Dispatch from the field: Calgary, Alberta

We’ve just wrapped up Day 3 of the Serpent Mother build, our contribution to this year’s Beakerhead arts and science festival. This streamlined build crew of only 7 FLGs went from an open field on Saturday morning to running a full fire-test by Monday night. We are having an outstanding build; here are the pictures to tell the tale.


Hethur watches for clearance while the hed rack emerges. We pack our containers to the brim! photo by Denise


The head rack is by far the heaviest thing in this container. photo by Denise


Sam, Ted, Andrea and Hethur pull this vertebrae rack out with all their might. photo by Denise


Our fabulous heavy machinery operator Corey carries the vertebrae rack across the field of Fort Calgary. photo by Denise


The head rack lifts apart and requires a whole lot of pipe carrying to unload. photo by Denise


Denise unbolts vertebrae sections from their rack. photo by Ted


Ted and Andrea act as placeholders for the egg, while Sam bolts together the vertebrae. photo by Denise


This is our entire build crew: Suzanne on the ladder, Sam securing a ratchet strap, Andrea pulling on it to orient the spine, Corey in the VR, Margaret guiding his moves, Ted getting ready to spud the flange, Hethur at the ready with nuts and bolts. (and Denise behind the camera)


The spine is coming along… we start at the tip of the tail and build outwards. photo by Denise


Sam bolts the spine together. photo by Denise


The end of Day 1. Ted modeling our to-do list for the next day. photo by Denise


Sam and Margaret working on the vertebrae that interface with the neck hydraulics. photo by Ted


Sam and Ted trade tools as we plug in the last few vertebrae before the head. photo by Denise


Corey and Suzanne do some reptilian dentistry. The Serpent has 56 teeth that feature Venturi fire effects, and two big fangs with static flames. photo by Denise

suzanne pic

The crew at the end of Day 2.


Some entertaining artifacts from the birth of the Serpent — different experiments in how to make the flame effects in the teeth work best. photo by Denise


By nightfall tonight, we had assembled all the plumbing and electronics and were ready to test our systems. First we tested all the vertebrae with nitrogen gas, to look for leaks and to make sure the continuous and poofer systems were all cooperating. Then we shot plain old water out of the egg shooter, to make sure the six different nozzles were pointing in the right directions. Once those systems were dialed in, we decided to try it with more combustible materials — propane for the snake’s body, and diesel for the egg.

Our propane poofs and diesel shots were so high and so bright, that concerned citizens as far as 15 kilometers away called the Calgary Fire Department. Within minutes of our first shot, we had lights and sirens flying up the block to investigate. And of course once we explained what was happening, the firefighters all wanted to push the buttons too!


The Calgary Fire Department was IMPRESSED. photo by Denise

Thanks to long days and a hard-working crew, we are moving along at an excellent clip on this build. Tomorrow we do some more testing and some final adjustments, and the rest of our crew arrives!

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1 Comment

  1. In the future, before the fuel tests, it would be wise to give the fire brigade a heads up.


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