothing has been found going in... yet.
best find of the summer however was a partial skeleton of a large sea turtle. This was found about 1/4 mile south of where
we recovered Mary the Mosasaur from about the same horizon. We call this specimen Violet, in honor of one of our lovely summer
volunteers that was out exploring with us that day. Violet (the lady), has recently turned into her 80's and has unfortunatly
decided that she needs to retire from her wild paleoadventures. Though we don't think she's too old for it, she believes
her health is becoming an issue. We wish her well in her retirement. Violet (the specimen), is CONSIDERABLY older,
approximately 83 million years older, and is in far worse condition. The sea turtle has been weathering out for years and
has been slumping downhill and re-burying itself, much like our plesiosaur. Despite this, the bones are in very good shape
and many of the fragments have already been put back together again. So far we are looking at 1/3 of the animal including
elements of hips, rear carapace and articulated caudal and dorsal vertebrae. So far, it appears to be a Protostega, but there's
still a chance it could be the remains of the mythical Archelon. If so, its a grand find indeed. There is still much
more going into the hillside and we will return here ASAP in the Spring.
We also spent a
good deal of time at Tooth Draw and Tooth Draw west this summer. Lots of really nice T-rex teeth and miscellania were recovered
Prep on our Plesiosaur continues this Fall in our nice warm, happy home in the
Swamp! Best wishes and happy hunting to all!
Whew! It's already December and my head still hasn't stopped
spinning. 2008 was filled with lots of wild ups and downs, good news and bad, but not much on the discovery front. This year
our tours were really in high gear. We were concerned that with gas prices reaching nearly $5.00/gallon that the tourist season
was going to be a bust, but for some reason we were packed. We had a large school group from Brooklyn, New York for a three
day, special trip in May. This was a lot of fun, but it took up much of my time. By late June-early July, we were turning
people away on our regular family tours because all available dates were filled up. I simply could not get away
to do exploration.
The summer of 2008 was also busy for two other major reasons. 1) We welcomed
another addition to our family. Stephen Alexander Stein, future dinosaur digger, was born on August 14th, 2008. He is the
light of our life but like all newborns requires a lot of attention. 2)We made our first large skeleton sale that had to be
packed, shipped, and crated by early August. So, as you can see we had little time for exploration this summer.
Despite the lack of time, we were able to do quite a bit of work at our two main fossil quarries TD (Tooth Draw)
and ENS (Enigma Site). A lot of really interesting microfossils were found at both. From site ENS we recovered some Raptor
material which is of great interest. Unfortunately, no skeleton, just isolated bits and pieces. We also really opened up our
Tooth Draw quarry, removing over 30 feet of overburden above the bone bed. A lot of microfossils, juvenile dinosaur bones
and T. rex teeth have been found thusfar and I anticipate more to come. Towards the end of September, we also found some larger
bones (femur and scapula) heading in the other direction on the opposite wall, so this spot is very rich. Next summer is sure
to produce even more interesting fossils from that locality.
We also finished excavating our
Plesiosaur (nicknamed "Doc") skeleton from the depths of the local Greenhorn Formation. Doc was discovered in May
of 2007, but various issues prevented us from finishing the dig last season. This year, we returned and found more fragments
from the base of the hill. These are mostly rib and vertebral chunks, but are solid enough to suggest that they can be put
back together again, with some considerable time and effort. Over the last few months, we managed to somehow find the
time to finish initial preparation of the bones and isolated fragments. Our job now is to try and piece all the weathered
fragments back together again like a giant jig-saw puzzle and try to determine once and for all its genus and species. We
have compared our skeleton to the Pahasapasaurus specimen recovered at Fruitdale way back in 1934. Based on differneces in
the vertebrae and the paddles I do not believe they are one in the same genus. By Spring I hope to have enough of
the specimen put back together again to write a paper on it's collection. This work is currently in progress.
Next season, we have a potential duckbill skeleton to investigate, along with continued work at TD and ENS and two
new sites... TD west and the Kathy site.
Our third season was long, busy, and full of exciting discoveries.
Our biggest find of the summer was a very rare (1 of 15 specimens in the world), 15 -20 foot long, Polycotylid Plesiosaur
from the Greenhorn Formation of Butte County, SD. Most people generally think of the Loch Ness Monster when you mention the
word plesiosaur, but our critter, nicknamed "Doc" died over 90 million years ago and had a much shorter neck and
longer skull than what most people envision for this animal group.
To date, we have
collected over 250 bones (35%-40%) from this specimen, consisting of the entire pelvic girdle, portions of the pectorals (highly
weathered), at least three paddles (with rare articulation down to the very tip on two), and fragmentary ribs and vertebrae.
Unfortunately, we have not found any bones from the skull to date so exact diagnosis is not possible at this time. Tentatively,
we have assigned the specimen to Trinacromerum bentonianum, however that might change as preparation and excavation
continues. Most Trinacromerum specimens have been found in Kansas. Our specimen appears to represent the first
reported Trinacromerum from South Dakota. A close relative of Trinacromerum is the recently described Pahasapasaurus
found a mere 10 miles south near Fruitdale, SD, from an older rock formation. Another close relative would be Dolichorychops,
which will take the starring role in an upcoming IMAX movie this fall. Trinacromerum and the other polycotylids ate
fish and looked like a penguin crossed with a large reptile.
As always, our exploits in the
Hell Creek Formation have yielded fossils. We can add two more bone beds; ENS (Enigma Site) and TD (Tooth Draw). Tooth Draw,
was discovered by one of our great land owners, and appears to have a tremendous ammount of potential. The bone bed, consists
of over two meters of channel lag conclomerates and sandstones, each of which contains hundreds of small to large fossil
bones and teeth (hence the name). Many shed T. rex teeth, Raptor Teeth, Triceratops Teeth, Edmontosaurus and Crocodile
teeth have been recovered. Larger bones range from numberous water worn chunks (showing high velocity stream transport) to
isolated Triceratops and Duckbill pieces and parts, to potential associated skeletons. In September we began to recover several
Thecelosaurus bones that may be from the same animal. Interestingly, we have recovered several more from what appears to be
a juvenile Triceratops. We will keep you posted on our progress.
Our other finds include a
potential duckbill skeleton, potential Triceratops skeleton and a site we call CS or "cliff site", where Struthiomimumus
material has been found eroding out. CS however is going to be a problem since it is about 300 feet in the air with a 75-80
degree slope (I'm not found of heights! LOL!) and another 50 feet of overburden! EEK!
have also begun work on a new book, called the "Top 256 Rules of Paleontology" that if all goes well should
be ready by next summer.
BUSY BUSY BUSY! Thanks for stopping by and keep checking in
on our progress.
It's now the end
of September and what a busy season! Our tour business really picked up this summer with over 20 trips to the field and dozens
of happy guests. We made lots of good contacts this year and now have six ranches under contract totalling over
70,000 acreas of land. That should keep us busy for quite awhile.
The majority of
the summer was spent chasing ST deep into the hillside. Unfortunately it looks like the bulk of the animal
either was not there to begin with or eroded out thousands of years ago (only to be re-buried by quaternary alluvial deposits.)
EEKKK! The specimen is now known as "Ruthie" in honor of one of the land owners. Though preparation has not really
begun in earnest, it appears Ruthie was a mid-sized, smallish Triceratops horridus. More details as preparation continues.
Also this summer we discovered at least six microsite bone beds including: "HH"-
"Horse Head Butte", "DB" "Davis Butte", "CBA" and
"CBB", etc. CBA and CBB I believe are from the same prominant
channel lag (river) deposit which goes completely through a large butte and comes out the other side. Lots of very interesting
microfossils have been recovered from these sites. Contrary to popular opinion, the little fossils tell us more about the
Late Cretaceous ecology and climate that the big dinos. From the little fossils we get the bigger picture! Important
specimens recovered include a fairly large (about 2 inches across) varanid(?) lizard braincase, mammal bones and teeth,
pachycephalosaur toes and claws, and the tiniest raptor(?) toe and phallange that I have ever seen (phallange is less than
1 mm long).
In the Pierre Formation we may have another mosasaur skeleton. At the present
time we have about two dozen mid caudal vertebrae in the weathered "float". We will definately re-visit this
one next year.
One of my land owners also made some interesting finds this summer... I'll
update this as soon as I can.
Oh, and by the way... we are presently putting the finishing
touches on the new AAPS sponsored "Journal of Paleontological Sciences"(JPS). The JPS is a professional, peer-reviewed,
online publication that finally enables for the publication on privately held specimens. I won't even get into the back
story and debate on this one it would take all night! Check out www.aaps.net for more information.
The 2006 season is starting off with a bang. We have aquired several new ranches for our investigations, discoverd
a few more bone beds and have begun work on "ST" (see below). The specimen appears to be a partial
skeleton of a medium sized Triceratops, but that could change after preparation. So far all of the elements are disarticulated
with some pre-depositional breaks. The skeleton suffered some predepositional weathering and at least two periods of post
depositional weathering (Quaternery alluvial deposits cut off the bone bed and the part of the sacrum). Elements recovered
so far (6/1/06), include a large pile or ribs, sacrum, illium (?) and a few dorsal vertebrae.
We are keeping our fingers crossed that a weathered Pachycephalosaurus claw and a broken pachy rib will lead
us to a complete skeleton. Stay tuned and wish us luck.
The 2005 season was a busy one as we tried to tackle the creation
of a new business, renovate a 50 year old motel and manage a two year old child(or was he managing us?). Despite the obstacles
and the nay-sayers we were able to get into the field an average of two days per week for the entire summer and a good part
of the fall. Dig-sites discovered this summer included the following:
Heather's Mosasaur- Pierre Formation, Butte County, SD- Partial skeleton of a Mosasaurus from the Didymoceras nebrascence
zone. HEATHERS FIRST BIG DISCOVERY. Specimen was disarticulated with possible scavenging. A relatively complete skull
(pending preparation) was recovered including elements of the neck, torso, and forelimbs. Unfortunately, it appears the majority
of the rest of the body and tail were lost to time and the elements. This specimen will be prepared during the Winter and
Spring of 2005/6 and will probably be placed on temporary display at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, SD until
it finds a more permanant home.
LGD- Leonards Grey Dino- Hell Creek
Formation, Butte County, SD- Partial Triceratops skull and possible skeleton. This specimen was found in a medium to light
grey mud-shale and the color of the unweathered bone matches the color of the rock perfectly! Several elements of the skull
were recovered, but time prevented further excavation. We intend to re-open the site in the Spring of 2006.
ST- Slump Trike- Hell Creek Formation, Butte County, SD- Partial Triceratops skeleton. Specimen
was discovered in the last week of field season so not much was recovered from the site. Specimen looks very promising
though. We will re-open this site in the Spring of 2006. (NOW KNOWN AS "Ruthie")
DED- Hell Creek Formation, Butte County, SD- Partial Edmontosaurus skeleton/bone bed in
a really bad location. The site had bad access and was located in a remote corner of the ranch. Several
bones were recovered including a nice femur but these pending preparation may indicate we are dealing with more than one animal.
We may re-open this in the summer of 2006.
Bone Bed- Hell Creek Formation Butte County, SD. Our main tourist dig site. Dozens of isolated elements have been
recovered to date from a variety of different genera. These include Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, Dromaeosaurus,
Nanotyrannus, Thescelosaurus, and other flora and fauna typical of a Hell Creek micro-site.
At least four other minor bone beds in the Hell Creek and numerous ammonite sites in the Pierre.