Showing posts with label dinosaurs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dinosaurs. Show all posts

October 19, 2018

That Steampunk T-Rex named Sue

It was big news in paleontology circles in the 1990s when private fossil hunters in western South Dakota unearthed an outstanding Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that was given the name of Sue, after  discoverer Sue Hendrikson.

A lengthy custody battle ensued (hah), with an FBI raid and a state-private-tribal-federal kerfuffle, since the site where Sue was found was managed by the Department of the Interior in trust for the Sioux nation. Ultimately, the private fossil hunters lost, and the skeleton was auctioned by Sotheby's and bought by the Field Museum in Chicago for $7.6 million.

"Sue" by John Lopez.
So Sue is in Chicago and now quite famous, but in Faith, South Dakota, the little town nearest the site, she is also created in a very fine and sort of steampunk-ish sculpture by South Dakota sculptor John Lopez (here is his studio website with other examples).
Built to last. Note the heavy drive chain.



June 21, 2015

Walking with Dinosaurs at the Summer Solstice

Led by a white Forest Service pickup, the "auto tour" forms up.

What I think of when I hear "auto tour."
There is something old-fashioned about the phrase “auto tour”— as in Picketwire Canyonlands Guided Auto Tour — which suggests maybe a 1920 Studebaker Big Six “touring car” with the top down. Goggles and dusters absolutely required.

We were instead in M’s faithful 1997 Jeep Wrangler, and I was shifting in and out of 4wd low range all day long, mostly when descending steep, rocky, glorified wagon roads into the Puragatory Canyon.*

Seventeen vehicles full of people who had paid $15 apiece for adults started out; fifteen made it into the canyon. Flat tires were like a spreading virus — blame the sharp shale up top or the sharp rocks anyplace?

Friends in Pueblo set this up—we were supposed to have gone in May, when it would not have been over 100° F as it was on Saturday, but all tours were canceled due to wet weather. We still had to skirt a few mud bogs, but most of the roads were dusty. Very dusty. And there was little shade, and if there was, the piñon gnats were waiting.

The centerpiece of the tour is the famous dinosaur trackway, which preserves more than "1300 prints in 100 separate trackways  [along] a quarter-mile expanse of bedrock," to quote the brochure. And there are more waiting to be uncovered.

Credit for the discovery goes to a 1936 schoolgirl in the downstream hamlet of Higbee; some paleontologists made quick visits shortly after that — and then scientific interest languished until the 1980s when they were "re-discovered."

Scaled-down dinos play out the tracks' drama
Now there is signage, and a pilgimage to "the dinosaur tracks" has become One of the Things You Do in Colorado.

In the photo, our Forest Service interpreter-guide-wagonmaster has set down  Allosaurus and Apatosaurus models — placing them in the tracks made by real things in the muddy shore of a Jurassic lake.  At this spot, the carnivorus Allosaurus has stepped directly on the tracks of an apparent family group of large and small Apatosaurus browsers. The presumption is that it was stalking them.

Some smaller dinosaurs, Ornitholestes, also left their tracks. They too walked on their hind legs and weighed maybe 25–35 pounds.

As Anthony Fredericks wrote in Walking with Dinosaurs: Rediscovering Colorado's Prehistoric Beasts, "You don't have to be a dinosaur fanatic to enjoy this venture."

In fact, the different stops are like an experiment in temporal dislocation. While it is 150 million years ago at the trackway, at another stop, it is a few hundred years or a couple of millennia ago. At yet another, a 19th-century family cemetery holds the graves of New Mexican settlers who farmed from the 1860s to the early 1900s, while up the canyon, time has stopped in the 1970s, when the Army condemned thousands of acres to create the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. All of this in eight hours of dusty roads!
A juvenile hominin follows adults across the trackway by the Purgatory River. No Allosaurus is chasing him!
Kevin, our guide, held off on the "get out of Purgatory" jokes until it was time to do just that, for which I thank him.

*In Spanish, El rio de las animas perdidas in purgantorio (River of the lost souls in Purgatory); in fur-trapper French, Purgatoire; and in cowboyese, Picketwire. Named for members of a 17th(?) or 18th(?)-century Spanish expedition wiped out by Indians, an expedition that no one seems to be able to date or accurately describe. Nowadays often just called The Purg. But the name is old. M. is dismayed that the Forest Service has given its official blessing to "Picketwire" in its maps and signage on the Comanche National Grasslands.

May 02, 2013

Cañon City Dinosaur Area Expands

Dal DeWeese — land developer, big game hunter, buddy of Teddy Roosevelt — helps to excavate a Diplodocus longus skeleton in Garden Park Fossil Area in 1902. I never heard that DeWeese was that big on dinos, so maybe this was a staged photo — look at how he is dressed. (Photo from BLM.)
People at the Bureau of Land Management office in Cañon City are happy about an official decision to expand the National Natural Landmark status of the famous fossil beds on BLM land north of town, the Garden Park Fossil Area.
The internationally renowned area boasts rich deposits of late Jurassic-period fossils. In the 1880s, fifteen species of dinosaurs, nine of which were new to the field of paleontology, were recovered from the area, making it one of the oldest and richest fossil sites in the country.
More history and old photos are linked here.  Go visit now, before the weather gets too hot.

April 16, 2013

What Happened to Triceratops?

The author of My Beloved Brontosaurus talks about the changing view of dinosaurs, which leaves people wondering what they were really like.

One type re-evaluated is Triceratops, early specimens of which were found in Frémont County, Colorado.
Some journalists came to the mistaken conclusion that paleontologists were about to eliminate Triceratops, one of the most beloved dinosaurs of all time! Dinosaur fans were outraged at the news, voicing their discontent in Internet comment threads and on Facebook. (My favorite protest was a mock-up of a T-shirt featuring three Triceratops howling at Pluto, the recently demoted dwarf planet.) Eventually, word went out that Triceratops was safe, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the public reaction as I searched fruitlessly for more dinosaurs in Wyoming. The Triceratops debacle perfectly highlighted the tension between the pop culture dinosaurs we love and the science that is spurring the evolution of dinosaurian visions.

November 11, 2012

Blog Stew — Don't be an Ingredient

• Forget zombies — what load for Quetzalcoatalus? Jackson Landers, the "Locovore Hunter," has an answer.

Sportsman's Guide, a source for discounted (sometimes with good reason) outdoor gear and "Cold War dividend" militaria, mostly European, has returned to American ownership.

• Will Colorado's (known) lone wolverine, M56, get any federal help? He has covered immense amounts of territory, that's for sure.

July 30, 2011

Velociraptor with Feathers and Other Updated Dinosaurs

One of the most famous Stegasaurus fossils was found near Cañon City, Colorado, a little more than a century ago, and the "most complete" skeleton was found there in 1992.

But a lot has changed in our understanding of dinosaurs over the intervening years, as this "top ten" post makes clear.

Some people, however, believe that dinosaurs were created by (drumroll) Satan. The Lone Star Parson has the details. What does that say about all the little boys who love dinosaurs?

Me, I do believe that there was a separate Creator for the insects—not anti-human or even anti-mammal, just profoundly alien.