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Third Time's a Charm

      My last post about two failed attempts to lift a horned dinosaur skull via helicopter was a sour one, given that it has been my pet project these last two years. But I’m back with good news: the third time’s a charm!

      My research assistant, Scott Rufolo, and I returned to our beloved Chasmosaurus skull in the badlands of the South Saskatchewan River of Alberta on a beautiful, sunny day in late September. We were joined by technicians Darren Tanke and Ian MacDonald from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, a CTV news crew, Luca Ribetti and Kyle Hynes from LR Helicopters, and a small group of local supporters and onlookers.

      After convening at the edge of the prairie to finalize the game plan, Scott and I rushed down to our site: me to ready the skull for the lift, and Scott to video document it from ground zero. Since we had already rolled the skull into a cargo net the month prior, all that was necessary for me to do was remove the protective tarp and latch the net onto the helicopter’s cargo hook once it drew close enough. It sounds simple, but when that chopper is hovering 50 feet above your head, blowing sand all about you, it’s easier said than done. Regardless, all went well. The helicopter hesitated momentarily as it tested the weight of the load (result: 1,600 lbs), and then it was off, flying perhaps a kilometre in a wide arc before depositing the prize back at prairie level.

Up, up, and away! 1,600 lbs of dinosaur skull hovers 100 feet in the air.

      From there, it took some effort from many of us on site to manoeuver the jacketed block onto a pallet and lift it onto a truck. I’m especially grateful to Darren Tanke for his help overseeing this leg of the project, for he’s done it many times. We then said our goodbyes and parted ways until the next field season. The skull headed back to Drumheller before finally being shipped across Canada to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Easy does it: Careful manoeuvering of the skull block onto a shipping pallet.

      I’m also happy to report that the cross-country trip went smoothly, and that the skull is now safely in our possession at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Should you happen to be in the Ottawa area this weekend, be sure to drop by the museum’s Open House on Saturday, September 13 to see that hard-won fossil block for yourself. Or watch news coverage of the lift here. We’ll begin preparing it next year for eventual research.

Posted: 10/13/2017 3:08:50 PM by mallonjordanadmin | with 0 comments
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