"But they said there was a mastodon here.....somewhere!"

Before the Hyde Park Mastodon was recovered, there was a reconnaissance trip to find the Ice Age mammal. We suspected it was somewhere in the bottom of the lake based on a few bones that had been dredged out accidentally by a contractor deepening the pond. But we soon discovered that there was lots of messy, messy work to be done before we actually located the rest of the skeleton.

Sunday, June 4th, 2000-

Arrived at 4:00 PM. Warren, Tom (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation), Larry Brown (Cornell's Earth and Atmospheric Sciences), Gary (from PBS) and John Chiment (Cornell) doing ground penetrating radar (GPR) work on north end of lake between lake basin and spoil piles.

Left: Warren Allmon and Larry Brown looking at data recovered from a device called a "ground penetrating radar (GPR)". Right: Collecting data with a GPR, which allows scientists to, in effect, see underground.

Monday, June 5th-

Arrived on site at 7:30 AM to assist Larry Brown, John Chiment and PRI Director Warren Allmon with GPR over north end of lake (on water). Collection of data completed by 9:30 AM. PRI staff Vanessa Willard, Paul Krohn, and Bridget Rigas arrived at 1:30, got pumps and began pumping lake at ~3 PM that afternoon. Two pumps going overnight, with Paul Krohn staying there overnight in the garage to keep refilling gas and making sure pumping was going as planned.

Warren Allmon setting the intake hose into the water. This pump was one of many that was used to drain the pond.

Tuesday, June 6th-

Arrived on site at 9:30 AM. Lake was entirely drained except for deep holes that had been dug in fall '99. Attempted to place boards in and around hole on north end of pond (near where it was suspected that the bones were located). Rain made it nearly impossible to keep hole dry for any extended period of time, in conjunction with at least 2 groundwater springs located in the hole. At around 4PM, it was realized that we were fighting a losing battle, and called it a day. Warren Allmon left town at around 5 PM. Brainstorming session that night between Paul Krohn, Pete Nester, Bridget Rigas, and Vanessa Willard created a plan to keep the hole dry as well as keep the sides of the hole from collapsing inward. Firstly, a 2' X 2' box was to be constructed and placed around one of the main groundwater springs at the center of the hole. The box would be driven into the bottom of the hole using 6' long poles. A sump pump would then be placed inside the box, keeping the local water table down and water out of the main body of the hole. 2 - 4' long X 2' high retaining walls were also to be constructed and placed at the east and south ends of the hole to keep the hole from collapsing. This would also be driven into the ground using 6' long poles.

Left:Tom Lake, Pete Nester, Bridget Rigas and Warren Allmon attempt to "walk on water" by placing pallets and other boards around hole in preparation for digging at the north end of the pond. They are also discovering that it is difficult to work at the bottom of a pond in a torrential downpour. Right: Vanessa Willard, Tom Lake, and Bridget Rigas talk strategy.

Wednesday, June 7th-

Arrived at 8AM. Record rainfall from the day before finally ended at 5AM that morning. Much of lake was still drained - it was later discovered that homeowner Larry Lozier had turned on one of the pumps and begun draining the lake at 6AM that morning. Bridget and I (Pete Nester) started up the pumps immediately, while Paul and Vanessa went to buy the lumber and other equipment. By 9:30, the lake was drained, except for the 3 deep holes. John Chiment, his wife Vicki, and Cornell graduate student Sandy Burr arrived at ~11 AM. Vicki was discouraged that she could not "smell mastodon" in the humic sediments. *** A 6' long, 1 1/2" diameter PVC pipe was driven into the lake for coring purposes. Sandy Burr, Tom (from DEC) Vicki, and John Chiment sieved material from lake while the sump was driven into the area around the spring. When sump was not drained immediately, water level inside rose to the point that this overlying water pressure forced the spring to change located, to the east of the sump. 6' long stakes were determined to be too long, so ~2' was cut from the top the poles after the sump had already been positioned. This allowed for sump to be "sledged" into position. A happy accident occurred when the box itself lost integrity, but only to the point where a 2" wide parting along one of the corners allowed water into the sump, but not so much that rendered the structure ineffective. One pump drained the hole itself, while the other drained the sump. 4 X 4's where used in the hole to provide a stable place from which to work at excavating the sides of the walls. It was determined that the retaining walls were not necessary since, with no rain, the walls showed much more integrity than had been previously expected. John and Vicki Chiment left the site at around 4PM, having found "mastodon droppings" and "hair". Vicki was guardedly optimistic, having detected a "faint smell of mastodon, although not as strong as at the Watkins site". Several hours of digging into the eastern and southern ends of the hole at the north end of the lake revealed nothing more than clams and snails, as well as wood fragments, dropstones, etc. Probing into the sediments revealed a possible lead, and so a posthole digger was used to work through the basal clay. 2 probes (done by Peter Nester) seemed to indicate something, but a third probe left us a bit more skeptical. It was soon discovered that beneath the basal clay lay a gravel layer, which was, in fact, what the probe had been hitting all along. Once the gravel layer had been reached with the post hole digger, water immediately filled the hole - must have been (at least one of) the aquifer(s) feeding the lake. Another spot dig just to the east of the hole (due to the probe hitting something) revealed a 9" diameter rock. Warren returned at ~6 PM. 2 more pumps were rented.

With dry weather (finally), digging begins in the pit in earnest.

Thursday, June 8th-

A phone call at 6AM from Sheryl Lozier told us that we had procured a frontloader (20' reach) to excavate the pond much more quickly - Warren and I arrived at 6:45 and started 3 pumps. The fourth pump was broken. Excavator Wayne Mallen arrived at 8:30 and began dredging the pond. First, from the west end of the north hole to the lake shore (~20' length, total), then to the east end of the hole. Stratigraphy indicted that the top banded clay layers thinned rapidly away from the center of the lake. When this turned up nothing, he moved to the hole at the SE end of the lake, and excavated to the north and south of the hole, with no finds. The same thinning was much more pronounced here, with only ~1'-2' of sediment before running into the slate-blue massive basal clay. The frontloader broke down just before noon, and took it out of commission until 8AM the next morning.

Left: Digging in the dirt - we bring in the heavy machinery, and still no bones, as Warren and David look on. Right: The crew of the reconnaissance trip to Hyde Park's Lozier Pond. from left to right: Paul Krohm, Pete Nester, Dwight Warren, Bridget Rigas, Vanessa Willard, David Levy, Warren Allmon, Larry Lozier, Sheryl Lozier

Friday, June 9th-

Warren, Paul Krohn, Bridget Rigas and Vanessa Willard on site.