1. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Ever burried a body in the Arizona desert?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Rzero, Mar 29, 2019.

    Does anyone know about how long it would take a healthy man and woman to dig a semi-shallow grave, lets say 2'x2.5'x6' (30 cubic ft.) near the eastern edge of the Mojave Desert? Heat would be a factor, I'm sure, but assume they're well hydrated with endurance. I'm more curious about the earth they're moving. What's the dirt like out in those super-remote areas between mountains? How would it feel under a good, sharp, mid-sized shovel? Anything you could tell me about the density, consistency, grit, etc. would be a big help. Thanks!
     
  2. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    It depends. The "Arizona desert" varies from sandy to almost as hard as a rock. It's a big desert.
    I've worn the teeth off a power auger trying to drill holes for telephone poles in it.
    On the other hand, some places the challenge is keeping the hole from collapsing.

    So choose whatever circumstance works for the story. It's out there, somewhere.
     
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  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Agree with the above.

    Also, re: heat, depending on time of year and time of day, it may not be hot. The temp in parts of the Mojave desert can get close to zero F during the coldest parts of winter.
     
  4. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    I've had some experience shoveling dirt in the Columbia Basin in Washington, for what it's worth. Conditions would obviously be more extreme down there, but it's still a desert. The dirt is very sandy and dry, and easy to shovel. It doesn't really clod (unlike the clay soil we have where I live), and it's pretty easy to get your shovel blade down in there. One factor that I'm not sure about would be rocks. If there are a lot of rocks, then obviously it would be much more difficult, and if it's too sandy, then the hole will collapse, as XRD said. But if I were gonna choose the best soil for shoveling, that would be it. Assuming the two regions are similar, I'd say it wouldn't take too long. If these pictures seem remotely similar to what you're talking about, then take what I said with a bucket of salt. If not, then just ignore me.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  5. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    Also, difficulty in digging often comes down to the digger's knowledge.
    For example, in expansive hard soils, having a good supply of water to pour into the hole is a major help.
     
  6. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I've spent a lot of time in Arizona and along the I-10 corridor. (Never buried a body there, but wanted to plenty of times.) It depends on if they're in the high desert or low desert. If the area in question has cacti--usually saguaro or organ pipe cactus--and dry sage brush, it will be sandy. If it's a high desert area, it'll be a little more green, with live sage plants and wildflowers at certain times of the year. There it'll still be sandy, but with a bit more red clay in the mix.

    For drama, I'd make it in the low desert part of the Mojave, which is hot as hell, windy at times like a blast furnace, and more barren. Toss in a dust devil or two to get in their way, and that would be miserable. I also think that's what most readers would visualize. Most people don't know there's much of a difference until they've been there.

    ETA: Oh, yes, forgot about the rocks. Lots of rocks in the soil, ranging from the size of a dime to a little larger than a matchbook, with the occasional rock the size of of a hand.

    ETA: Helps if I spell Mojave correctly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
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  7. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    A good bit of Arizona dirt has loose sandy top soil --
    and one or more thick layers of nearly-impenetrable caliche below it, starting about a foot or more down.
    You don't know until you dig. It's annoying. And a good source of tension in a story, I suppose.
     
  8. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Yeah, lets all assume I know what rocks and seasons are, and I'll try to be more specific. Flat, barren areas between mountains.
    This:
    mohave-county-az-200000-neg-meadview-mohave-county-arizona-141799-dzer_8.jpg
     
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  9. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    It can still be any kind of soil you want, from large and small rocks that eroded down from the mountains to fine sand at the bottom of a wash. And caliche can be under any of it.
     
  10. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    That's gonna be more like dry dirt than sand. Think something like...gritty cake mix. ETA: I mean, it is sand, but it's different, and it's heavier than the rocky sand in other parts of the desert.

    ETA: Forgot this part! It stains like hell because of the iron oxide or whatever it is that makes it red. If you're wearing faded jeans and kneel to dig a hole, it's not coming out of the knees of your jeans, no matter what you do.
     
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  11. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Asking for a friend.
     
  12. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Oh my god. Y'all are going to make be dig a hole in Texas clay with a stopwatch running, aren't you?
    Extremely helpful! Thank You!
    I so almost put that in the post. Great minds.

    ETA:
    That picture I posted is of Mohave Valley in the Mojave Dessert. :)
     
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  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Oh, fine...Fuck with the dyslexic. :p That explains it then.
     
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  14. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Thinking further, in places the soil is also going to be compacted. You have to--Bam!-bang it with the back of the shovel to loosen it, and then put the shovel in, using your foot on it the normal way and you come up with the cake mix.
     
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  15. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    I've had to bury a few things, but mostly farm animals, and always in wet clay in Northern Ontario. Probably the closest in size to a human was a pony that was around 400 pounds and that took about 6 hours from start to fill. I imagine drier ground would be a lot easier to move, and probably with less tree roots to hack through. A human's probably a lot easier to fold into a smaller space, too. From experience, though, if there's wildlife around, you'd want to get it at least 4-6 feet down otherwise coyotes'll have it out of the ground before sunrise and it's far less fun getting it down there a second time.
     
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  16. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I've never dug a hole that big, and I've only dug in West Texas. I get that there are tons of types of terrain in that area, but using the picture I added, and assuming the characters are intelligent enough to find a place that isn't visibly rocky and maybe stab a spot or two with their shovels and find a good spot, are we talking an hour? Remember, we're only digging two feet deep.
     
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  17. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    The answer to your original question is: as long as you want it to take.
    A few seconds if you've found an abandoned mine shaft -- plenty of them in AZ.
    All day if you hit caliche, don't have a pick-axe, and begin to faint in the heat.
    You're the author. You decide.

    [ETA: about half the times I had to dig in AZ, even around the house, I'd wind up pulling out my Hitachi electric jackhammer and the spade bit for it. I still own that jackhammer.]]
     
  18. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Oh, it's going to be a mess. Coyotes will paint the desert with that dead mutant. :blech:

    Three hours make sense to everybody? Great. Print.
     
  19. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The friend must have really pissed you off!
     
  20. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Mummipedia (yep there is such a thing): Sylvester the Mummy
    Well. maybe that is disputed but he is a real mummy. :p
     

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