Canadian Giants

Canada. Majestic landscape, hockey, and as any New Yorker knows, (but doesn’t care to admit) the better side of Niagara Falls. And now as Vancouver plays host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, nightly we all learn more.

As a frequent traveler to the ‘Great White North’ I can offer advice on Canada, but I wonder if anyone shares the same interest as I do in Alberta – Dinosaurs.

As a child, I dreamed of dinosaurs. All through elementary school I knew almost everything about these colossal creatures. I mean everything: names, weights, diets, climates, and time periods. I even knew that the closest major excavation site was located in a place called Alberta. (Although I didn’t know where that was?)

Eventually, I learned the provinces of Canada and as my travels took me places, I decided to fulfill a childhood desire. I booked my flight to Calgary.

the stegosaurus walks ....

I landed in late spring snow flurries.  Still cold in May? Yes. But my friend Mary warmly greeted me at the airport (also saved me from immigration) and determined my childhood curiosity would be our first stop. I agreed.

We drove ninety minutes to Drumheller and arrived in ‘Dinosaur Town.’ Countless dinosaur replicas adorned every street corner. They advertised businesses, restaurants and the museum itself.  The once coal mining town now thrived upon the museum traffic.

At first glance, the Royal Tyrrell Museum didn’t seem “royal” at all. It reminded me of a mid-sized suburban high school, not the grandiose edifice I envisioned. After all, the 120,000 sq. feet museum is internationally recognized as one of the premier paleontology museums in the world.  But no matter, today was not about the sizzle but the steak itself. Plenty was promised inside.

As a visitor you travel through time. You walk the 3.5 billion year geological timeline in celebration of the diverse history of known life. With my interest in a certain few periods, my brisk pace catapulted through the eons.  Each step time changed, but I had not. My thoughts, the same as my childhood, “Where are the dinosaurs?

That quest continued until I reached the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (65-250 million years ago) and stood before the entrance to the grand hall.  Suddenly all my old elementary school friends greeted me: the flying reptile Pteranodon, the classic archenemies -Tyrannosaurus Rex faced off against Triceratops, the amour plated Stegosaurus, the local discovery Albertosauras, and many more. Close to forty fossils. All here. All amazing. All remembered.

Soaking in all the exhibits, reading each an every word time passed quickly. Closing time approached. But before exiting we decided to walk towards the excavation labs.  Apparently, each scientist on staff periodically works on the display floor to provide a Q&A for those inquisitive types. Yes. (a small fist pump)

still king of the jungle....

For the next twenty minutes I asked away. Excited by my interest he started talking even on Friday close to 5pm. We discussed the many new dinosaur discoveries in mainland China (second field trip?) and my childhood perceptions. But I am most thankful he confirmed that the T-Rex still seemed to be the king of the jungle. (second fist pump)

Then on the way out, I noticed a sign that revealed 1800 man-hours were performed on a small skeleton with another 2200 man-hours left.  Wow, two full man-years, before being displayed?   Seems like forever, but in comparison, I guess hardly a drop of water in the ocean of time.

Stay Adventurous, Craig

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  • Kirsten

    This may be one of your best posts, I keep coming back to it. For the way it captures the spirit of childhood dreams – both fulfilled [in your case] and unfulfilled it is terrific! The *fist pump* details anchor it because I think so many of us have done that in times of great excitement. And in general your narrative is just wonderful, I can picture all of it happening as if I were there! (and tis true…the Canada side of NF is better)

    • craig zabransky

      Thanks Kirsten, fulfilling childhood dreams is one of the best things one can ever do in life… well, it’s what I believe. Stay childish, Craig

  • Kasey

    I’m planning a trip to Canada, maybe in the summer to catch the jazz festival in Montreal. Thanks for the information and I look forward to reading more. Your descriptions are both poetic and inspiring!

    • craig zabransky

      Kasey, this was far form Montreal, but some day I’ll get to the Jazz Festival there and hopefully write about it on here too… thanks for commenting. stay inspired, Craig

  • Mary

    I remember the trip well, though couldn’t possibly describe it with as much flourish as you. Awesome documenting!! :)

    • craig zabransky

      Thanks Mary, and thanks for making my time in Calgary and especially Drumheller so magical. stay adventurous, Craig