Back from the Badlands
Burgess Shale at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
The title of this entry is a paraphrase from H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, "...all which is forgotten need not necessarily be dead..." I believe the reverse sentiment to be more accurate and powerful, especially in the face of organisms from the Cambrian.
Once I began to feel that my drawing skills were approaching a professional level, I have found the creatures from the Cambrian to the Permian to hold a special fascination. As I have said in previous posts, I get shiver down my back when beholding an organism so strange and unusual, that we as binocular primates can look at and comprehend. This love is not religious and not dogmatic; it is the evolved primate rush of understanding. And when the object of that understanding is a five-eyed Opabinia (above, playing in the sponges) from 505 million years ago, I marvel.
I do not know how much time I have to write this. Even now, I hear the scratching at the door...a very Lovecraftian anomalocarid lurks in the gloom...The horror of the fluttering flapping thing! Those eyes!
Alright, enough glowy-eyed marvelling. The Royal Tyrrell Museum had enough pre-dinosaur fossils to keep me entertained for weeks. These photos are from their re-created chamber of Burgess Shale fauna, all 12 times life size. The room is dimly-lit, with spots, and the floor is partially transparent so you can see the trilobites trundling around the sea floor below you, competing with that poser-crustacean, marella.
The sounds of other patrons entering this room were a lot of fun. One couple, I would guess were in their seventies, were utterly fascinated. I noticed most people entering without reading about the Burgess Shale creatures on the information wall outside. Then they came in and encountered the truly strange.
In the photo above at right, you can see on the ocean floor a little mound with wings, wiwaxia. In Aquagenesis: the origin and evolution of life in the sea, author Richard Ellis says, "(wiwaxia) was not a snail, it was not an arthropod, it was not a worm. Like so many of the animals of the Burgess Shale, it was sui generis, and nothing like it has ever been seen again."
There is a beautifully to-scale recreation of a reef, in water that holds many people's gaze as they look at all the fish and cephalopods hidden in a natural setting. The folks at the Tyrrell have done a wonderful job of recreating the lushness of coral aquariums often found at the better zoos.
The Tyrrell Museum as a whole could easily take up a week of sight-seeing for an enthusiast. In my posts, I haven't even touched on the marvellous ceratopsians, the humid and lovely Cretaceous garden and waterfall, and so many other sights. The museum is heavy on information content, and does not dumb things down for the casual visitor. You can simply gawk, or you can read more and more to learn about the past. I desperately want to go back.
My apologies for the following if you are not a Lovecraft & Cthulhu fan.
The anomalocaris is once again scratching at the door...I do not know if this manuscript should be found, and if so, will the flapping mad thing chase down another trilobite? Will any being know of me in the fullness of time? The dark ages of oblivion yawn before me...