Dinosaurs rampage through Halifax

By Adina Bresge

For a 67-million-year-old dinosaur, Sue is quite the diva. She travels in three 16 m tractor-trailers with a six-person entourage, packed into 40 Indiana-Jones-style crates, each numbered and inscribed.

Her detail took up most of Barrington Street when she arrived at the Discovery Centre Monday morning. It took the full day to unload the exhibit into the building.

It was an arrival befitting the pre-historic superstar.

At 12.8 m long and 3.66 m tall at the hips, Sue is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered.

This is her second visit to Nova Scotia, and the Discovery Centre website is counting down the seconds to her public unveiling on Jan. 23.

Zabrina Prescott, a paleontologist and visitor coordinator at the centre, says that Sue is unique because so much of her skeleton was preserved.

“She is about 90 per cent complete, which is incredible to think about,” Prescott said. “Most of the time when you find dinosaurs, you’ll find 20 per cent—sometimes less.”

The T. Rex is named for Sue Hendrickson, the fossil hunter who discovered the remains in 1990 on a ranch in South Dakota.

After an ownership dispute, Sue was put up for auction and purchased by the Field Museum in Chicago for $8.4 million US.

Chrome Apatasaurus skull at the Museum of Natual History, Halifax
Chrome Apatasaurus skull at the Museum of Natual History, Halifax

Exact replicas of the fossil have travelled to 57 cities in 12 countries and has attracted over 6.5 million visitors, according to the Field Museum. Sue visited Halifax’s Museum of Natural History in 2011.

The Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History opened its own dinosaur exhibit last week, Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas.

The exhibit, organized by the American Museum of Natural History, features fossils, models and interactive simulations to show how modern technology is changing the way we think about dinosaur biology.

“It’s perfectly timed, having Sue here,” said Zabrina Prescott, paleontologist and visitor experience co-ordinator at the Discovery Centre.

“The Nova Scotia Museum, that’s what there exhibit is about, going deeper than just the bones and looking at the science we use to study paleontology.”

Jeff Gray, a curator for the museum, says there is plenty of paleontological love to go around. With every exhibit, he is asked to account for “dino-hype,” but he still cannot explain the fascination.

“It has a bit of science fiction,” he said,  “It has a bit of hard, real science and discovery…that you go out and find these things and dig them up.”

He suspects blockbusters like Jurassic World and The Good Dinosaur may also have something to do with it.

Nina Brignell, mother of three-year-old Patrick, said it was The Land Before Time movies for her son.

Patrick points to the stegosaurus on his shirt as his favourite dinosaur.

The Discovery Centre gift shop has re-stocked its dinosaur section, already a top-seller, in anticipation of increased demand. Shopworker Cat McCluskey said the customers are “boys, girls, kids of all ages.”

Norman Wolfnell cut a deal with his seven-year-old son: If Lewis came to the exhibit, he could play on his phone before bed.

Wolfnell remembers seeing the dinosaur exhibit as a kid, and he wants to share that with his son.

Lewis Wolfnell, 7, tries to headbutt the Triceratops
Lewis Wolfnell, 7, tries to headbutt the Triceratops

“I find dinosaur exhibits make kids older, and old people seem young because they’re so excited,” Grey said. “It’s always nice having kids in the museum, because odds are, he’ll remember seeing a triceratops forever.”

Kids and adults alike can see both exhibits until May 8.