i'm going to need a bigger quest (museum quest part 20)

Location: New Plymouth
Baskets Left: 2
i FINALLY managed to get rid of one of the artifact flax baskets for ms. rhonwyn! i might actually be able to pull the quest off!!!

rather than drag my heel claws, and lose this momentum while i have it (not to mention let whiro catch up to me!) i pushed on to my next destination almost halfway up the north island!

i arrived in the town of new plymouth fairly late in the evening... which i thought was going to be a problem, and not let me hit the museum there right away...

before any of that could come into play though i rather enjoyed the cool lighting around town.

the clock tower for example turns blue in the dark!

in fact a lot of the other statues and landmarks in new plymouth have really cool lighting. this is just one example. sadly the photos i took of many others didn't turn out...

having arrived after dark, and expecting everything in town to be closed i surrendered to the possibility of camping out in front of new plymouth's puke ariki museum until morning.

that is till i noticed, a moment after i pulled up to the parking lot, some people coming out of the place. as i got out to investigate i spotted something that would endure me to this place right away (though as you'll see there was a lot inside to reinforce my liking of it). it wasn't just a museum, but it was an information centre too!

that meant that it was still open until night, and as it was just late EVENING i was going to make it in... meaning this was a record day for my quest. not only did i make a clean sweep of location intensive wellington, but also now another town altogether!

like so much else around new plymouth the museum was cooly lite at night!

little did i expect the surprise waiting inside the pretty front entrance... puke ariki isn't a huge museum, but it mimics the design of most other larger new zealand museums very well. the kiwis like to build their museums on an open lobby design where the galleries entrances and exits all converge on a central open area.

puke ariki was no different. it was just one floor was all... the upper floor mind you, with the info centre/cafe/gift shop taking up the bottom floor... so it still felt like a big place.

walking inside i was greeted by a very scary but cool model hanging from the roof in the middle of the museum's lobby...

a GIANT shark, and based on my alright know how of prehistory there was no mistaking this killer fish. it HAD to be a megalodon!

which was sweet as... or should that be shark as ;p

i'd never seen a life sized restoration of one before, and it was an awesome one too boot!

so what is megalodon exactly...

well a giant shark obviously, but their a lot more interesting than just that...

to start off with these model is probably a great representation of a megalodon, and in person gives you an idea of just how massive this fish was... the kicker being the statue was only 10 metres long. a full grown megalodon grew to be anywhere between 13 to 17 metres long!

traditionally megalodon's were viewed to be nothing more than giant great white sharks, and part of the same family. these days there's doubt about this notion, and at best palaeontologists consider they might have a common ancestor very far back. most consider megalodon to simply have evolved similar teeth to great whites, a phenomenon called convergent evolution (that is where two unrelated animals evolve similar features due to similar lifestyles).

puke ariki's megalodon restoration captured this new view of perfectly. as you'll notice people of the web wide world, this statue is more "bull dogish" or blunt in its snout than a great white. though not necessarily what the megalodon looked like (we're not sure as i'll explain in a moment) this does differentiate it from the great white.

part of the reason we can't be sure if megalodon was related or looked like the great white is because we only have partial remains of it. sharks skeletons are mostly made of cartilage, and thus wouldn't survive long enough to become fossils 99.9% of the time. as of such what we get of megalodon are teeth, and in a few instances where we're lucky a few of the neck vertebrae.

megalodons lived 18 million to 1.5 million years ago during the miocene and early pliocene eras. during this time they were pretty wide spread throughout the world, and have been found in all sorts of places. europe, north america, south america, japan, africa, india, australia, and of course new zealand. in fact despite new zealand's poor fossil record of land based critters (like dinosaurs!) they have some of the best megalodon specimens in the world!

many of these come from the otago region around dunedin (though the best known shark is actually not a megalodon, but rather a new type of true giant great white! i saw its remains at the university geology museum last year). among the best megalodons from new zealand come from just outside of new plymouth for a place called hawera. here some exceptionally well per served vertebrae were found in the tangahoe formation. also recently teeth (typically what one finds first of this big shark) have also been found there.

sadly my photos of the megalodon fossils at puke ariki didn't turn out :(

okay i won't lie people of the innerweb despite figuring out it was a megalodon instantly... i didn't actually realize it was a statue megalodon right away... not that i screamed THAT loud. only the people on the bottom floor heard me...

after calming down from the shark shock i also noticed the rather large (and life size it would turn out) replica of a bird of some kind.

getting up to the top floor one of the first displays (for which the photos turned out anyways) were the fossils of calms.

you also got to eye level with megalodon. i don't care if its a statue and not real. those big black eyes staring at me freaked me right out again! one of megalodon's teeth are almost the length of my WHOLE head...

the other statue was that of a false toothed bird called pseudodontornis. here's a little bit about it.

if you look at the mouth of pseudodontornis you'll notice what look like teeth. these are not actual teeth, but sharp ridges formed by the beak itself to mimic the function of the teeth this bird and all others lost just after the cretaceous. due to this "beaktition" (see what i did there? i replaced the teeth of dentition with beak) pseudodontornis is known as a false-toothed bird.

these birds are exceptional rare elsewhere in the world with only two individuals having been found. one from the miocene of north america and one from the eocene of england. new zealand on the other hand, has had four major pseudodontornis finds, and a quite a few partial remains found as well.

pseudodontornis has been found in new zealand as long ago as the eocene and as recent as the mid-pliocene a time frame of some 45 MILLION years! these were some pretty long lasting flyers!

they also are the largest known sea birds of all time. though the new zealand specimens measure "mere" 4.5 metre wingspans the american one's wings spanned 6 whole metres! that's the size of most pterosaurs!

with those long wings they would have effortlessly glided above the ocean's surface scooping up fish and squid as they went. just like the modern giants of sea birds albatrosses.

so as far as cool post dinosaur fossils go this area of new zealand boasted two of the biggest in the world. sharks and sea birds. i was really digging the place, and i'd only just stepped in...

just across from the extinct critter side of the natural history "hall" (it was more a space than proper gallery) was a display on non-extinct animals.

including the skeleton of... for ONCE not a hector's dolphin but rather... a beaked whale. after seeing the display case full of beaked whale skulls at te papa it was cool to see the head attached to the rest of the body... even if this was only a small beaked whale.

though i'd seen the flippers of big whales many times on my wanderings through new zealand's many museums puke ariki had the fin of a, well, fin whale put up perfectly so you could compared just how big it was compared to you...

they also had a lot of vertebrae and other left over cetacean bits from whaling on display...

like all good new zealand museums they had a moa skeleton. it was a nice one, but i guess i'm spoiled when it comes to moa skeletons due to the otago's brilliant moa "hall".

they also had a display on new zealand's national symbol the kiwi. poor guys are super endangered. sad looking at a case full of dead ones (even if they were collected over 50 years ago).

than i ONCE again (just like at te papa) bumped into the display that brought me back to the realization that my quest wasn't all fun and whales...

i turned around right into the tuatara display. though i think these reptilian survivors of the KT extinction are cool... at moment due to the mythical element of my mission their really dangerous. in maori mythology these guys are the messengers of whiro, and as of such report stuff to him that they see. meaning i now had to leave the new plymouth area quick... so that i could keep whiro off my back.

they had a cool spheriod that kinda reminded me of a time machine. wouldn't that have been cool... as it turned out my wish wasn't as far off as you might have thought.

for on the other side of the sphere was the human history side of the museum. though not a true trip back in time it was neat seeing the stuff of old as always.

well okay except for the cannon... not going to lie people of the web wide world... after that incident with the cannon in wellington i wasn't too keen on the one here...

especially considering where this cannon was pointed! if it went off, let's just say i couldn't even begin to afford it if the concept of "you break you bought" was in effect here at puke ariki!

fortunately the kete o te wananga didn't act up, and this cannon didn't fire... but i still gave it a wide birth for the rest of my visit just to be sure...

there was a lot of cool maori stuff at the new plymouth museum...

the amount of detail in this carving for example made my tiny brain hurt.

that big winged thing on the roof is a maori kite... i had no idea they could make kites. that alone ones that big! i won't learn till auckland what they were used for...

more maori clubs... and in this case also rifles they acquired from the europeans.

of most interest though was the small greenstone carving in the lower right corner...

i'd seen these before (we have 2 at the otago it turns out when i checked it when i got back), but never really paid attention to them...

the puke ariki had dozens of them on display (i only posted these 2 great photos out of 13). these were tiki... a traditional maori type jewelry i was going to find out a lot about after the museum quest.

at the time though i didn't repeat the luck of te papa, but frankly that wasn't a surprise. i hadn't lost one of the baskets till than. why should i expect them all to disappear in a row?

due to my tuatara encounter here though i had to leave, and try to put some distance between me and new plymouth...

to be continued...

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