Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tapir Challenge, Part 1

Tapir Challenge Van Service

Mary's words of wisdom: "About 24 to 36 hours after you've done more strenuous than usual activity, your body really lets you know about it."


My shoulders are still a little sore, and when I got home from today's errands I promptly fell into bed, though part of that was to catch up on sleep deficit. But I had a blast yesterday....

My best intentions to get some sleep the night before the dig were for naught (who was I kidding?). But we had a fairly clear sky and I got a good look at Saturn in Leo while the almost-full moon was still up, around 6 AM.

Saturn in Leo

Here's the labeled version -- which can be better read if you click here and then click the magnifying glass:

Saturn in Leo, labeled

I set out in the early morning for what would be a drive through four counties, most of it farm and forest tracts. I called hello to cows. I drove through a couple of picturesque little towns. Traffic was light -- or maybe it was just being typical for this part of the state. I got to see parts of Florida I hadn't seen before, thankful that my drive was pretty much a straight shot that consisted almost entirely of US-41. It took me about 1 hour 40 minutes to get from home to the site.

"Be prepared to turn left soon after you pass a large pole barn," read the driving directions. "A little ways after the barn is a gated entrance to the limestone mine, with an old wooden sign that reads '4000'."

Log Barn, View 1

I think of a "barn" as being a large, enclosed wooden structure, so didn't realize the building here was what they meant. That, plus mis-reading the entrance sign as "1000" meant I drove only a little bit out of my way before backtracking. I drove only about a mile out of my way because that's where the road ended, and where I figured that this big open-air structure was probably what they meant by "barn".

Once I'd parked I was able to get a good look at the logs.

Log Barn, View 3: close-up

"Drive a short distance, about 100 yards, and you will see an area to the left that has been marked off with orange flagging for 'Tapir Challenge' parking," the directions continue. "Park your vehicle and wait for transport to the fossil site. Remain with your vehicle, do not walk into the quarry! Remember to take along any personal items you will need through the day."

Tapir Challenge Parking Lot

My car is the white one.

My personal items included a woolen hat in case I needed it (I didn't), water bottle (even though they were supplying Gatorade), Power Bars, the rest of my fanny pack, and leather gloves -- and of course my camera, since photography was encouraged. I was soon to put the gloves away because I had trouble manipulating the clay with them on. Clay and limestone were our main ingredients of the day, but more on that later.

Three other volunteers showed up for the morning shift (I was to meet our instructor and three more people, including two U FL graduate students). The volunteers that started with me left at 1:30 -- but at 60 miles, I'd traveled the longest distance for that day, and I wanted the full day's experience. People have come from as far away as California to help out.

Limestone Quarry in Alachua County, Florida, View 5

I took the shot above and the one below from the parking area.

Limestone Quarry in Alachua County, Florida, View 1

The van that picked us up drove down into and across this quarry area, which contains the Haile 7G fossil dig site. The entire quarry itself extends for miles.

Next up: Inside the quarry.


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