Te Papa: the mission (museum quest part 19)

Location: Te Papa Museum, Wellington
Baskets Left: 3

well after spending the WHOLE afternoon wandering aimlessly around the very non linear inside of new zealand's national museum te papa i'd seen it all...

it was a lot of fun, and one of the best museum's i've ever seen. yet i was here for the job ms. rhonwyn sent me on. the flax artifacts hadn't done anything yet... despite my hopes of their earlier acting up with the cannon in the botanic garden being evidence that they finally got enough mana exposure in wellington... they hadn't done anything anywhere in the museum.

making me panic a little, i'd accidentally wandered into full view of the tuatara display in the geology hall. now though tuatara's are far from scary or dangerous, in fact their quite cute, this caused me quite the frieght. i remember reading at the southland museum that the tuatara was the maori god whiro's messanger on earth... whiro didn't manage to track me down till after i'd visited the southland museum, which was packed full of tuatara's...

meaning he might very easily get back on my tail now that i'd stupidly shown off my intentions here on the north island...

little did i realize the most extrordinary thing was going to happen on my way out of the museum...

on my initial tour of the museum on the top floor i'd accidentally stumbled into "someone" while stupidly not watching where i was going... museums should have automated floors so you don't have to worry about watching where you're going, and you can just look at all the cool stuff inside them!...

going to yell at the guy who "ran" into me so hard i was shocked to come face to face with a maori style carving...

the top floor of the te papa is a world famous marae. or in other words maori meeting hall. in maori culture these places were very important to the function and runnig of communities and tribes (iwi in maori... i'm picking some of it up).

this was a modern one. covered in amazing modern style (ancient maori couldn't have produced them if they wanted) carvings and statues provided by many of the iwi of the whole country.

i'm sure for a normal visitor this is quite the spectacle to see... for me it was horrifying.

don't get me wrong people of the web wide world. i was really impressed, and this was an amazing piece of art/culture.

at the same time it was also showcasing all the potential gods and entities that could be after me and these baskets... there was just SO many of them!!!

the whole thing was covered with gods, demi-gods, and atau coming off the surface...

though looking back on the pictures now they were neat as... but at the time with the kete o te wananga, the vessels of all maori magic, in my hot little pocket it was scary to look at all the potential stalkers and hunters who could be after me...

imagine these guys above alive. they didn't look so friendly to me.

these guys had a hint of sinisternous despite their sort of helpless look.

there was so many of them they just piled up literally on each other.

there were even taniwha, maori monsters, in the mix!

some of them were clearly evil, and their statue representations freaked me out enough on their own!

i was startled turning around and seeing a familiar "face"... whiro!!!

it was only a momentary freight fortunately. this whiro wasn't the greenstone i'd come to "know". it confirmed though that if whiro was in these ranks, that any of the others could potentially show up out of legend and try to get me, and the baskets...

oh right. i started this post about my leaving te papa!

well after seeing the various atau of the marae i decided to skip this room during the rest of my time at te papa. which was easy enough. it is one of the few easy to find and understand places in the museum. its the top level. period! the majority of everything else is below it so if i stuck to those than i couldn't go wrong.

by the time i'd finished spending the whole afternoon wandering the museum, and it was practically closing time, and they gave the 10 minute warning. i decided on one last run (almost literally...) through the place just to make sure. i knew that if the baskets were going to do something it would have to be te papa...

i figured i'd start from the top and work my way down as it'd be harder for them to kick me out the further i was from the entrance.

i'm glad i did it that way...

the instant i got to the top of the BIG stair case i suddenly got dizzy. a common thing to happen i've been finding with mystical occurrences!

like the cannon misfiring incident and the whale at kaikoura my shirt pocket suddenly heated up to a million degrees (at least it felt that way okay!)...

before i know what was happening one of the kete baskets floated... at least that what it looked like. it felt to me like it lept... out of my pocket and up towards the marae!!!

a million questions went through my peanut sized brain... was this a good thing? were the statues coming to life, and this another trap? should i be scarred? how was the basket floating? what is the square root of 13 346? what should i have for dinner?

fortunately all this mental activity ate up my brain's processing power, and i didn't actually react... had i, i might have interupted the big event... which is good as it turns out there was enough nearly going wrong at the time...

a security guard starting to herd people towards the exit for closing time had snuck up behind me. i think he'd been saying something to me, but i'd failed to notice on account of the mystical situation unfolding in my pocket... er airspace... anyways

suddenly there was a big strong hand on my shoulder. "sir, you have to leave!" he said as though i'd deliberately ignored him... uh i guess i did, but not how he thought anyway.

i snapped out of worrying thought, and into battle mode. last time a civilian (okay person not involved in my quest... which is everyone on the planet minus ms. rhonwyn) got between me and the baskets the reaction had failed...

without turning around... i wasn't sure if eye contact on the basket was a factor or not... tried to stall him. "one second," i paused of course for no reason, but i made it sound like i had one!

ten seconds later after letting the silence linger into an obvious brush off on my part. "sir i don't want to have to ask again," his forced politeness was wearing thin. i must have missed him in here a lot longer than i'd thought.

"it's just i noticed..." i again drew off as annoyingly as i could. trying to buy precious seconds.

again the guard politely waited hoping for me to explain my clearly rule breaking behaviour. mental note to self this guy was a good at his job. i'm going to have to a lesson from him here for my guarding at the otago.

"you'll have to come back and look at it tomorrow sir..." he began to say when he suddenly figured out what i was looking at. "is that hovering?"he said almost to himself.

before the poor guy could really grasp or ponder the sight before him, 'it' happened.

suddenly the magical tingle turned into a pulse... it was like my heart had become a hydro-pump and my blood was now pulsing my WHOLE body. only it wasn't my heart or blood involved. it's hard to describe...

at the same time the whole room lite up with magic, and the basket dissolved into... well thin air. it just wasn't there anymore. which i guess was the point of the exercise...

the guard saw something, but i'm not sure what. from what i understand normal humans (and dinosaurs for that matter) don't see magical energy like this. "did you just... see that?!?" the poor security guard pleaded with me for an answer. i didn't give him one of course.

i just savoured the immense satisfaction of victory! i'd travelled just over half of new zealand, and FINALLY i'd accomplished 1/3 my mission.

sure i still had more than half of my cargo left, but it didn't matter. they could be disposed of, and there was a purpose to what i was doing. more to the point there was one less thing i had to worry about whiro or other maori deities getting their hands on!

this museum quest was suddenly looking all the easier...

Location: Te Papa Museum

Baskets Left: 2!!!

to be continued!

Te Papa: geology hall

Location: Te Papa Museum
Gallery: Geology
well after wandering te papa for nearly 5 hours, going through its maze like layout multiple times, i FINALLY found the hall i was most interested in seeing... the geology hall.

as though to mock me for not finding it... exhausted from my DAY long wandering the botanic garden, the beehive, city and sea museum, and than finally checking out all of te papa... i enter the geo hall a little on the tired side to be confronted by this giant maori statue.

don't get me wrong he's cool, and drives home the maori people's respect and recognition of the geologic forces of new zealand. at the same time when you consider the things i've seen and run into during this museum quest you can understand why i wasn't happy to run into this guy RIGHT inside the entrance!

i of course thought it was real and nearly passed out... fortunately he didn't move or turn out to be alive... still not a fun intro to the place. especially after i spent so long looking for it!!!
the highlight of this hall was of course the mesozoic new zealand display case. i've already posted about the dinosaurs within, and explained this pterosaur model. i just included a few new pics because it is such a nice pterosaur sculpt and i figured i put the dinosaur display in context for you people of the innerweb if you visit te papa. that way when you visit you don't spend all day looking for the display too!!!

again i just liked this statue of new zealand's probable anhanguerid i snapped a few photos of it!
a lovely nearly completely complete prognathodon overtoni skull.
cool as, but thinking about him alive makes me scared to go swimming!
another awesome specimen is a complete skull of tuarangisaurus keysi, an elasmosaur unique to new zealand (again they may not have a lot of dinosaurs down here but they've got TONS of marine reptiles!).

both the prognathodon and this tuarangisaurus are from the late cretaceous though we're not sure if from the campanian or maastrichtian.

i'm not PALAEO facting about these two at moment because i've got a HUGE one coming about all of new zealand's marine reptiles coming in relation to events that happened after the museum quest...
new zealand as i've been seeing throughout the museum quest has tons of ammonite fossils. te papa had a great sampling of these, plus a modern nautilus to compare them too.
they also had a cast of new zealand's largest ammonite. i'd see the real fossil soon...

of course the display of ancient new zealand won't be complete without a moa skeleton. this was one of the smaller known moa species.

they also have in this hall yet another amazing moa statue (the others being in the blood earth fire gallery) in here. with all the moa-ness in the te papa i was beginning to wonder if they beat us at the otago for the most moa-tastic museum of new zealand.

you'll also note the haast eagle attacking this poor moa. that new zealand was the world's largest known bird of prey. it was flying the kiwi skies until just a few hundred years ago... kinda makes me realize moving here to new zealand (the land of birds) due to its lack of dinosaurs may not have been such good reasoning. granted i'm thinking outside the cube here people of the innerweb...

than came a display case which brought home the fact i'd been lallygagging around the te papa all afternoon... turning around there was a tuatara. now don't get me wrong people of the innerweb. i think these fellow survivors of the mesozoic are cool...

however as in maori mythology and legend these reptiles are the messangers of whiro in the mortal world i could have been in trouble. i think part of the reason whiro was able to track me down on the south island was due to the tuataras in invercargill... here i was right in front of this one. flax baskets in pocket...

i needed to hit the road, and quick. whiro would no doubt figure out a way to get to the north island sooner or later... i was sadly willing to put money on later.


Te Papa: new zealand DINOSAURS!!!

Location: Te Papa Museum
Gallery: Geology

alright so after a few go throughs of te papa, due to its crazy confusing interior, i finally found the display of displays in new zealand!!! ... as a quick side note it took me forever to find it. i missed the tiny entrance to the hall 4 times in a row!!!. this was the thing i wanted to see the most (other than the flax baskets i'm carrying disappearing anyway), and due to the te papa's labyrinth like interior i nearly missed it all together... anyways what was i saying again?

oh yeah! the display of displays in new zealand...

new zealand's dinosaurs!!!

now before you get overly excited people of the innerweb i need to warn you as cool as we dinosaurs can be in a museum this wasn't the most spectacular dinosaur display i'd ever seen...

remember i moved to the south island of new zealand due to its lack of dinosaurs. both fossil and or those surviving into the present. though the north island has produced a few dinosaurs i won't say their exactly in a position to make me look pathetic in comparison (unlike the bigger not stunted in growth dinos of canada!)...

you see all the dinosaurs of new zealand fit into a SINGLE display case! now looking at this picture you might think they at least have one big fancy skull. not exactly, that's a marine reptile skull. they've got plenty of great marine reptiles (though my museum has the best in the country!!!), but dinosaurs they, well, come up a little short...

you see those three single bones just behind the glint at the bottom of the photo (sorry about that. te papa has very un photo friendly lighting)... those are HALF of new zealand's dinosaur bones right there, and to be honest their probably the most impressive of the lot!!!

i wouldn't see ALL of new zealand's dinosaurs till much later in my museum quest across new zealand, but this was my first taste of my kinds kiwi heritage. which can only be relayed to you one way...

alright so despite the fact this Palaeo FACT! (TM ;p) is about three totally different dinosaurs i've combined them into one fact, because despite their differences they have one thing in common...

we know next to nothing about them other than they were dinosaurs, and they lived in new zealand...

you see here in this much better photo the remains. this is it people of the innerweb... te papa, the crown of new zealand museum's has exactly three bones (representing just over half of NZ's total dinosaur types!)...

a quick side note these were the actual bones from what i could tell, and not casts...

each bone is the only fossil representative of its owner known. no other bones of any of these animals were discovered articulated or otherwise (articulated being a fancy term for bones fitting together as they were in the skeleton when the animal was alive).

this means that little can be told about these animals or what prehistoric new zealand was like on the land. yet despite this they were still a huge find as up until their discovery in the late 1970's it was thought that new zealand didn't have any dinosaurs due to the countries landmass mostly being underwater (i'll be doing a PALAEO Fact post on new zealand's geology and history later). these dinosaur's discovery not only changed that view, but also gives us the knowledge that despite their being no details known there is a ton we need to look for and find!

so though i have no specifics to relay to you, due again to their not being findable at moment, here's the general new zealand dinosaur types on display at te papa (Production Note: Stay tuned to The Tyrannosaur Chronicles as there's a follow up coming on the rest of NZ's dinos once Traum gets to the Auckland museum which had casts of ALL NZ's dinosaur bones!).

all the dinosaurs at te papa were found on mainland new zealand at the same site in the hawkes bay region (the mangahouanga stream for you real keeners out there ;p ) on the north island. more dinosaur remains have been found on the kiwi owned chatham islands, but these bones are currently being held at an australian museum.

they are all from the late cretaceous period, though an exact date hasn't been determined yet, somewhere between 83 and 65 million years ago (or for you technical innerwebbers somewhere in the campanian or maastrichtian stages). this means that they are among the last of the dinosaurs to exist (not necessarily the last of the LAST mind you, but just the last if you look at the overall 150 MILLION year run we dinosaurs had on earth!!!).

among these are were a:

Large Theropod

(Production Note: Art by Peter Bond)

new zealand's first confirmed dinosaur type was definitely a larger theropod (that's sciency for meat eating dinosaur). however as it known from only a single toe bone... which when i looked it up in a book was a phalanx of the pedal digit III. due to my brain being so small i understood the toe bone part!... we can't really for sure what kind of theropod for sure...

comparison of this toe with that of other meating dinosaurs tells us this one was likely 11-12 metres long.

a lot of guesses have been thrown around though as to what type of theropod it was. immediately due to the features of the toe, and the fact it is from the far southern hemisphere, it was almost certainly not one of my relatives the coelurosaurs.

due to similarities between it and the toes of the famous allosaurus some have claimed it is from a long surviving member of this otherwise extinct, by the cretaceous, theropod group (a similar bone in australia gets the same thing said about it).

a lot of the books i got out of the library refer to it as a megalosaur. these books are a little old now though, and i read on some of the awesome blogs out there like raptor's nest that the megalosaurs aren't such a good way to classify primitive theropods anymore. that and most "megalosaurs" lived in the jurassic which was way before the late cretaceous it is really not likely any of them would have survived unevolved that long.

instead, and i'm just using what i know people of the web wide world to suggest this, which to be fair is from a peanut sized brain... this could make it either a carcharodontosaurid or a abelisaurid. both of these were definitely existing types of theropods that late into the cretaceous, close relatives and decedents of the older book's proposed relatives (and i note not as understood families when the books were written), and most important the dominant theropods throughout the rest of the prehistorically known southern hemisphere at that time!


(Production Note: Art by Peter Bond)

known from only a fragment of a rib. the 40 cm piece probably came from a metre long bone, but due to this being the middle chunk all the important identifying characters on either end are missing to compare it to known sauropod groups. scientists estimate based on this metre long rib it was an animal 10-12 metres long, but this is just a guess based on the tiny snapshot of the animal.

based on what we know of late cretaceous sauropods this means it would have to be a titanosaur. this fits as my books again written a while ago refer to it as either a brachiosaurid or camarosaurid which we now know were ancestors of the titanosaurs...

Medium Theropod

(Production Note: Art by Peter Bond)

a broken tail vertebrae is the last of te papa's dinosaur fossils. this is believed to be from a 4 metre long theropod, but because it is so broken it can't be completely ruled out as a ornithopod.

now the reason for the awesome dromaeosaur (a close relative of mine!) drawing is that an articulated dromaeosaur hand was found in "new zealand", but it was found on one of the chatham islands... researching further i discovered the chatham islands' dinosaurs not being on display in new zealand. so sadly my rather talented himself talent agent peter bond drew this guy for me sort of for nothing on this post as i mistaken thought this vertabrae was from it (don't i have the best agent or what?!?). on the bright side due to the bad shape this bone is in no one can say it definitely wasn't a raptor either.

(Production Note:

Traum's References:

Te Papa display information.

Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand, and Other Animals of the Mesozoic by John A. Long. 1998

Prehistoric Animals of New Zealand by Geoffrey J. Cox. 1991

Prehistoric New Zealand by Graeme Stevens. 1988

A lot of initial background information and research was from a number less technical popular books. These were found to have gathered most of their information from Geoffrey Cox's book

okay so WHY is new zealand's dinosaur record so poor?

a lot of it has to do with the overall geologic history of the country which i haven't finished wrapping my brain around, but i promise to get a Palaeo FACT up for soon.

looking at the one site that has so far actually produced dinosaurs (again the only one on mainland new zealand to do so!) we get an immediate answer...

the reason the bones are both isolated and mostly in bad shape is due to the environment they were being deposited and fossilized in!

this prognathodon overtoni , mosasaur skull is one of many marine reptiles found at the same site as the dinosaur bones. that's the clue... before i tell you the answer to what the environment was (i'm sure you've guessed it by now) i promise that very soon i'll be doing a good overview of new zealand's marine reptiles due to the recent events going on in my life in the post museum quest era...

the mosasaur skull along with the other many marine reptiles tell us right away that this site is an old marine environment. confirming this guess you no doubt made people of the innerweb, is the fact the rock their found in is all oceanic sediment.

so yup that's right, the only dinosaurs we have gotten from new zealand were those pieces of them that washed out into the ocean from the land... meaning that they were moved a long way from where they first came from, and probably took a bit of time to do so...

this explains why these bones are by themselves without the rest of their owner around, and in such bad shape. more to the point it tells us not to expect any good articulated (all together) skeletons to be found here. it is very unlikely a whole dinosaur body would wash out to sea without being toren to pieces and decomposed by both the elements and predators of the water.

(Production Note:

Traum's References

Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand, and Other Animals of the Mesozoic by John A. Long. 1998

Prehistoric New Zealand by Graeme Stevens. 1988)

on the other side of the small mesezoic display case is another amazing piece of new zealand's prehistory. if you ask me, one that is just a "little' astounding to be here considering how few dinosaur fossils made it though deep time...

it's just a simple bit of bone (i'm next to certain this was the real bone and not a cast on display)...

this little 10 cm piece of bone represents a new zealand pterosaur...

i'm impressed and surprised that this bone is here... pterosaurs are a lot lighter built than dinosaurs, and thus their bones are a lot more fragile and less likely to survive the processes of fossilization.

in fossil rich alberta there's only a few fragments (of about the same size as this piece) that confirm we had pterosaurs, and their rare as. this new zealand chunk is one of TWO found at hawkes bay!!! granted as fossils are easier to form where there's more water it makes some sense why hawkes bay is more likely to perserve pterosaurs than say dinosaur provincal park. in any case it's a big deal to have ANY remains of pterosaurs!

this piece here is a partial scapula or shoulder bone. based on its features palaeontologists believe it to represent an anhanguerid.

which funny enough looks a little like the nice sculptor directly above the display case. of course this is not for sure what this type of new zealand flying reptile looked like. rather it's the best guess. based on what little we now about them. just like the dinosaurs of new zealand.

so what i have to say about new zealand's land based mesezoic world is that overall we need more bones, and better yet bone bearing sites, to be found and help us better flesh out our understanding of prehistoric new zealand...

at the same time i can personally wait for that to happen. compared to these kiwi dinosaurs even a pygmy t-rex like me is the only dinosaur game in town! i can handle that being the case a bit longer ;p


Te Papa: discovery centre

Location: Te Papa Museum
Gallery: discovery centre

while wandering through the te papa's very confusing interior i made a very exciting discovery... the discovery centre.

every good museum has a discovery centre. the trick is sometimes you can gauge HOW good a good museum is by its discovery centre.

let me tell you te papa ranks up there with the greats based on what i'm seeing in this discovery centre!

it's got everything from cool modern (or in science wording extant) animals and plants on display, to extinct ones!

one of my favourite things in it was the microbe-scope by the front door. now we have a microbe-scope at the otago museum, but this one was much nicer to be fair. ours is only an eye piece dealyo, this one broad casted what you were looking at onto a fancy TV screen!

there was a lot of neat stuff (sadly i neglected to take a lot of pictures), but the thing that for some reason caught my eye was of course the fossils...

they were all casts in here, but for the first few hours (till i FINALLY found the geology hall) they were the only signs of prehistoric life i'd seen (apart from fairly geologically recent things on display in the blood earth fire exhibit).
including the first dinosaurs of the north island i saw!... of course these were only harmless (in the sense of my rarity as a dinosaur in new zealand still being intact) toys.
they had some very neat cast specimens of other prehistoric critters like icthyosaurs and sail backs...
my favourites which you just don't actually see on display enough was the dodo and...

a coelacanth model.
sadly i didn't have much time to fully explore or try the many excellent and fun hands on activities here, but if you're in wellington give them a shot!