Dinosaur Island Travel Guide and Information
Dinosaur Isle has to be one of the UK’s most underrated tourist attractions. Seen from afar, the building has a striking shape with two protruding poles and an arched canopy meant to resemble a pterodactyl (although you can’t resist a possibly ungraceful comparison to a pair of narwhal tusks or needle-tails). knit).
It’s kind of a quirky gem where you’ll find both a sizable collection of fossils and a main hall with real skeletons and bones, as well as oversized dinosaur mannequins. Fossils of 35 types of dinosaurs have been found on the Isle of Wight, and in total the museum’s catalog extends to over 40,000 fossils collected from across the island, with around 1,000 on display at any one time.
The Island Finds Collection is a highly informative revelation of the vast range of animals that once roamed what is now called the Isle of Wight, including many more recent vintages, dating from just 10,000 to 15 000 years. Exhibits include the tusks of a mammoth and a hippopotamus; the fossil teeth and femur of a straight-tusked elephant; the lower jaw of Bothriodon, a pig-like hippopotamus; and the jawbone of another pig-like amphibian mammal, Elomeryx porcinus.
In the main hall, giant vertebrae and casts of jurassic parkStylish footprints share cabinet space with tiny fossils of large-winged termites and aquatic spiders that look like the smeared footprint of flies on your car’s windshield. Eye-catching exhibits include the display of the skeleton of a Neovenator dinosaur – its femurs each weighing three stones – as well as the femur and humerus (each over 3 feet long) and gastroliths (stomach stones) from a 45-foot sauropod (these long-necked creatures were the largest dinosaurs to ever live).
Several knowledgeable paleontologists – some amateurs, some professionals – are on hand to illuminate the exhibits and there is a working laboratory to be seen, which operates on the same principles as an open kitchen in a restaurant. The staff like to point out that Jurassic Coast rival Yorkshire has promoted its ‘Dinosaur Coast’, but you can count the number of bones the county has on the fingers of one hand. The captions display a refreshing candor that is absent from more pompous, self-important establishments; these regularly include statements about their more mysterious remains that have yet to be fully identified, actually shrugging one shoulder and admitting “we don’t know” or “we’re not sure”.
The museum runs year-round guided fossil walks on Yaverland Beach and beyond. As in the museum, the guides are affable, neither precious nor protected by their considerable knowledge, and concerned to inspire future generations of paleontologists.
Look for fossils
After brushing up on the facts at Dinosaur Isle, the next step is to hunt down fossils on your own. Look long enough at a map of the Isle of Wight – with a ridge down the middle and slightly tapering east-west points – and it may look like a large vertebra slice from a fossilized spine. A coincidence perhaps, but the island’s primordial soup was perfect for the fossilization of animals such as the dinosaurs, which inhabited the island for around ten to 15 million years.
Dinosaur fossils can be found around much of the coast, but one of the epicentres of discovery on the island are the cliffs below Culver Down and Yaverland, where you’ll find what are known as the rocks of the Early Cretaceous and Wealden group. Spend an afternoon searching for these hidden gems and soaking up the island’s beautiful natural scenery at the same time. It’s win-win.