From the Cradle to the Waterboard

From the Cradle to the Waterboard: Handling Large Bones with Limited Resources

Scott Madsen (Retired)
Dale Gray
Tom Nelsen

The closure of the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument in 2006 due to safety concerns meant that dozens of awkward and fragile specimens had to be prepared for removal to temporary storage “facilities” (2 garages and a trailer). Rugged and functional storage and transportation systems needed to be made quickly. Numerous experiments were conducted using AC filter foam, different weaves of fiberglass and various types of plaster to create stable, clean and light-weight beds for bones, but most of these techniques and materials were found to be too cumbersome for mass production and inadequate for the intended purpose. The 2-piece fiberglass and hydrocal cradles as described by Jabo, Kroehler, and Grady (2005) provided the best model for a practical solution; however, we modified their technique by eliminating the use of clay. This poster will illustrate how we rapidly produced many custom form-fitted cradles using 1/16th inch foam, a single layer of double-bias fiberglass and hydrocal.

Some specimens, particularly complicated vertebra, are best stored upright for better viewing by researchers as well as the structural integrity of the specimen. A low-profile hydrocal base was constructed for a large vertebra as it lay on its side in a sand table by building a wood frame, (the “Waterboard”) placed inches from the centrum and lined with a plastic bag; this was then filled with hydrocal and removed to create a perfectly form-fitted base. Additionally, a partially jacketed 2000 lb sacrum that could not be lifted off the table was given a base by rocking the specimen fore and aft and gradually adding layers of hydrocal to the underside. The end result is a sturdy stand that could be lifted onto a wheeled pallet that allows for easy viewing and transport. These and other storage techniques and materials will be illustrated in this poster.

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Last updated: March 16, 2018

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