Geological Society to Bring Prominent Paleontologists to Camp Hancock Star Party

Members of GSOC and OMSI Astronomers at Camp Hancock in 1957

Members of GSOC and OMSI Astronomers at Camp Hancock in 1957

The Camp and Our Clubs' Intertwined Origins Go Back to 1951

When I first joined the club twenty years ago, RCA Camp Hancock weekends often had upwards of seventy people, with telescopes. We set up and spread out in a large field we called Dob Valley.  But we lost the use of this field a few years ago because it is not part of Camp Hancock; it is National Monument land belonging to the John Day Fossil Beds run by the National Parks Service. So we are limited to three observing locations within Camp Hancock itself. If everyone who signs up for Camp Hancock brings a telescope, we would have fifteen telescopes set up at each of our three smallish observing locations, and that’s enough. For that reason, for the last few years we’ve limited RCA registration at Camp Hancock to 45. It filled up really fast this time, the fastest it’s ever filled up. But there are no fewer “slots” for RCA members than there has been in recent years. We always create a waiting list. Already this time around we’ve had cancellations and some people have moved off the waitlist and are registered. At the moment, there are about ten people on the waitlist. That’s about normal.

At this Hancock event, we’ll have extra guests from the Geological Society of the Oregon Country (GSOC). They were half-invited and half-volunteered because there is such an overlap of interest between astronomy and the earth sciences, which are in fact planetary sciences. Camp Hancock was started in 1951 by OMSI and GSOC founding member/amateur geologist Lon Hancock and became the home to one of our two progenitor organizations, the OMSI Astronomers. Several members of RCA are also members of GSOC; that’s been true for a long time. I’ve gone on GSOC field trips myself, and taken Paul Edison-Lahm’s downtown geology walk, and have found them truly interesting.

The GSOC members are offering us three additions to the weekend that we don’t normally get: (1) they will take us on a hike through millions of years of geologic history, explaining all the cool things we’ve been looking at on our normal hikes but not knowing what they were; (2) they have invited Dr. Nick Famoso, Chief Paleontologist of the John Day Fossil Beds, to be a speaker/resource person; and (3) they have invited Dr. Bill Orr, the Grand Old Man of Oregon Geology, the Man Who Wrote the Book, to give us a presentation about John Day geology on Saturday night after dinner.  I am personally delighted that Dr. Orr said yes to our humble event. We are privileged to have him.
The GSOC people will rideshare to Hancock, so will limit the number of cars they add to our parking situation; they will not bring telescopes, so will  not be crowding us on the field; we have arranged for some Telescope Helpers to introduce the use of a telescope to them and introduce the sky; they will have assigned cabins because they will be going to bed fairly early and we do not want to be waking them up at 3 a.m.; they will have dimmable red Celestron LED flashlights.

I am happy that they are coming and think that they will enrich our experience at Hancock a great deal. Rest assured, no RCA member has lost a chance to register for Hancock because GSOC members will be there, and attendance will be no more than we’ve had at Hancock in the past. GSOC is what I call a “natural ally,” since we are all amateurs interested in the sciences and willing to go out and do field work.  I expect we will find that they are as interesting to get to know as anyone else we meet on the observing field. Please make them feel welcome!

Looking forward . . .  Margaret