The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum

July 20, 2019 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Australia, heritage, History, Nature, Pre-history, The Red Centre | 14 Comments
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Today, we went to the Australian Age of Dinosaur Museum, part of the Dinosaur Trail. Many people do not realise that quite a number of dinosaur fossils have been found in several parts of Australia, with the major area being the plains of Central and Western Queensland. The museum is built on a mesa, about 15 km out of Winton. The driving force behind the establishment of the museum was David Elliott, a local pastoralist who became interested in and started collecting dinosaur fossils. He became the go-to man for any other local who discovered fossils on their property. This link will take you to a site with lots of information on the museum and its beginnings.

 

Banjo the dinosaur re-sized

‘Banjo’ the dinosaur, Australovenator wintonensis at the entry to the museum

 

The whole museum is great. Our $50 each gave entry us to three different experiences. The first was Preparation labs, where fossils are stored, and where volunteers help to release the fragile fossils from their matrix. Anyone can take a 10-day training course at the museum for a fee, and then join the volunteer team. There is a reproduction of the front leg of one of the dinosaurs they’ve found, a sauropod they call Matilda – a huge plant-eater, the largest dinosaur found in Australia. It stands next to the doorway and stands almost 3 metres high!

 

Matilda for size re-sized

‘Matilda’, next to a woman reporter for size

 

 

Dirk & fossil store re-sized

Hubby in the Prep area next to part of the racks of fossils that are waiting to be set free

 

Conservators re-sized

Some of the volunteer conservators working on fossils

 

The next experience was part video & part talk about three of the dinosaurs, and we were able to see the actual fossils that are displayed in a room at the main centre. I can’t show the actual fossils, as the room was quite dark & we couldn’t use flashes on our camera. One of them was ‘Alex’ Diamantinasaurus matildae, a large sauropod somewhat smaller than ‘Matilda’. They have quite a few marine fossils there too, but they came from places farther north where the marine layer is now eroded enough to find them.

The third experience was an electric trolley ride out to the Gorge Outpost, a couple of km from the main centre.

 

Shuttle trolley re-sized

The shuttle trolley we went on

 

There is a walkway next to the gorge with plaques with info on various dinosaurs, and a reproduction of a bog with dinosaur bones on the surface.

 

Billabong fossilsre-sized

Reproduction of a dried swamp with dinosaur bones

 

There were many opportunities to photograph the differences between the “Jump-up”, or mesa, on which the centre was built, and the surrounding flat plains which extend for many kilometres in every direction.

 

The plains re-sized

Looking across to the plains from the mesa

 

Gorge re-sized

Part of the gorge with ghost gums

 

There were also bronze pterosaurs sitting on a rock by their ‘nest’, and the various dinosaurs involved in the stampede that we saw the footprints of yesterday at Lark Quarry. It was all really well done. We were impressed.

 

Dinosaur chasing2 re-sized

The small therapods and ornithopodsdinosaurs flee from the carnivorous Australovenator wintonensis

Dinosaurs being chased re-sized

The gorge itself, whilst small, is beautiful. It clearly shows how the erosion of softer sandstone below gradually undermines the extremely hard ironstone cap on the surface of the mesa. The top eventually cracks and falls away, leaving boulders on the slopes.

 

Undercut re-sized

The hard cap of the mesa being gradually undermined by erosion of the softer stone beneath it

 

Rocks & plains re-sized

Ironstone boulders scattered on the slopes

 

If you love dinosaurs, the dinosaur museum is a great introduction to our Australian natives. In Winton, the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, you will find other sources of information. An especially evocative sight is at the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede, which I will blog about when I get the chance.

 

(c) Linda Visman

Photos by Linda Visman

 

Those Cotton-pickin’ Multinationals!

July 12, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Australia, Destroying nature, Farming, Nature, Politics, Social Responsibility | 6 Comments
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We are on a four-week trip through western New South Wales and Queensland in our little Toyota HiAce camper. Currently, we are at Maraboon Lake caravan park near the town of Emerald in Central Queensland.

Van at Lake Maraboon Xsmall

Our van with the washing hanging out

As I was waiting for a washing machine to become available, I looked out over the lake, said to be the size of three Sydney Harbours, and noticed how low the water was. It was clear from the bare ground on my side and on the opposite shore that there is only a fraction of the volume it should have – and that was after good rains to the north that should have filled it.

Lake Maraboon Xsmall

Lake Maraboon – the bottom of the boat ramp is about 25 metres back up the slope.

Another camper came to get her washing from the machines and we got talking. She said the water was noticeably down from when she was here last year, and that it is at only 15% of capacity now (it is officially at 18.2%). It is no wonder the park – and probably the town of Emerald too – is under severe restrictions on water use.

 

I mentioned the large cotton farm to the east of Emerald that we had passed on our way here yesterday and how stupid it is to grow cotton in such dry country. She agreed. “It’s not even a food crop”, she said, “and they’ll export it all to make cotton clothing in Bangladesh. Then we’ll have to import the finished products as we don’t have a clothing industry any more.”

 

Cotton near Emerald July 11. 2019 Xsmall

This photo was taken at a distance. Those yellow-wrapped cotton bales are huge!

I could only agree that it is all so terribly wrong stupid. Exporting cotton is, in reality, exporting our scarce and valuable water. All the profits will go overseas and we will just be left with the costs, which are huge. Unemployment, and loss of national and local income to the multinationals who don’t even pay tax on their profits but get subsidies instead. Even worse, much worse, is the cost to the environment and our surface and artesian water systems.

It has been a while since I drove over the dry Hay plains in western NSW, but the woman I was speaking with had been there recently. She said that the plains are now a sea of huge cotton farms with similarly huge dams that take the water from the Murrumbidgee River. No wonder the whole Murray-Darling river system, which drains much of north-western Queensland and NSW and of which the Murrumbidgee is part, is in dire straits.

Riverine water levels are terribly low, millions of fish have died, and whole towns have been left without a water supply, and all because of the billions of litres that go to irrigate the cotton fields. Check this article.

The cotton growers say it isn’t their fault, that they are farming sustainably [HAH!]. Governments, both state and federal, allow this destruction to continue, even promote it, and then cover up the extent of the damage to the environment.

As long as the multinationals are allowed to plunder this country for their own benefit and at the expense of the environment, and as long as our weak and venial governments allow this to happen, in order to get political power, our land, then our water, our wildlife and our people have little chance of surviving, especially in the current situation of climate change.

Cotton near Emerald July small

These cotton bales are about two metres in diameter, and there were hundreds of them

When will we ever learn?

 

(c) Photos by Dirk & Linda Visman

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