The Raising of Juliesteyna
by Rob Roy
February, 2003, at the Bigstones Photo Gallery page)
Part One: Background
With any megalithic monument, the two most commonly expressed questions are always why and how. With ancient stones, we can only answer with speculation, albeit speculation backed by archaeological evidence or, perhaps, intuitive insight. Certainty, however, is elusive. With modern work, we can get closer to the truth, but even here, definitive answers are not always possible, particularly on the why side of things. During the saga of raising the latest megalith at Earthwood – all 20 tons of her – I was asked the why more often than the how. I’m not sure if I ever gave the same answer twice – I didn’t know this one very well - but I’ll share some of my responses with you.
Raising megaliths can become a compulsion, if not an obsession. Fellow stonebuilder Ivan McBeth and I each have a strong interest in learning how the ancients might have erected such monuments as Stonehenge, Avebury, and the Grand Menhir Brise in Brittany (70 feet long, and weighing, by various estimates, between 267 and 350 tons.) We know that we can never prove that the ancients accomplished their feats by a certain technique, only how they might have done it.
It is heartening to me that modern
megalithic builders and enthusiasts seem willing to share their successes and
failures. This greatly shortens the learning curve, really important if we hope
to come anywhere near ancient standards in our lifetimes. Using methods that we
helped refine together (with others), Ivan and his stone team working at the
In my researches for my Stone Circles book and for Club Meg News, I had not uncovered news of anyone in the world actually raising a 20-ton menhir “by hand.” However, in Megaliths: Stones of Memory (1998, Gallimard; English translation: 1999, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.), author and leading French archaeologist Jean-Pierre Mohen says rather cryptically, at page 120, that a 32-ton stone slab “was hauled by two hundred people and then raised by sixty, using three large levers and period tool: wooden rollers, braided plant fiber, polished axes to cut tree trunks, antler picks and wooden wedges to cut the rock, and flint hammers to shape it.” An excellent picture spanning pages 120-121 shows the slab being hauled. Eighteen years later, with Mohen present, Bertrand Poissonnier, moved the same stone with just 20 people, by levering the rollers, a technique which we used successfully at both our 2000 and 2002 Megalithics workshops at Earthwood Building School. Again, a small but clear picture (page 121) documents the event. What is unclear is what Mohen meant by the stone being “raised.” Was it elevated off the ground, or stood to an upright position? If the latter, was the stone taken down again so that Poissonnier could perform his experiment in 1997? I’ll try to find out.
The PBS series, Nova, had a
program about modern-day engineers raising a 40-ton concrete replica of
So, certainly, part of the goal was an ego thing: to raise one of the largest stones by hand in modern times, if not the largest.
I hope readers will share with me any knowledge they might have of other 10-ton+ stones raised in modern times with simple (stone age) equipment.
But there were other reasons for tackling the 20-ton stone besides “going for a record,” including:
1. We wanted to see if techniques used with smaller stones would “scale up” to a larger one.
2. We wanted a research project for a Megalithic Workshop at Earthwood.
3. The previous Winter Solstice Sunset Stone was only about five feet high, too short for the best effect. True, the sun did set directly over it, as seen from the observation stone 300’ away on the other side of the circle. However, because of a higher background horizon, the sun appeared to set about ten feet – twice the height of the former outlier – over the pointy top of the stone. With a replacement stone standing 14 or 15 feet above the ground, the sun, in theory, should set right on its top.
In November of 2001, after a search
lasting several months, Jaki and I found what appeared to be the perfect stone
at the Rock of Ages granite quarry near
I hired a large “dumper trailer,” towed by a large truck cab to go and fetch the stone, and traveled with the driver throughout the full day’s journey. At the quarry, the stone was raised onto the trailer with a huge derrick. The quarrymen are able to get a weight reading during the lift, and told me the stone was about 19.5 tons, which I casually round to 20. Calculations based on the estimated volume of the stone times 165 pounds per cubic foot for Barre Gray Granite, also gave a result of about 19.5 tons.
Back at Earthwood, I’d had a load of gravel dumped about 50 feet from where the stone would eventually stand. Imbedded in the gravel, I buried two large wooden rollers that we’d used to move a 4-1/2 ton stone at the previous year’s megalithic workshop. The new stone was tipped onto the pile and rested perfectly clear of the ground, as seen in Club Meg News #5. We knew that this would save time at the July 2002 workshop, allowing us to work more easily under the stone. A day or two might be saved, which would otherwise be spent just raising the stone off of the ground. My intent was to erect the stone during a five-day workshop. Maybe even three days! Ivan visited in June and I told him that we might get the group warmed up with a smaller stone for the first couple of days. Ivan looked at me askance and told me that we’d better start off Day One on the Yule Stone. It’d be baptism by fire.
Fortunately, most of the 16 students were either alumni of our Year 2000
megalithic workshop or had previous stone moving experience. Six of the students
did not, but all were capable and willing to jump in at the deep end with the
20-tonner. Besides Ivan, Jaki and myself, the cast of characters included stone
circle builders David Brandau from
Although the workshop was five days in length, all of our time was not spent on moving the Yule Stone. Ivan, Marty and I all gave slideshows and lectures on topics ranging from dowsing to sacred space making to modern stone circles, ancient and modern, around the world. But each day had at least one morning or afternoon devoted entirely to moving “the stone.”
The team became a cohesive working
unit by the end of the first day. Our eight returning students helped the six
“inexperienced” students by example. Local resident and longtime friend
Jeremiah Lee and landscaper Daniel Little from
By the end of the second day, the awkwardly shaped stone had been raised (by levers) high enough to install a stone boat under it, consisting of long parallel four-by-eight (4”x8”) timbers. Large wooden rollers, eight feet long and about 14” in diameter, were maneuvered under the stone boat, again, by lifting the stone boat (and stone) with levers.
Sculptor Molly Griest was first out each morning working on the socket hole or doing other housekeeping chores around the stone. The basic hole had been done with a backhoe a couple of weeks earlier, but Molly became one of the main people involved in making sure that the final shape of the socket hole would match the very awkward shape of the bottom of the stone. It was Molly as well who suggested a name for the stone, Juliesteyna (pronounced YOO-lee-stain-uh), from the Norse words Jule (Yule) and steyna (female stone). The sense of the group was that the stone was definitely female, so Juliesteyna seems to fit perfectly.
We began each day with the Dance of Life at the Earthwood Stone Circle. Jaki and I thought that it would be hard for any workshop to match the spirit, love and fellowship of the wonderful August 2000 event, but we were wrong. This one equaled or exceeded it in every way. Bill Cohea, the creator of Columcille megalithic park in Pennsylvania arrived on Saturday to bring even more love and spirituality to the group. The weather and moon co-operated for a magical Megalithic Banquet on Saturday night, and Jaki and the other ladies put on an unforgettable feast.
The stone moving went extremely well and we made good progress every day. The first day of horizontal movement, (on the third day of the workshop) was slow and difficult, as it was a slight uphill grade. We used Poissoinnier’s “lever the rollers” method, but our iron bars were barely strong enough for the task. We bent more than one. But once we got “over the hump” – and perfected our teamwork – we began to advance the stone relatively quickly. At our greatest speed, when everything went just right, we could move the stone about seven or eight feet in an hour. Two things were inclined to slow us down: the tendency for the stone to always want to move towards its “top-heavy” side, and the under-sizing of the stone boat.
Sometimes, the stone would get “stuck,” and refuse to budge. Some of the men – and women - took this as proof that, indeed, she was a female stone. But, always, after team brainstorming and/or communing with Juliesteyna herself, she’d begin to move again.
The paradox was that although we seemed to be doing well, and were sometimes amazed at what 18 people could do with a 20-ton stone, it was becoming apparent, as the days went on, that we were not going to get the stone in the hole during this workshop. By Saturday night’s banquet, everyone realized this, but we were still determined to do all we could on Sunday to get as close as possible. Energies were particularly high on our last day, and we made excellent progress in rotating the stone about 60 degrees on a pivot stack under the stone. The stack was built with many courses of 33” by 4” by 10” stacking timbers, which we called “stollage,” although “cribbing” would also be accurate.
At the top of the stack, I made an octagonal block about 24” across, composed of some 4” by 10” material sandwiched between two pieces of plywood. While the ancients didn’t have plywood, they could have made a center pivot point like ours from an oak tree trunk. We tried various stones, including granite, as a top swivel mechanism, but they crushed under the load. Finally, we had success with one of our hardwood fulcrums placed on top of the octagon. We had several fulcrums, each 12” to 14” long and made from an 8” to 9” diameter hardwood log, split neatly in half. Our pivot fulcrum eventually crushed under the full 20-ton load, but not before it had accomplished its purpose.
By 4 pm on Sunday, the stone was rotated to within 10 degrees of the true sunset alignment, but it had slipped off its center pivot and was stuck again. As it was also time for some of the people to leave, work came to a halt. After some heartfelt goodbyes, the rest of the crew helped clean up the site, sorting the various stollage material, gathering up the rollers, and the like. Most of the group agreed to come back in September to finish the job.
October 2 or 3 seemed the most likely time for the final erection to take place, as Ivan would be returning from building a stone circle in Vermont on the first. His time was limited to a few days. Also, our friends and videographers Dave Chevalier and Zoe Thurling would only be available for filming through Friday, Oct 4. But the stone had been left in a static position, and one of the 4” by 8” timbers under the stone had broken during the workshop. The stone boat would have to be replaced. So I tried to impart to our students that we needed people a few day earlier, by Saturday, September 28. I sent a message outlining what I hoped to accomplish before Ivan arrived. To quote the note:
“The goal during this time will be to (1) Do site prep and organize equipment, (2) Replace the broken 4 x 8 on the south side with a 5 x 10, (3) Install a new 5 x 10 on the opposite side to complete the stone boat; this should be easy as the space is accessible, (4) Reset the central pivot, (5) Rotate the stone the final 10 or 15 degrees to get it on alignment, (6) Elevate the stone, on its new stone boat, so that it is at least as high as its final position before the plunge, and (7) Clean and shape the bottom of the socket hole to receive the stone. If we can do these things before October 2nd, I am confident that we can advance the stone to its final position, make all final adjustments pop it in the hole, and straighten and tighten it with packing stones, all by October 4th.”
In addition to our workshop people, a number of our friends and neighbors had been caught up in megalithomania and were keen to see the stone installed. On the 27th, Doug Kerr from Massachusetts arrived. First thing the next morning, Doug and I were out in the woods to cut a new lever of shagbark hickory, one of the strongest hardwoods around. We cut a straight tree and took a 21’ long lever out of the lower end, which we barked quickly with a chainsaw. Other guests began to arrive, and by mid-morning we were hauling the heavy new lever, dubbed “Big Bertha,” to the site. It took seven people to carry her comfortably. But, my, could Bertha ever lift, sometimes even by herself!
By Sunday, with lots of volunteers, we managed to replace the old stone boat with a new one made of five-by-ten (5” by 10”) timbers. Had we used these in the first place, we might have saved a day or two. Once on the stone boat, we elevated the entire unit and repositioned the center stack. The problem was that the stack had been too far “north” by about 4 to 6 inches, and the stone’s mass had gradually shifted to the south. Always, Juliesteyna wanted to slip south, because of the overburden of that side of the stone. With the center stack rebuilt, it was a relatively easy matter to complete the rotation so that she could make a relatively straight march to her socket hole.
Although it had been covered with tarps for about two months, the socket hole had a foot of water in the bottom. Also, a few important chunks of the edge of the socket had broken off, making the width of the hole rather greater than we had planned. I had purchased two 16’ long twelve-by-twelve hardwood beams to span the hole, but now I knew that the strength of these timbers would be critical. Molly Griest led the team in cleaning the hole of mud and fallen earth; and, when it rained, she’d be out there early the next morning, bailing.
Gary Smith, chainsaw carver extraordinaire, joined us on Saturday. He arrived with two giant white pine statues on the back of his truck. One was an Adirondack Black Bear, destined for a customer in Lake Placid. The other was a 7’2” high replica of an Easter Island statue, a moai. “Rapa Nui Louie,” as he was named by a neighbor, was destined to stay at Earthwood, where he would greet visitors at our main entrance. We had installed an ahu, or stone ceremonial platform, a few days earlier. The ahu consisted of two pieces of a single 2-3/4 ton block of anorthocite. They came from the abandoned quarry down the hill where I’d gotten most of the standing stones for the circle. But we didn’t build the ahu by hand; a local contractor brought the stones up the hill with a backhoe and installed them in four hours. The two blocks, after 80 years of being ten feet apart, made an audible “click” when they came together again. There was a ring of satisfaction in the sound, perhaps the vocalization of the stones themselves, reunited after their separation.
Aside from his chainsaw carving skills, Gary has had considerable experience as a house mover, and he stayed on for three days to help us with the stone moving, in which he took a strong interest. Gary has a quiet thoughtful way of doing things, and lots of experience in how heavy things move. He was skilled in organizing equipment, the site, and materials, but not so comfortable with explaining what he was doing to others, so I offered to be his mouthpiece. On one occasion, with several people helping, Gary completely rebuilt everything from the ground up to the new stone boat, so that we had an extremely strong support track for the first time. This was a boon in rolling and raising the stone, and reaffirmed what may be the single most important part of megalithic construction, which is ground preparation. The first pieces of any cribbing or foundation work must bear solidly on the ground. No wobbles, no weaknesses. Use the largest, flattest, strongest pieces you have down low.
Under Gary’s direction, we rebuilt the gravel pad (ground platform), track foundation, the heavy wooden tracks themselves, and the first few stollage stacks as levering platforms. This took a couple of hours, and probably saved us a couple of days, and a lot of grief. But despite working with all new underpinnings, the stubborn Juliesteyna still wanted to go south with every move we made. We discovered the importance of keeping her south side as high as possible, several inches higher than the north edge, so that the stone would better resist the tendency to slip south under her eccentric overburden. Diane Lukaris, 70, became our eyes and our conscience, and frequently alerted us to problems as they arose. At every major lift or move, she would set herself up at the large end of the stone and report movements that the workers themselves could not perceive. We always have at least one such observer, and usually two, during each move of a large stone. These key members of the team are empowered to stop the work with a shout, if, for any reason, they think there is something not quite right.
We were working in new territory, a 20-ton stone, one of the largest moved by hand in a long time, so there was a lot of discussion. Sometimes, this seemed to slow the process, but I do not regret a minute of it. All of the really good ideas came out of these discussions – and there were a lot of good ideas. We tried some things that were not successful, but learned something even from these. Sometimes, we had two or more opposing views of how we should proceed with the next move, or to overcome a particular problem. But we were a democracy only up to a point. Business by committee invariably takes longer than under a dictator. Once in a while, I would have to step in and make the decision. The team always accepted the need for this graciously, and, I must say, things usually went well. Sometimes, someone would say something like, “Look, this idea of mine will only take twenty minutes. Could we please try it?” And we would. Sometimes the idea worked brilliantly, and sometimes not at all. Sometimes, even though it didn’t work as planned, it led to something better. Here’s an example:
After a few days, when Gary was gone and Ivan was back on site, the stone was getting close to the hole. But the usual problem – Julie’s predilection to slipping in a southerly direction – persisted. The best approach was to not let the problem happen, by trying to shift her center of gravity back to the – well, back to the center. Sometimes, though, we found the stone badly tilting or moving offline. Getting her back was a killer.
On one such occasion, Ivan suggest that we lower the stone’s heavy west end onto a heavy timber, such as an eight-by-eight, the timber tilted at an angle and well supported its own sculpted socket hole. The idea was that the stone could not settle straight back down, that the tilted timber would force it to move north. We spent quite a bit of time on this idea – a good idea – but found it really awkward to actualize. It was hard to get exactly the right length, angle, and shape (top end) of the timber.
Ivan, unfortunately, was suffering from ill health that day, and retired to his cabin. While he napped, I refined his plan to make use of a much smaller (12” long) chunk of hard four-by-four on the top of a solid stack of stollage. The piece, which came to be known as the wedgie, was notched to receive a keel-like shape under the stone’s heavy end, and was supported by an inclined plane of 30 to 40 degrees. Juliesteyna was raised from both sides with our two best levers and the wedgie installed. Then she was lowered slowly until a fair weight was on the piece. At this point I moved away from this precarious position, and, when everyone was ready, gave the order to let up quickly on the levers. Something would have to give. The possibilities were (1) that the whole unit would slip south under the weight of the stone, as it had done so many times before, (2) the wedgie would shatter under the – perhaps – ten-ton concentrated load, or (3) the wedgie would twist just right towards the north and take Julie with it. Thankfully, option (3) prevailed and we had a new tool in our arsenal, one that had evolved from Ivan’s initial concept.
Writing, now, in December, I regret that I did not keep a simple diary of events. Not only would it make this article easier to write, but proper credit could be given to the various people who came up with good workable ideas. Fortunately, all is not lost. Most of these ideas were captured on 30 to 40 hours of tape by Dave Chevalier and Zoe Thurling, and we have every intention of putting together a video of the entire process, right up to the dramatic conclusion.
Once again, we experienced the same apparent contradiction as during the workshop: we seemed to be doing really well, and yet Juliesteyna seemed to be advancing very slowly towards her goal. On at least three occasions, she simply refused to move, and we would get very discouraged. Sometimes, the problem would be something obvious, like one of the white pine rollers crushing under the load so that its top and/or bottom surface was flat. We called this a flat tire. Hardwood rollers would have probably prevented this problem, by the way. In this case, we would have to lift the stone off the rollers onto blocking, and “rotate the tires.” Leaving the weight on the rollers overnight was a sure-fire way to get a flat tire. After this happened a couple of times, we learned to take the load off the rollers for the night.
Friends had come great distances to see Juliesteyna leap into her socket. But, as the days went on, we became more and more discouraged by the slow progress. Many people would be leaving on Friday, October 4th, and others would have to leave early on the 5th. Jaki and I had also scheduled an Open House at Earthwood on the 5th, part of the National Tour of Solar Homes. By Friday afternoon, about 3 p.m., we had the stone over the hole where we thought it should be. The only problem was that in order to raise it to a standing position, Juliesteyna would have to be elevated another two feet, minimum, and we could not elevate it safely with the existing set-up. And it became apparent that we needed two new transverse timbers for the job, timbers we did not have.
The team met at the stone circle. There were about 20 people present, including our sons Rohan and Darin, a few neighbors who had helped us so many hours over the past seven days, and 8 or 10 members of our hard-core stone team: Molly, Diane, Ivan, “the ladies from Georgia” and others. We were there to discuss options, some of which were:
(1) Flip Juliesteyna into the hole from her current position, just for the sake of doing it. We knew, however, that the stone would probably not even reach a 45-degree angle, as indicated by testing with our accurate scale model. Ivan spoke strongly against this and the idea was abandoned.
(2) Secure everything until the following summer and reconvene. We felt that we were still 2 to 3 days away from installing the stone properly, but we were losing our team and had already lost our steam. At first, this seemed to many to be a reasonable approach, but I knew that we would lose our socket hole to erosion over the winter, which would effectively end the project. It was suggested that the hole be filled with crushed stone or sand to stabilize it for the winter and then to dig it out again the following year. But this would’ve required an extraordinary amount of material and work. I was also worried about the stone being up in the air on its stollage all winter. I did not veto the idea outright, but wasn’t keen on it for a variety of very practical reasons.
(3) Bring in a crane on Monday and install Juliesteyna at her full height. I must admit that I am the one who brought this idea out into the open, after discussion with Jaki. I spoke from the heart about how we had given it our best, had fought the good fight, had done great things, but that I was not keen to leave things as they were for the winter. I had even inquired of a local crane contractor and found that they’d be available Monday or Tuesday. Almost everyone spoke up about this idea, and I was honored that several of the ladies expressed to me that they could sympathize with the difficulty I must have had arriving to a position where I could even think of using a crane – this was the abandonment of a dream, after all – and that they would support me if that was what I thought best, even though they would be giving up the dream, as well. My sons, especially 16-year-old Darin, spoke strongly against this idea, as did Diane Lukaris, who, by the way, was the first person ever to swim the length of Lake George, a 36-hour ordeal. Diane didn’t know the meaning of give up.
The meeting broke with a consensus that whatever Jaki and I decided would be honored and supported. Even by Diane. (I’m not sure about Darin!) Jaki and I knew that we would have to talk about it – soon – and we were glad to have all the input and support and love of this extraordinary group of friends. We did not get an opportunity to speak privately that night, or, perhaps, we deliberately avoided the discussion. Some friends stayed for supper and spent the night at Earthwood, or stayed with our neighbors Frank and Elizabeth Brasacchio, who had become full-fledged partners in the project.
The next morning, several people including Rohan, Ivan, David Brandau, and David’s son Zack, helped clean up the site. Jaki and I scurried about trying to get Earthwood presentable for the Open House, due to begin at 10 a.m. I actually came close to a nervous breakdown during this time. The stress was getting to be overbearing. Ivan left about mid-morning and I had a little time to work with Ro, Zack and David on the site. We all wanted to see how easy it would be to lift Julie’s east (light) end with an entirely new and well-founded timber stack. With the site tidied up, we were able to build a strong timber crib in less than an hour.
People began to arrive for the Open House, people with an interest in alternative energy sources and cordwood masonry, and with no idea at all about megalithics. But we were ready to test our new set-up and, fortunately, an early group of visitors got caught up in the activity. With six people, we easily raised Julie’s top end a few inches. The visitors were impressed.
Over the next few hours, while we were conducting tours of Earthwood, Jaki and I were coming closer to our decision … and without actually conversing with each other. In fact, the decision seemed to come on its own, influenced by the events happening all around us. At the end of the day, we went to a neighbor’s for supper and, later, agreed to look at the stone in the morning.
On Sunday morning, Mary Alice and Ellen, two of the “ladies from Georgia,” stopped by to say good-bye while I was sizing up the stone. I was trying to figure out what it would actually take to get Julie upright. Ellen helped me with some measurements and, then, smiled in her knowing way. I think she knew what our decision was going to be.
Jaki and I decided that the project was much closer to completion than we had thought on that discouraging Friday afternoon. If we had two strong transverse beams under the stone, just either side of the balance point, we could raise her easily. The long Columbus Day weekend was coming up. If we could get enough help, we could get stand Julie up in two days, three tops. This was our decision!
But another problem was beginning to show itself; I became suspicious that we had taken Juliesteyna too far over her socket on the 5th. It just didn’t look right. And if she didn’t have room to swing, there would be Hell to pay, for there was a very large stone protruding slightly from the far end of the socket hole. Removing the stone would ruin the socket beyond repair. I took careful measurements, and discussed the problem with Ellen, with Jaki, with Molly – who dropped by for a midweek visit – and with Rohan. It was clear that we had, indeed, rolled Julie seven inches too far. First thing we’d have to do, upon resuming work, would be to retreat the seven inches. Only then could we reset beneath the stone with new timbers, in order to raise her the required 24 inches.
I purchased two new transverse timbers for building our new supports, each eight feet long. One was a full eight by twelve inches in section and the other a whopping eight by fourteen inches! These timbers would be the base of transverse “walls,” one to be built about two feet either side of Julie’s balance point. We’d found and marked this point on the stone way back in July, on a day when we had her rocking like a seesaw. The timbers would be used so that their12” and 14” dimensions would each provide a wide foundation. We had plenty of good 4” by 10” and two-inch thick stollage for building our support walls on the strong new base timbers.
We could only round up eight people on Saturday morning, and the darned rollers had severe flat tires from sitting a week. We tried to roll Julie on the flats – it was very slightly downhill - but “no go.” We had to elevate and rotate the tires. Finally, we had enough people and decent sections of rollers under the stone boat, and we were able to move the stone 6-1/2 inches, before new flat tires stopped us. Rather than lose another couple of hours to gain the half-inch shortfall, I decided that six and a half would have to do. Little did I guess just how critical these fractions of an inch could be!
Our work crew over the week-end consisted of Rohan and Darin, several of their friends, my cousin Steve Roy from Connecticut, Marty Cain and Dawn Palmer from the workshop, several friends and neighbors, and Chuck and Celia Strebendt and their family, who had stopped by as strangers at the Open House, but got caught up in megalithomania. Jaki did double duty with cooking and camera, as our video partners Dave and Zoe could not make it.
After Saturday’s lunch, we always had plenty of helpers. During the afternoon, with an average crew of about 14 to 16 people, we quickly and easily raised Julie as planned. First, we raised her onto temporary stollage, high enough to remove the 13”-diameter rollers and to set her down onto the new transverse timbers. We were actually able to get a course of 4” by 10” stollage on top of the new timbers, so we only lost an inch or so of height in getting Julie and her stone boat off the rollers. Once on the timbers, we used two levers and two fulcrum stacks on her heavy west end and the single stout stack – and just one lever – on her lighter east end. We could not even attempt to lift Julie’s heavy west end with a single lever because there was a huge socket hole in the way of building a fulcrum crib. But two levers, one each side, worked fine.
In two or three hours, we easily raised the stone to the full height we wanted, and an inch better. And, as a bonus, we built two stollage stacks for the pivot roller, one on each of the long 12” by 12” track girders that spanned the socket hole. Finally, we installed the 11’ long by 14” diameter pivot roller, a roller that, so far, had seen very little use. All our hopes rested on this roller. There would be a few moments when it would carry the entire 20-ton load, and while that load was rotating nearly 90 degrees through the air!
It had been an incredible day. Spirits were high and we all looked forward to Sunday. Even with changing flats and moving the stone back, all hands felt that raising Juliesteyna on Sunday seemed like a very real possibility.
Steve Roy’s improvisational skill with shaping and fitting wood proved invaluable on Sunday morning, as was Rohan’s rope lashing ability. Steve created a wooden cradle to wedge the pivot roller tightly against the stone boat. Copious lashing with ropes, all tightened by twisting levers within the lashing, made the pivot roller a virtual part of the stone boat. And Julie was lashed to the stone boat as well, as we didn’t want them separating prematurely during the flip.
It was a perfect fall day, but rain was forecast for later in the afternoon. By about 2:30, the lashing was finished and we had managed, by a few careful lifting moves, to get Julie’s heavy end onto a vertical 4” by 4” “lynchpin.” The lower end of the pin was centered and founded onto a 12” square block of wood. Smaller blocks kept it from wandering on the foundation block, which had been set flush into the bottom of the hole.
Much final discussion and shaping of the hole took place in an attempt to hold Julie as upright as possible. Tests with the model indicated that, theoretically, we would be able to get the stone to an angle of 60 degrees or better, and that would be from a height slightly lower than we were actually able to achieve. Julie’s underside was about 4-1/2 feet (54”) above grade. The stone boat, of course, and the pivot roller, would also be traveling with the stone, adding more clearance considerations and about a ton of weight.
By 2:45, all the major prep work was done. About 53 percent of the weight – roughly 10.5 tons out of 20 – was propped on the pivot roller, but safety stollage was in place at the big end in case Juliesteyna felt inclined to snap the lynchpin and take a premature dive. This actually happened once with a big stone Ivan had raised in England.
Everyone gathered around the stone for ceremony, except a couple of high school kids who probably thought we were crazy. We held hands around the stone, and, in the absence of more skilled right-brained speakers like Ivan and Ellen, it fell upon me to say a few words. I tried to get people to try to get on Juliesteyna’s wavelength and to visualize her rotational trip through the air. We “aumed” a little and then I read a poem which Molly had sent from Washington by email for the occasion.
Finally, people put offerings in the hole. Steve put a penny with his birthday year, 1961, on it. Jaki put in lavender, fur from Darin’s late bunny and feathers from our still peeping parakeet. Others tossed flowers or special stones into the socket.
The time had come. With about 25 or 30 people present, we found a job for every able-bodied person. Darin and Jaki would run the two mini-DV digital video cameras. At the appointed moment, I would whack the lynchpin with a sledgehammer. Steve and Frank would yank the pin out of Julie’s way. Two teams of eight people on ropes would try to prevent the stone from turning north or south during her rotation. Finally, a lever team led by our friend Bruce Kilgore, would attempt to give Julie an accelerated lift on her light end. I talked all the teams through a “dry run,” so that everyone knew exactly what was going to happen, or what we hoped would happen.
I checked each station. Steve ready? Ready! Rohan’s team ready? Ready! Bruce ready? Ready! Tom ready? Ready!. Jaki and Darin ready? Ready! All set!
I approached the stone and the
lynchpin with my sledge. I hadn’t been this nervous since asking Jaki to marry
me 30 years earlier. The tape measure in my front pocket felt awkward and I
stepped back to place it on a nearby timber. I re-approached and began counting
in time to short swings of the hammer. There was total silence. ONE! Holly, our
German Shepherd, safely in the house, began the first of 2 or 3 single barks, as
if she knew something big was about to happen. TWO! I have to go through with
I gave it everything I had and smashed
the heavy hammer squarely onto the flat side of the slender lynchpin. You could
hear the snap. Steve and Frank yanked the pin and Julie immediately began to
fall, so fast that Bruce and his team, who were meant to give gravity a bit of a
jumpstart with their lever, landed flat on the ground. The stone accelerated and
I took a few quick steps back from my position, turning away for only an instant
to check my path. I turned and saw this tremendous weight rotate high up in the
air and coming crashing down into the socket hole. Julie oscillated forward,
then back, then slightly forward again. Man, this was action! And it all
happened in a two second span at about
A great cheer went up from all assembled. Hugs were exchanged all around as we congratulated ourselves on what appeared to be as perfect an erection as we could have hoped for. Comparing eyewitness observations and watching the two different video views later on revealed a lot that we missed during the 2.0 seconds it took Juliesteyna to find the bottom of the hole. Here is some of what we learned:
Rohan says that he saw smoke from just below the front edge of the socket hole, where a stone protruded. We think Julie may have grazed the stone on her way through. Now I realized how critical that half inch had been. A half inch more of a correction and we would have missed it. A half inch less and there might have been a problem. But the video from the front revealed an even more ominous bullet we managed to bite.
We had tried to center Juliesteyna between the two long heavy track timbers, the 12” by 12” hardwoods that spanned the hole. If all went perfectly, the stone would clear each of the two timbers by about five inches (5”). Prior to the launch, a meeting of minds figured that, if anything, the stone might come a little closer to the northern timber. In the actual event, Julie made one last effort to kick her heavy butt end around to the south, something she’d been trying to do all summer. When the stone began to rotate, the leading (heavy) end took a decided turn, perhaps as much as six inches, to the south. This is very clear in the video, and it appears that the stone missed the timber by just over an inch. Had Julie swung even three inches more, there would have been a major crash, twenty tons on a 12” by 12” hardwood beam. I don’t know what would have happened, but it would not have been good.
The tape from Jaki’s camera showed the full length of the south side of the stone. Slow motion reveals that Julie actually went up to a maximum angle of 80 degrees, before finally settling on its final angle of 71 degrees. It would have been nice to have held the stone at 80, which might have been possible with a little more angle sculpted into the bottom of the socket. In fairness, I must report that my chief lieutenants of the day, Rohan and Steve Roy, disagree. I have a feeling that we’ll rehash this debate for some years to come.
We jammed the stone – or “packed” it, in the British vernacular – with lots of large jamming stones, of which we had a plenty. At about 4 pm, a gentle rain began.
Saturday had been amazing, but Sunday surpassed it. The entire weekend had gone about as well as any of us could have hoped for.
On Monday morning, we tried various methods of straightening the stone in the north-south direction, where it appeared to be just 2 or 3 degrees out of true plumb. This was the view that would be seen from the observation stone on the other side of the stone circle, the winter sunset alignment. We tried hard for a couple of hours, by various methods and with up to ten people, but Juliesteyna wouldn’t budge. We even tried using our four-wheel drive truck, but now I’m happy to say that the truck couldn’t move the stone, either, even slightly.
We decided that Julie was exactly where she wanted to be.
And that she couldn’t be more beautiful.
We were blessed with a beautiful clear sunset at Earthwood on December 17, just four days before the solstice, and just a few hours before our scheduled flight to England from Montreal. I am pleased to report that Juliesteyna performed beautifully, and the setting sun was, indeed, like a great flame centered at the center of a giant candle! We left for our well-earned holiday with the highest of spirits.
1. This picture was taken just a minute or so after Juliesteyna made her successful leap into the socket hole, about 3 pm on October 13, 2002.
2. The winter alignment. This picture is one that a neighbor, Dave Hornell, took in early January. I have some good sunset shots from December 17, but I will need to have them scanned so that I can put one or two in this space, or on the new picture page.