“I couldn’t help it. I happen to have been born to do it.

I am sure that I would have been a rotten failure doing anything else.”

~ Ends Of The Earth ~

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hunting Dinosaurs ~ Part 2

 Spring Snow Storm.  Field Season 2010.  Photo by P. J. Currie 

Dinosaur research in North America during the 1930’s - 40’s, was severely hampered, but a few like Edwin Colbert managed to keep on digging.  Colbert’s two autobiographies, A Fossil Hunter’s Notebook, and Digging Into The Past, are a captivating record of his life and the profession between the time of the Wright Brother’s first flight and the modern Laptop computer. His  professional career began
  as the personal assistant of Henry Fairfield Osborn, who knew Charles Darwin, and spans an important period of  paleontological research history, that includes his own startling discoveries in Antarctica. Colbert wrote many books on dinosaurs, but it is the unassuming story of his own life that is the most fascinating.

            Despite these many earlier efforts, the method of reproduction in dinosaurs was poorly understood.  Although dinosaur eggs had been found at least as early as 1923,  evidence of babies was exceedingly rare.  In Digging Dinosaurs, John Horner and James Gorman,  provide an enjoyable personal account of the first major discovery of baby dinosaurs.  

Beginning with a chance discovery of fragments in a rock-shop, Horner and his team searched the  Montana badlands for several years before discovering the source.   The story is one of perseverance, human tragedy, frustration, and in the end, success.  Digging Dinosaurs provides a window into the life of the modern dinosaur hunter, who despite computers, GPS units, and four-wheel drive vehicles, must still endure long months  searching on foot, and more often, on hand and knee. 
            Horner used these remarkable discoveries to advance his own radical notions about dinosaur ecology, and these new ideas caused paleontologists to seriously review old theories.  While many scientists were supportive of Horner’s ideas,  some decidedly not, the discoveries caught the public’s attention around the world.  Ultimately, Digging Dinosaurs shows that dinosaur paleontology is still very much alive, and in a state of constant change as new evidence is found to support or defeat previously held ideas.          
            Dinosaur hunters  like Philip Currie, Dale Russell, and Peter Dodson are still traveling the globe, excavating new specimens, and publishing important  research that  expands our knowledge of the dinosaurs.  At present they are too involved with the task at hand to reflect on their own accomplishments.  We can only encourage their work, and trust that they too will take time to record their lives spent in the shadow of  dinosaurs.

Autobiographical accounts have also been written by dinosaur paleontologists from Europe and Asia, unfortunately many of these works are not yet available in English. Additionally, there are accounts by paleontologists not involved with dinosaur research that are equally worthy of  reading and collecting.

Brown, LilianI Married A Dinosaur.  NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1950.

Bring ‘Em Back Petrified.  London: The Adventurer’s Club, 1958

Colbert, Edwin HA Fossil Hunter’s Notebook: My Life with Dinosaurs and other          Friends.  NY: E. P. Dutton, 1980.

Digging Into The Past: An Autobiography.  NY: Dembner Books, 1989.

Grady, WayneThe Dinosaur Project: The Story of the Greatest Dinosaur Expedition      Ever Mounted.  Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1993.

Horner, John RDigging Dinosaurs: The Search that Unraveled the Mystery of Baby     Dinosaurs.  With James Gorman.  NY: Workman Publishing, 1988.

Kielan-Jaworowska, ZofiaHunting For Dinosaurs.  Mass.: MIT Press,            1969.  [Originally published in Poland as: Polowanie na Dinozaury.]

Novacek, Michael JDinosaurs Of The Flaming Cliffs: The Thrilling Account of one of   the Largest Dinosaur Expeditions of the 20th Century by the Expedition Leader.      NY: Doubleday, 1996.

Parkinson, JohnThe Dinosaur In East Africa: An Account of the Giant Reptile Beds of   Tendaguru, Tanganyika Territory.  London: H. F. & G. Witherby, 1930.

Sternberg, Charles HThe Life Of A Fossil Hunter.  NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1909.
            [500 copies privately printed.]

Hunting Dinosaurs  In the Badlands Of  The Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada
            Kansas: World  Company Press, 1917.
            [500 copies privately printed.] 

Letters Home from the Bone Camps.  Annals of a Field Museum Paleontologist.  Argentina and Bolivia, 1926 - 27.  Original Letters and Photos by Robert C. Thorne.  Privately Published.  1995 

Dinosaurios en la Patagonia.  By Rodolfo A. Coria.  Rumbo Sur, Editorial Sudamericana.  
Undated Circa 2003.

Hunting Extinct Animals in the Patagonian Pampas.  By Frederic Brewster Loomis.  
Dodd, Mead and Company.  1913 

Dinosaur Impressions.  Postcards from a Paleontologist.  By Philippe Taquet.  Translated by Kevin Padian.  Cambridge University Press.  1998.