“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, April 2, 2011

Alberta's "Cretaceous Park"

While dinosaurs have been discovered from our chilling Arctic to the pounding surf of the Bay of  Fundy in Nova Scotia, nowhere are they more abundant than in the Badlands of Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.  This small area of 73 square kilometers has produced more than 250 dinosaur skeletons representing  36 different species, and another 84 species of vertebrates such as birds, crocodiles and pterosaurs. 
            The 120 vertical meters of Upper Cretaceous  [73 - 78 million years BP] sediments in the park were exposed by the meltwaters of retreating glaciers 12,000 - 14,000 years ago.  It was not until the 1850’s  as geologists explored the prairies for important resources like coal that they also discovered dinosaur bones.  As few scientists in Canada knew anything about the giant reptiles, first discovered in Europe during the 1820’s, our first specimens were sent to researchers in Europe and America. 
American Museum of Natural History Scow and crew on Red Deer River, Alberta Badalnds.

            By 1909,  dinosaur bone from Alberta attracted the attention of American dinosaur hunter Barnum Brown from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Brown and his crew started working on the Red Deer River the following year, and by 1912 they had set up camp within current park boundaries.  Brown’s impressive collections included complete skeletons of horned dinosaurs, plant-eating hadrosaurs, and the meat-eater Gorgosaurus.  Brown found so many dinosaurs that he sent them back to New York by the train boxcar load.  
Hauling crates of dinosaur specimens out by wagon, using a route which is now the main modern paved road into Dinosaur Provincial Park

            The number of dinosaurs leaving Canada in a single summer caused concern, but rather than banning foreign collectors, the Geological Survey of Canada hired its own team of dinosaur hunters in 1912 to collect for Canada, Charles Sternberg and his three sons.  This period of intense, but friendly, competition became known as the “Great Dinosaur Rush” [1912 - 1917].  Dinosaurs collected by the Sternbergs became the first to be put on display in Canada, where the skeletons fascinated the public, and contributed to dinosaurs remaining popular today. 

Modern Reprint of C. M. Sternberg's classic account of Hunting Dinosaurs in the Badlands of the Red deer River, Alberta, Canada

            This early work set the stage for more than 80 years of successful fossil collecting in the park, and led directly to the park being named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.  In 1987, the Government of Alberta acknowledged the significance of the park’s fossil deposits by building the research station and field laboratory of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Dinosaur Park, where researchers from around the world continue to study its overwhelming richness.