One of the Royal Tyrrell’s fossil preparation technologist has been working for almost a decade to prepare for a five week re-enactment of the first major dinosaur hunting expedition, setting off from Red Deer to Dinosaur Provincial Park on a flat-bottomed boat.
Darren Tanke, one of many volunteers, has built a replica of Barnum Brown’s, one of the leading palaeontologists of the era, flat-decked scow, and launched on Tuesday, June 29.
“In the course of my laboratory and fieldwork at the Royal Tyrrell Museum,” says Tanke, “I became interested in the paleontological heritage of our province, particularly the people who worked here long ago. I think the best way to truly understand what our paleontological forefathers went through is to try and live, as closely as possible, the way they did on their early fossil hunting expeditions. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try this on my summer vacation.”
Tanke has scoured archives for details about Barnum’s trip and the scows design, and is preparing to relive what it felt like to travel to the plentiful bonebeds of the Drumheller region and the rest in the badlands of Alberta.
“It’s been many years since an expedition has systematically explored this section of the Red Deer,” says Tanke. “With erosion rates of about 1 centimetre per year, there’s a good possibility we’ll discover new and important specimens and bone beds.”
Great care has been taken in designing the scow and equipping it with period tools that Tanke found in antique stores during the past eight years. Equipment includes a wood burning stove, upright ice chest, antique furniture and many other period replicas or restored antiques. The scow will essentially be a floating museum, taking one back to the early 20th Century.
The five week voyage will end at Dinosaur Provincial park on August 7 where a public celebration will be held.