I would’ve been the kid that fawned over dinosaurs. I take photographs of animals whenever time permits me, so if there were dinosaurs now—and in ethical captivity—I would have my camera with the strap looped around my neck, waiting for the moment an ornithomimus lifted its head from its grass feast.
When the Queensland Museum announced there would be a new dinosaur exhibit in town, Dinosaurs of Patagonia, frankly dear reader, I lost my shit.
My love for dinosaurs stretches back to when I was a kid. I never gave much thought to trucks, or wrestlers – unless I was making them kiss. But dinosaurs… if only we could rewind time. Little blonde-haired me would climb up the steep steps of the time machine and flick back the years to wander amongst gasparinisauras. For now, I had Dinosaurs of Patagonia. And no anxiety about being stew for a carnotaurus, because as far as I know, they could have mastered the art of French cooking without the need for thumbs.
*pictures Julia Child as a theropod in an overgrown outdoor kitchen*
Tickets are very reasonably priced to go to the exhibit and see what South America has to offer in the dinosaur department. We began our little tour with the eoraptor, poking their skeleton nose out at the millions of little kids that had such a fascination in dinosaurs that I did, and do. I overheard one child talking to their parents all about dinosaurs, but by now I’ve forgotten what they said. There’s an ever-present ticking in the back of my head over whether or not I want children, and having gone to the zoo on Monday, and this exhibit on Tuesday, I was waning on them once more.
The little eoraptor from the upper Triassic period—this wild Hunter of the Dawn, as the panel described his name to mean—stood very little chance of being the most impressive thing to catch my eye. It was one of the oldest, however, so I began by respecting my elders. Dinosaurs grew in size over the course of their evolution – much like humans, they seem like cocky creatures, determined to be the biggest, and the loudest. Truthfully, this only serves any kid obsessed with dinosaurs. Of course you want ginormous dinos with footprints the length of your body, or femur bones your height (6 foot), too.
When I saw the femur of the world’s largest known dinosaur, the patagotitan, I wanted to lie down beside it, measure myself against this one bone. It was discovered in Argentina and dated to be around 101 million years old. As I stood underneath the patagotitan skeleton, listening to those sounds echoing through the exhibit and trying to block out the screams of children, I saw myself way in the past. Almost getting trampled on – a much bigger worry than the ache in the front of my head. Or what I’ll do with myself once I graduate in a few months. It’s survival for the little guy underneath the mammoth footfalls of the patagotitan. I’ve never really connected a fascination with dinosaurs to a form of escape, but it makes sense. These are creatures that are extinct and long gone – from a time you cannot return to, however much you try.
Everything is humongous when you are a kid. In the whale mall, you stand underneath models of humpback whales that look fit to dive from the skies and gulp you down whole. I was walking underneath them while I waited for the museum to open. All I could think of was my childhood, visiting this museum with my mum. My parents jumpstarted my love of art, history, animals, and yes, dinosaurs. There was a miniseries I loved growing up called Prehistoric Park. It followed wildlife TV presenter Nigel Marven as he travelled back in time to rescue—or low-key kidnap—extinct animals for his wildlife park. He showcased the mammoth, the aforementioned ornithomimus, a triceratops or two, and every little boy’s favourite (probably) – the tyrannosaurus rex. Not mine, but I’m gay, so of course I’m different.
The further you wander through the exhibit, your attention is drawn from little one-metre-long dinosaurs like the eoraptor, to the shortest-necked dinosaur of any sauropod – the brachytrachelopan mesai. It was first discovered by a shepherd searching for his animals that had gotten lost.
Then you turn a corner and your jaw drops because they did say there was a truly massive dinosaur here, but in person, up close, nothing could have prepared you for the patagotitan.
But I’ve mentioned them already.
They’re beautiful, go see them.
(Respectfully I am not assuming the gender of the Patagotitan that looms overhead).
And I’m bigger now too, through my own evolution. This year, I turn twenty-three, and gone are the days of picking up a little figurine of a triceratops and plodding it around as if I had transformed from a little kid into the hand of a god. (I don’t believe in God though). It’s taken me longer than expected to graduate from university – I have anxiety, and then there was a pandemic, and I started getting headaches every day at the end of 2020, alongside frequent stomach pain. I also just made a few terrible decisions like not paying attention to my emails back when you needed to submit a form of interest for the university project you wanted to do, and choosing Film Studio at the beginning of 2022.
Of course, I’m no dinosaur myself. I have no grand plan to escape to the Cretaceous period and fling myself at every amargasaurus in an attempt to feel their cool sea-monster-esque mane of frills on the back of their neck. I don’t crave being a child again – but I cringe at the idea of the child inside me dying off, becoming extinct.
My eyes light up at the breadth of discoveries that are constantly being uncovered from the earth. The ground tells stories, the dirt reminds us that we were not here first, and more will come after us – or certainly after me. Being inconsequential scares me. But when I feel like the path ahead might be tarred with the unknown, I guess I can remember dinosaurs—that might never have had names—are now adored by little children. Names now gifted to them by the palaeontologists that just want to learn from them, millions of years later.
(My name’s Keeley Young though, and for now, at least I write).
Dinosaurs of Patagonia is now on at the Queensland Museum from the 17th of March until the 2nd of October. It is a ticketed exhibition on Level 3 of the museum, prices start at $15 for children. For more information, https://www.museum.qld.gov.au/queensland-museum/whats-on/dinosaurs-of-patagonia
Author: Keeley Young writes queer literature, fantasy fiction, poetry (sometimes), and emotion-focused work that he hopes makes people feel heard and seen, even just a little. You might be familiar with his work with ScratchThat from last year, where he wrote about cuddling with robots, communing with a dead gay lover, and summoning demons.
Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.
Editors: Kelly Rouzbehi and Euri Glenn