- Historic Sites
Unearthing The Mastodon
Peale’s Greatest Triumph
August/September 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 5
“When we had raised the wheel & had compleated the Buckets, and made a Tryal of it, I found that when the wheel was not drove fast, that the Buckets delivered most water into the Trough—That thus moving slow & steadily in its best effect emty 20 Buckets in one minute, and altho’ these Buckets held 1½ Galln. of water yet on an average day they did not deliver little more than one Galln. I frequently tryed the effect by my Watch, and to proove that my calculation was just, I counted them for 5 minutes together, which make very exactly 120 in that time—12 times which makes 1440 Gallns. pr. hour with the labour of 3 men. Had I known that the Bason into which I carried the water would have absorbed the water so fast as afterwards on experience was the case, I would have used fewer Buckets and not have raised the water so high. The fear of our scaffolding sinking down induced me to raise the water 25 feet. At first I made the Buckets in number to reach the Bottom & supposed they would float on the Surface, but by tryal I found that they intangled together. I then was induced to make a long Barrel about 2 feet in diameter [as base of the bucket chain]. This Bl. floated on the water & answered to my expectation—but too many Buckets I found troublesome, entangled together and encreased the labour of the wheel. At last I took some away. We soon emtyed the hole of water, and began the work of exploring—but the Buckets reaching to the bottom the gravel soon began to wear the ropes and afterwards was the cause of much labour to repair the damage.
We soon found some of the bone[s] of the feet. At first discovery of them, I forbid the taking them up [for fear their correct configuration would be disturbed], but to my mortification in the next moment the morass began to moove forward with the weight of the mud thrown on it pressing down. The white marie at bottom being soft came upon the bones & we were glad to seize all we could before they should entirely be again Covered. The next advice was to through all the mud further back on the Morass, with the hopes that when thus lightened that the bank would stand—but behold we found it began to form cracks of considerable extent back & thus large bodies pressed forward—and… on Saturday evening we found the whole of the work like to overset, as the whole bank then began to give way. A Thought suggested as our only resource by Mr. Cambel was to fix a takle from the Top to a small Tree standing near—altho’ I thought the assending not a little dangerous, but not a minute was to be lost. I quickly mounted the Scaffolding & brought down the Tackle and thus we saved the works from falling. Numbers of people had collected. All seemed to urge me to work on the day following. The fear of offending made me hesitate, but when even those of various stations, even the clergy, one in particular, said it was a work of necessity—and finding the men willing to labour on Sunday provided I would screen them from harm, I agreed to pay any fine that should be exacted.
“[August] 16 (Sunday) We cut down a strong pole of 36 feet length, and raised it by a second takle—placed the foot into the bottom, yet it would not sink sufficiently untill the additional weight of the other Poles & machinery was added, which by a happy thought of Mr. Cambel was effected thus: fixing a takle to its Top, and the other block to the works, they thus threw all the weight on it, & from time to time pressed it down until it had reached the gravelly bottom. We then threw the weight of the mud still farther back, cutting bushes and small Trees to keep it from sinking. However, the next day we were under the necessity of getting some stought poles, one to extend along the bank and others to brace this back. Then they got a great number of poles and drove them pretty close together, by means of… a very large Maul . After we thought we had now made sufficient defense against the bank & began to explore, Mr. Cambel found one of the braces bending. He then got a shorter piece to help it.
“We then went to work to emty the space within our bank, and in the course of the week we got part of the Tusk, many bones of the feet—and each day wished to come at the under Jaw, which we hoped to get intire—but among other bones I found other Grinders & some pieces which I knew belonged to the under Jaw. Thus my hopes were dashed on that score. We got a piece of the Sternum, osnominatum and one piece of the head & now and then some bones of the feet—but… after labouring with our utmost exertions until mid day on friday I was induced to give over further search. Altho’ I had 25 men at work for some days, and I paid them for pumping 2 nights, yet the difficulty of obtaining any more bones, would be a waste of money. Thus on friday I paid off my men—and on Saturday I went to Doctr. Grayhams who was so obliging as to accompany me to Doctr. Gallatia, who had advised me to try a morass belonging to Captain Barber from which some few ribs had been found some years back.”