Cavers’ delight – #NTCave2017

Today was the last day in the cave. Tomorrow we pack up and leave. We were short on strong bodies for moving dirt for remediation and on vehicles for hauling our gear out. 

Local cavers were invited to come and help, the pay being a chance to drop into Natural Trap Cave.



While they were working, I looked at the Mississippian fauna of the Madison Limestone, the rock that hosts the cave.

I particularly liked this spiriferid brachiopod.

The cavers (and me) were in for a special treat. We got permission to explore some of the passages off the main chamber with the task of removing survey markers from last summer’s cave mapping.


Skull and crossbones. Maybe I won’t go in there. (Sideways)

Emerging from a passage.

We had to slide our bodies past this column without breaking it.

Dropping in.

Now the day is over. The cave is unrigged. Time to hang it up and go home.

Tidying up – #NTCave2017

It’s all about remediation now. While the more able-bodied team members dropped into the cave to work on covering our dig sites, I stayed topside and examined the collection of teeth we’ve made.

Beam me up

Here are some examples of horse teeth we’ve collected:

A deciduous (baby) right upper second premolar still embedded in part of the skull.

A baby horse’s lower jaw (right side)

The same jaw, with the matching teeth from the other side of the jaw.

A neat upper molar of a horse, looking at the chewing surface.

We’ve also found other animals beside horses. We have pronghorns, bighorn sheep, and bison.

A lower molar of a bighorn sheep.

The jaw of a pronghorn.

After a hard day of work, we had a bit of a Zen moment in the camp kitchen.

Tomorrow is the last day anyone will go into the cave, at least for this project. It’s a little sad, but it’s time.

The end is nigh – #NTCave2017

It’s possible that today was my last day ever in Natural Trap Cave. It makes me sad. Whatever. We still had fun.

The day started with this giant caterpillar.

Then in we went, and started cleaning up.

The Truper twins.

The test pit looks a little like someone might be laid to rest there.

Lead investigator Julie Meachen supervises.

We did some glowing, like all good scientists do.

Then we rigged things up to haul out.

Premier caver Juan Laden disentangles a sling for hauling. (Sideways again)


While the hauling was happening, I explored some of the cave formations present.

A couple more days on site to finish cleaning up, them the long voyage home.

The silver screen? – #NTCave2017 

Today was another surface day for me, so I decided to pretend to be Lawrence of Arabia. 

Or maybe a flowery bee-keeper (sideways)

I did a lot of screenwashing today. And while I was disappointed to not be in the cave and looking at horse teeth, I did get to read a bunch of papers and…

I found another horse tooth! 

It’s a baby tooth. We’ve found a lot of those. Pretty interesting! 

Tomorrow, I think I’ll be back in the cave. But who knows. This sediment ain’t gonna wash itself! 

All about the horses – #NTCave2017

Another day in the cave, snuggled in my corner, looking at horse teeth.

Two horse upper molars that I suspect may be the same species.

A deciduous (baby) molar of a horse.

An adult lower third molar (equivalent to our wisdom teeth) that had only just erupted and started wearing.

A horse cannon bone and proximal phalynx (toe bone).

At the end of the day, it seemed like a good time for a selfie.

Always sideways.

Staying topside tomorrow. I’ll let you know what I discover!

Back to the past: in the cave again – #NTCave2017

I went back in the cave after three days on the surface. My, things had changed.

My day was spent looking at teeth. Here’s a carnassial tooth (for cutting meat) from a canid, like a wolf or coyote.

I spent most of the day looking at horse teeth.

In my tiny cave office.

Another exciting discovery was this Bison jaw. We wrapped it in a plaster jacket to protect it.

It was another lovely day in the cave.


We had lunch in the sunny-spot.

And I looked at a few cave formations.

(Hah! This one is upside down!)

And took a moment to view the cave from a different perspective.

Back into the cave tomorrow. I wonder what we’ll find?

Supplies and Tourism – #NTCave2017

Today was resupply day, so I got to take a trip into town, where we could get groceries, water, and ice. A side benefit of this is that I got a shower.

The Red Apple, Lovell’s grocery store.

I also got an amazing lunch at Aud’s Bar and Grill.

The green burger: 1/2 pound patty, with green chili, jalapenos, and cream cheese.

And nearly as great as enjoying air conditioning, I also got to do some laundry (but I had to air dry my clothes).

After dinner, nearly everyone in camp, including me, took a little drive to see the sights. Our first stop was Armpit, an old mining camp that is now frequented by cavers.

We saw a one-horned bighorn sheep.

That had to hurt.

We stopped at an overlook of Bighorn Canyon.

Then we drove down to the openings to two popular caves in the area, Bighorn Caverns…

… Followed by the the opening to Horsethief Cave.

… Where apparently radon levels are high.

We met a couple of rattlesnakes while there.

There are two snakes in this picture. Can you see them both?

The day ended like any other in Wyoming, with a beautiful sunset.

Tomorrow I go back into the cave. Let’s see what everyone has dug up!

Ready for my close-up – #NTCave2017

Today was another day spent top side. Our major task was screenwashing. Along the way we spent some time picking for fossils.

There was also a film crew from PBS. I was interviewed.

I closed my eyes.

My view. (Sideways)

The crew in the cave rescued a bull snake. 

Rescued snake is happy

And, as always, a beautiful sunset.

Top Side – Getting Ready to Find the Littlest Fossils – #NTCave2017

Today, I spent my time on the surface. I did a little cleaning while everyone else was in the cave.

Clean camp is clean.

Then I got things ready for screenwashing, a process by which we rinse dirt away from tiny rocks and fossils in sediments.

Ready for screen washing.

We had some journalists present, who are working on a documentary for PBS.

Dramatic action shot!

The day ended like all days at Natural Trap Cave… With a beautiful sunset.

Sunset over my wee abode.

I think I’ll be topside again tomorrow so watch out for pictures of tiny fossils!

A full day – Day 2 at Natural Trap Cave – #NTCave2017

Today was a normal day off work in the cave. Normal by cave standards, anyway.

First, was the usual rappel into the cave.

One anchor, upon which all our lives depend.

I made it, no problem, as always.

Always grinning.

I spent my day collecting a sample of a thin, charcoal-rich bed for carbon dating. It was tedious.

My desk for the day. (Sideways again)

But I did enjoy some relics from expeditions past.

Ladder to nowhere.

Tomorrow, I’m working on the surface. Lots of work to do there, too!