Saturday, November 3, 2007

Week 6: Skulls, vertebrae, and bottle openers, oh my! or Who took the %&@#ing shovels!

Alright, well sorry for the delay everyone. Midterms etcetera, as always, have cramped up all our schedules a little bit, I think. But anyways on to the infotainment…

The dig last Friday started off with the, now weekly, bucket train ritual. The water level was no more forgiving this week, and so bailing the Watusi pit was a considerable chore. But after the better part of an hour, it was finally time to dive face first into the mud and start exposing more of the skull and hindquarters. The exposing efforts essentially called for lying down, face first in the mud with a trowel and sticking your head into a pit that smelled a little bit like old bologna wrapped in muddy rugby gear that’s been left in a plastic bag for 3 weeks. Good times.

Before long, it was decided that if the entire Watusi was going to be removed, the trench would have to be expanded. At least that was the plan, until we discovered that our equipment stash had apparently been raided! That’s right we can’t believe it either. Someone obviously somehow stumbled across the equipment we had hidden in the trees just next to the dig site. They stole all the shovels, the short tape measures but not the long one, and some first aid supplies but not the entire first aid kit. Strange. We don’t know who you are, why you’d want to steal such an obscure selection of things, or if you read our blog, mysterious equipment thief. But please just give us back our shovels, we need those! Not to worry though, it was alright in the end thanks to Tabitha’s brother and sister-in-law (I think). Fortunately they live nearby and arrived in a flash with some shovels in their trunk.

As you can see in the pictures Dave posted earlier this week, the skull, ribs, vertebrae and most of the hind legs are all now visible and are relatively articulate. During the digging on Friday, a layer of fat and, as Dave guessed correctly, what appear to be stomach contents and feces were uncovered at the South-most end of the trench. A few objects, some organic and some even souvenir-like, were pulled out of the pit and mapped. These included:
- a bottle opener at 94 cm deep, the same layer as the fat and poo (I guess that Watusi really knew how to party)
- some pieces of Styrofoam (never leave a Watusi unsupervised around Styrofoam)
- 2 metacarpals, presumed to belong to our Watusi friend
- and a small tooth-shaped piece of bone, which may or may not be associated with the metacarpals

A few other bones found in the pit, not necessarily Watusi-like in appearance, give some suggestion to the mass grave hypothesis, but its still very much up in the air at this point.

Aside from mapping the more obscure finds, it was decided that the major order of the day would be to remove as much of the visible Watusi as possible, in order to keep the remains in the best possible condition. First, the vertebrae and the huge paddle-like scapulae were carefully removed and bagged. But the real excitement came next, when the attention was turned to pulling out the large skull with both colossal horns still intact. It took a three person team, with some precision yanking from Prof. Costopoulos, but the skull was eventually freed, rinsed, and left to dry, before being loaded into the van for transportation back to the lab. There we’ll be able to wash and dry it properly. The skull can then be properly stored until we try to put the Watusi together.

And so ends another exciting chapter of our adventures exhuming dead animals in rural Quebec. That’s all from us until next week. Please give our shovels back.

Cameron for Team Elephant-Watusi

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