Auckland Museum has always been a favourite haunt of mine, but since one of their big upgrades a number of years ago, my new favourite gallery is (surprise, surprise) the paleontology hall; because…. Dinosaurs!
While it’s not exactly on the scale of the American or London natural history museums, being able to marvel at proper prehistoric monsters any time I want, without having to wait for a special travelling exhibition (which has only happened three times in my life – once with the ‘Firth Dinosaurs’ during the 1980’s, the second time with a Charles Darwin show, and the third time with a visit from Sue the T.rex), is a great feeling. And there’s a nice selection of stuff on display: the star attractions are a sprinting Hypsilophodon (a bipedal herbivorous dinosaur), a majestic Malawisaurus (an African sauropod) and the voracious Cryolophosaurus (a theropod from, believe it or not, Antarctica!); mounted next to one another on a big ol’ podium in the centre of the room.
Around them are a variety of other beastly beasts – a flying Pteranodon and a marine reptile, Mosasaurus, hang from the ceiling; while mock-ups of some British Plesiosaur and Icthyosaur skeletons (hold-overs from the old-school, 1980’s or older version of the paleontology hall) decorate the walls; other marine fossils strut their stuff behind glass; and a giant display case showcases all the different species of Moa (an extinct flightless bird found only in New Zealand).
Next to the dino-rotunda is a nice little display on NZ’s own dinosaur faunas, with a painted mural, models of the types of creatures that we know hung out on local street corners back in the Cretaceous, and casts of the (pretty scanty) fossil evidence of their existence. The other fossil displays – such as the Mosasaur and Plesiosaur – tie into the New Zealand theme as well, as we have scroodles of endemic marine fossil species that we can lay claim to. All in all, it’s a nifty place to spend a drab Saturday morning. Come to think of it, I haven’t been in a while – where did I put that bus timetable….?