Wed 15 Dec 2010
Is this thing on?
It’s been a long time since my last post, but at least I have a good excuse: Every time I sat down to write a blog, a gigantic, prehistoric marsupial would come crashing through the marshlands and I would be forced snap my macbook shut and run for my life.
That’s right, boys and girls. I have spent the last six months of my life
Diprotodon was the largest of Australia’s ancient megafauna, and sort of resembled a gigantic wombat crossed with a rhinoceros. And THAT, my friends is why nature is amazing. I have since learned that I had no reason to fear my pursuer, because although it had the strength of 20 wombats, it only ate plants.
THRILL to this video clip of a band of Aboriginal hunters discovering the same thing:
Perhaps the interruptions of a persistent diprotodon were not actually the cause of my blogging hiatus, but the actual reasons are fairly prosaic, so let’s talk about MEGAFAUNA some more!
The diprotodon in the above picture is part of what I’m 98% certain must be the world’s only megafauna audio-animatronic diorama, in the Wonambi Fossil Centre at Naracoorte Caves National Park. (I know you’re shocked to learn that it’s a fabrication rather than flesh & blood!)
Naracoorte’s caves are World Heritage-listed because they’re home to vast amounts of fossils dating from Australia’s megafauna days, some of which are actually displayed in the caves.
(This doesn’t have much to do with megafauna, but it’s worth noting that some of the caves at Naracoorte have been tourist destinations for well over 100 years, so human history there as well. Plus: bats! They’re one of the few remaining roosts of the Bent Wing Bat, which we got to see exiting the caves en-masse at dusk. It was Chiropterrific!)
Parts of the Wonambi Fossil Centre had collapsed due to an insane amount of rain the week that my wife and I visited, but the back door was inconspicuously unlocked. We felt like we were sneaking in, even though we had paid for admission. Inside, we found ourselves walking through a diorama of a limestone swamp populated by shuffling, snorting robots sheathed in the hypothetical fur of ancient marsupial beasts.
The only review I’ve found of this place calls it underwhelming, but I found it to be as immersive and atmospheric as anything at Disneyland, and twice as educational. We had plenty of time to linger around, since no one else had found their way in when we were there, and the longer we looked at the diorama, the more detail there was to see.
I’m really fascinated by these long-gone creatures. It seems amazing that such strange incredible animals once roamed the same planet that we live on today. Knowing that animals like diprotodons and dinosaurs are no longer around makes the world seem a little more mundane.
And yet … megafauna still walk amongst us.
… and it turns out that extraordinary things are everywhere.