Diggin’ the South Lake Union Mammoth

By then, after midnight and approximately nine hours of intense labor, all we could do was wait for the plaster to dry before undercutting the rocky pedestal and flipping the specimen so it could be removed the following day.

A mammoth move

On the second and final day of the mammoth tusk excavation, we prepared for what we had hoped would be a successful extraction of the specimen. Ron Eng, Collections Manager at the Burke Museum, joined us at the construction site with a flatbed truck and metal pallet for transport of the tusk back to the Burke Museum.

Upon our arrival the construction crew and crane operator readied the crane, lurking high above, to remove the tusk from the 30-foot deep pit and onto the flatbed truck. Two of the construction workers attached the pallet to the crane with hooks and rigging and hoisted it from the truck bed up and over to the smaller pit surrounding the tusk. Once the pallet was in place adjacent to the tusk, Dr. Sidor, Bruce, two construction workers, and I readied the pallet with blankets for cushioning and extra rigging for securing the tusk. We also created a makeshift ramp for guiding the tusk up and onto the pallet from its pedestalled position.

Our biggest concern during the tusk’s removal was that it would break apart as we separated it from its pedestal. Flipping jacketed fossil bones can be tricky, and each situation is unique. Given the delicate nature, size, and spiraling shape of the waterlogged tusk, we had to be fast yet gentle when flipping the tusk. The last thing we wanted was for the specimen to fall out the bottom of the jacket, especially under the watchful eyes of the news crews and numerous excited spectators.

As we prepared to flip the jacketed tusk, Bruce took the tip end while I took the root end. Dr. Sidor and the two construction workers readied the center of the tusk. On the count of three, we swiftly flipped the specimen onto the makeshift ramp and pushed it up and onto the pallet with relative ease. Thankfully, the specimen remained intact, revealing nicely preserved ivory on the side that wasn’t jacketed. Once the specimen was secured with a blanket on top for added protection, the pallet was fastened to the rigging of the crane and hoisted out of the pit.

Article Source: Burke Museum