The Dunkleosteus. The Basilosaurus. And the Ophthalmosaurus. We swear we’re not making these up (even the last one, which smacks of the old joke: What do you call a dinosaur with one eye? Doyouthinkhesaurus). They are all, in fact, genuine dinosaurs. But the reason you probably haven’t heard of them – instead spending your primary years focused on the stegosaurus, the brontosaurus, and the T-Rex – is simple. You’re not a palaeontologist. A marine palaeontologist, to be precise, because our confoundingly-named species once ruled not the land, but the seas. And now, millions of years on, they’re set to take over the State Fair…
Remember the Living Dinosaurs Exhibition of 2016? This is the follow-up, called Dinosaurs of the Ocean, and it’s set to be just as big. Literally big, because we’re looking here at sea creatures that were anything up to 60 metres in length! If your Greek is any good, you’d think that would be the Megalodon. But it turns out the Pliosaur was the giant of the sea: the Oxford University Museum has a partial pliosaur mandible which measures more than nine feet; the whole jaw would have been well over 10 feet, and the entire dinosaur probably approached six times that in length: roughly twice as long as a bus!
Of course the models won’t be quite to that scale, though we are promised a Elasmosaurus which tips 50 feet in length – interesting because palaeontologists suggest the animal only reached 34 feet! But we’re nevertheless looking at exhibition of gargantuan proportions: the kind of outing which will entrance both you and your kids. And possibly your kids’ kids if you’ve a mind to involve all generations. Because, while iPods and Pokémon and all the other trends of the moment are fun, dinosaurs never go out of style.
“This incredible, interactive show is exciting, engaging and educational for visitors of all ages. Learn about the origins of life, 4,000 million years ago,” say the exhibition developers. “It was a very different world from what we know today!”
Brought to Cyprus by Moonlight Show Productions – the same people who were responsible for the last dinosaur uprising on the island – and presented by the Hellenic Bank, Dinosaurs of the Ocean has actually been created by Aurea Exhibitions, who design touring exhibits in collaboration with various experts.
“Our team of scientific experts has designed the layout of Sea Monsters with careful consideration for even the smallest factual details,” say organisers, adding that Sea Monsters has been curated by Argentinian palaeontologist and natural scientist Dr Sebastian Apesteguia and Dr Adrian Giacchino, Director of the Félix de Azara Foundation – both experts in the fields of dinosaurs and design. Between them, they’ve created an exhibition which will include more than 20 animatronic dinosaur models (including two Ichthyosaurs, two Tylosaurs, a Purussaurus and a Plesiosaurus), as well as various stuff that isn’t quite what we think of as dinosaurun (a few ammonites, a handful of baculites, and a couple of white sharks) but was nevertheless around at the time. Add to that a host of unseen trusses, backdrops, lighting effects and control stations and you’ve got an exhibition that’s the best of edu-entertainment: learning made fun!
“Dinosaurs of the Ocean is a comprehensive educational exhibition which plunges visitors into a journey into the aquatic past,” organisers explain. “Each monster features life-like movement, colour and textures, delivering unique real-life encounters with these massive creatures, while illustrated displays and informational panels provide instructional and educational material for visitors of all ages.” We’ve also got all sorts of multimedia experiences, various fact sheets, true-to-form scenery which includes “plants, trees, rocks and seaweed”, and a selfie station – perfect for Instagramming you and your immense Ichthyosaurus. And, if our sources are to be believed, there’s even the possibility of a kids’ creativity and drawing station (with an accompanying Gloria Jean’s café for the adults), a fossil replica area, and a Plesiosaurus ride – for everyone who’s always wanted to one-up the swimming with dolphins trend! Quite how much you’ll learn from this last is anyone’s guess; but there’ll be plenty on offer to excite even the most education-weary child…
The exhibition plans to teach us a host of interesting information about these “Mesozoic marine reptiles, the origin of all terrestrial dinosaurs,” including the fact that “sharks are living fossils; there were once whales so big that they ate other whales; and ancient crocodiles were well over 40-foot in length” – compared to today’s more paltry 13 to 16 feet! Speaking of which, we’re also going to learn about the Purusaurus (a giant caiman that lived in South America during the Miocene epoch), the Livyatan (an extinct genus of sperm whale which inspired Herman Melville’s magnum opus, and was named for the biblical sea monster Leviathan), and the 400-million year-old armoured fish with its 540-kilogramme pressure bite.
Running for approximately two-and-a-half months (January 26 to April 7) and taking place at Pavilion 3 within the grounds of Nicosia’s State Fair, the Sea Monsters exhibition brings you the sights, sounds and possibly smells of the creatures which once ruled our seas. Open during the week from 8.30am to 12.30pm, and again between 3 and 7pm, and from 10am to 7pm at the weekend, the exhibition is destined to follow in the footsteps (or the wake) of its terrestrial predecessor: a hit with audiences young and old. While the organisers are clearly banking on more than one school group taking advantage of a unique learning opportunity, there’s plenty of space and time for individuals and families to immerse themselves in this “unforgettable, interactive journey of massive, marine discovery, entertainment and knowledge.”
The Dinosaurs of the Ocean exhibition
At the State Fair, Nicosia, from Januarys 26. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door at a cost of €10 (organised group bookings €7 per person; school visits €4). For more information call 77772939 or visit www.dinoscy.com