Age of Dinosaurs Museum

Look!  Airplane crossing!  This was outside of Winton.  I’ve seen a few of these and finally managed a picture of one.  The most memorable one we saw was on the Queensland coast.  We stopped at a rest area just after the plane sign and while we were there a plane came in for a very low landing right over the top of us.  It was at a crazy angle and I was sure it was crashing!  (It wasn’t!) I’m told the look on my face was quite hilarious.  That particular rest area was also memorable because of the random rooster we found there.  He was chasing the kids but we soon discovered he was playing with them, not trying to hurt them.  Anyway, back to the subject of this post… Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? While we were in Winton we visited the Age of Dinosaurs museum.  There are heaps of dinosaur things to see in this part of Australia, there are at least four museums I can think of, but this was the only one we made it to.  They are all spread pretty far apart and the entrance fees add up, so we picked what looked like the most suited to us and we are so glad we visited here.  The museum is about 20 km from Winton, a good portion of it is on a dirt road. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Look, dinosaur crossing!!  The museum is located at what they call a Jump-Up.  If you wanted to call it a mesa you wouldn’t be wrong. 🙂 Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? A museum tour has two parts to it: a tour of both the lab and the museum. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Outside the museum you are greeted by Banjo.  Doesn’t seem to friendly, does he?  He’s the most complete theropod skeleton found in Australia, his bones are on display inside. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Tickets include scheduled guided tours, so we headed to the laboratory first.  It was hot and dry but we survived that short walk, even though some of the kids wished we had driven it instead!  Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Just inside the door is a replica of Matilda’s leg.  That’s one very large dinosaur.  Matilda’s bones are on display in the museum, which we would tour later. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? A small waiting room contained some interesting things to look at, as well as a video playing and some kids’ activities (thank you!). Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? The tour through the laboratory was amazing, the tour guide was so full of information and communicated it so engagingly.  She told us that this part of Australia was covered in rainforest at one time.  This huge length of petrified wood they dug up is actually a branch.  Imagine how big that tree must have been! Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? The museum only sponsors digs for a few weeks each year.  (And regular non-palaeontologist people can join them!) From those digs they have over thirteen years’ worth of work ahead of them.  The area is so rich with fossils that they won’t be done anytime soon.  All of these boulder-looking things on shelves are rocks encased in plaster, all of them have fossils in them.  There are notes written on the plaster of what sort of fossil they think is inside. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? To protect the fossils they dig up the whole area, wrap it in alfoil, newspaper, burlap, and then plaster the whole thing. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Here’s one they have set aside for people to get a good look at and even touch. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? You could see the layers and layers surrounding the rock to protect the fossils. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? The tour guide told us the fascinating story of this meteorite.  In March 2004 there was a huge meteor that lit up the sky over Winton.  David Elliott, the founder of the museum, quizzed local residents about what they’d seen and where it was in the sky.  He made himself a map and a fancy tool to figure out the proper angle and narrowed it down to a certain section of his property.  It took two years but he finally stumbled across the large piece, I think she said his son found the smaller piece about a week later. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? By the time she was done with the story I was wondering how they could keep this here, wasn’t it valuable, didn’t it need better security?  Then she told us that these are replicas.  Phew.  I thought I heard her say one of the rocks was in the Queensland Museum, I can’t remember the story on the other.  I found this old news article that tells the story of the discovery. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Here’s an illustration of that prehistoric rainforest.  See the dinosaur in the middle of the picture?  See how giant those trees are next to him?  Hard to imagine. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? There were all kinds of interesting things in the cases, including fossils and petrified items.  This first one compares a dinosaur vertebra to a whale vertebra. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? They took us around to the lab side of the building where we could see people at work.  The really cool thing about this place is that you can come work with them.  Our tour guide showed us how the various tools worked.  They have to be so careful not to damage the fossils, it’s slow going. Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Here’s one of those plaster-covered rocks waiting over in the lab area.  ‘Big rock with bone!!’  Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? After we were done with our fabulous tour of the lab we headed back out into the sun for the walk back to the museum.  I took a detour along the way for a look at the view.  If you look closely you can see some tiny bits of colour at the top middle of this picture, those are the kids waving at me from the trail.  Age of Dinosaurs Museum | How May More Minutes? Wouldn’t you know my camera battery died after this last picture?  I usually have an extra one with me, but that one was flat too.  Bad planning, camera lady!  So disappointing, I would have loved some pictures in the museum. The tour of the museum was unique in that it contained actual dinosaur bones.  Not replicas.  They were laid out on tables and you could see exactly what bones were missing from the skeletons.  I was surprised at how complete the dinosaur skeletons were.   The first dinosaur they found is named Elliott, after the founder of the museum.  Mr. Elliott came across the fossils on his property and thus the dinosaur is named after him.  They have not yet published their work on this dinosaur, so although we could see its bones she couldn’t tell us much about it.  He’s the one in their logo, though, it seems they are very proud of him!  They did have both Banjo and Matilda on display, along with some fascinating animation of what those dinosaurs may have looked like in motion. When we returned to our caravan we found we’d been invaded by ants.  Teeny, tiny ants.  We’ve been lucky so far, but it finally happened in Winton.  They were everywhere.  Everywhere.  These particular ants are so tiny that they fit between the cabinet and the wall, so they can go anywhere in the van.  We spent quite a bit of time vacuuming up ants in every little corner.  We put talcum powder around the legs of the van and that kept them from coming in again.  Since then if we find ants near where we are parked we make sure to put down the talcum powder and we’ve been lucky not to have another invasion.  So far, anyway! [Side note: as I was trying to find information on the meteorite mentioned above I came across some news articles talking about a meteorite being stolen from the Crystal Caves in Atherton.  I don’t remember seeing a meteorite while we were there and the news mentions it being recently acquired.  The thieves broke the store window and went straight for it.  Ergh.]

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