While Chicago’s beloved Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sue, prepares for her illustrious return next spring, the Field Museum of Natural History has gone above and beyond making sure us dinosaur fans stay committed. It began with the arrival of “Maximo,” a full-size cast of Patagotitan mayorum – the largest land animal ever discovered. Old Max has done a stellar job filling the spot once occupied by Sue in the museum’s immense Stanley Field Hall. He’s joined by some amazing flying reptiles (which I’ll be covering soon) and a special, temporary exhibit called “Antarctic Dinosaurs.” This often overlooked region for dinosaur discovery has produced some incredible finds, including prehistoric animals exclusive to the region. This exhibit not only highlights those creatures but the brave men and women who helped bring them to light – including some who paid with their lives.
Although I’d visited the museum earlier this year, it was almost like seeing it again for the first time. The presence of Maximo and the new pterosaurs gave the place a whole new look and an impressive one at that. After taking them all in, we made our way the special exhibit, also on the main floor. The fee for “Antarctic Dinosaurs” was $16, or as part of the museum’s $32 Discovery Pass. It was a bit steep for a dad and his three kids but, on the flip side, it wasn’t crowded and we had time to read the signage without being rushed.
Things began on a somber note as we read of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his ill-fated expedition back in 1912. Wanting to be the first to reach the South Pole, the team made it to their destination 34 days after someone else beat them to it. Even more tragic, they would all die in a blizzard on their way back. Found amongst their bodies, were numerous fossils they’d discovered. I wasn’t kidding when I said this exhibit gave me chills as one of the artifacts featured was a piece of the actual sled carrying those fossils when the team perished. We all love celebrating the fruits of dinosaur discoveries but how many of us stop and consider the hard work and sacrifices it takes to make some of these? This is something made abundantly clear in this exhibit.
Of course, Antarctica wasn’t always the frozen wasteland it is today. 335 million years ago it was part of a supercontinent called Pangea, before slowing breaking away and becoming Earth’s southernmost continent.
It’s hard to imagine it was ever a lush, green landscape or could be home to any animal outside of penguins. Indeed, many interesting creatures thrived here including Antarctosuchus – an amphibious creature the size of a modern-day crocodile.
The most notable part of this exhibit is a skeleton of Cryolophosaurus along with a full-size, living replica across from it.
Prior to this, most of my familiarity with the animal rested with CollectA’s model which, let me tell you, doesn’t do this dinosaur justice. Cryolophosaurus was much larger than I’d envisioned and formidable. I have no intention of purchasing this model so there’ll be no review of it outside this paragraph. I don’t care for the fact that it’s painted white as if Antarctica was as snowy back in the Jurassic as it is today. This version of the animal would no doubt starve to death as potential prey would see it coming a mile away looking like a STAR WARS tauntaun amongst green foliage.
Also nearby were replicas of what was sure to have been one of Cryolophosaurus’ top prey items, Sauropodomorphs.
Another member of the Sauropod family from Antarctica was Glacialisaurus.
The exhibit ended on a high note by featuring a mosasaur called Taniwhasaurus which once terrorized the waters of what is now Japan, New Zealand, and Antarctica. The skeleton was set up as if it were swimming with a lifelike artistic rendering on the wall behind it. Adding to the presentation was a special light effect to mimic reflecting water.
The gift shop featured some fun items including those aforementioned Cryolophosaurus models. There were other CollectA models too including a mosasaur but, thankfully, I already had that in lieu of those gift shop prices.
For dinosaur enthusiasts, this exhibit is worth the price; especially if you have the time to take in all the wonderful signage. This exhibit will be running in Chicago through January 6, 2019. Maximo and friends, however, are here to stay and will be covered soon. Once Sue returns, the Field Museum of Natural History will be a must-see for dinosaur fans!