Naturalist, Jennifer Rupp was with the group from the Nature Center who went on the adventure of a lifetime Sunday – to dig for mammoth bones! Jenny reports on the experience:
Disclaimer: No, I don’t know the location of mammoth dig or Farmer John’s last name. If you were him, you wouldn’t want everyone in the world knowing either.
With real adventures being rare and unusual these days it is important to jump at each one! That’s just what a small group of folks from Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area did on Sunday. With the weather forecast predicting blistering heat, we piled in to our rental van. We didn’t know exactly where we were going. We couldn’t possibly know exactly what we’d find (if anything) when we got there, but we were going to look for Columbian Mammoth bones. Our driver had the directions and we were along for the ride!
When we pulled in to Farmer John’s driveway, the first thing we saw was a group of people standing around a bone bigger than I’d ever seen lying on the hood of a car. I could only imagine the beast from which it had come. The rib next to it stretched along the contour of the windshield from one side almost to the other. We were all excited, and started off toward the dig posthaste.
Some diggers went straight to the pit. They took shovels and slowly peeled the layers of sediments back to see what they could find. Others started sifting through the piles of materials removed from the pit to save every last little piece. The day before, part of a scapula had been uncovered, so the group took turns digging at its removal. You never pry a bone out of the ground. The only way to get it out is digging around it—all the way underneath!
The most exciting part of the day for me was when I found myself in the bottom of the pit with a trowel meticulously going through an area of clay, mud and sand right near the area a toe bone had been found the day before. I came across little bits of vegetation from mammoth times, and started imagining the pit as a sticky swamp where a mammoth may have gotten himself stuck. I could see the giant mammoths rumbling around the edges of the pit with my mind’s eye. For a moment they were so real I could almost hear them.
While we were digging, the lady next to me called the expert over. “Excuse me,” she said. “I think I’ve found something. Could it be a bone?” She and I both held our breaths in anticipation. “Yep, it sure could!” said Farmer John. We started digging around it. IT WAS A BONE! How exciting! And about 18 inches away another bone was found when Farmer John started probing around in the area. A probe is a long slender rod that can help you feel the change in density down through the ground (or let you know if there is a bone down in the mud). When we started digging it up, we found that this bone was sticking skinny end up. It was a miracle that it was found at all!
By the end of the day the report came back that there may even be two mammoths in that pit. It’s hard to know for sure. The experts will keep digging and putting our mammoth together. Someday it may be in the museum, and I can’t wait to show my family and tell them that I helped dig it up!
Stay tuned for other exciting opportunities like this one through ICNC and the community! You never know when an adventure will come your way!