Prehistoric Gardens -
Port Orford, Oregon
The kids in the area used to call it "Uncle Ernie's Zoo" and that was a pretty good description of the Prehistoric Gardens that Ernie V. Nelson built in the coastal rainforest of Oregon a few miles south of Port Orford. Except this zoo was, and is, numerous sculptures of long extinct dinosaurs. But there's nothing extinct or artificial about the gardens themselves. It is truly a spectacular setting for these magnificent beast of the past.
Today, since Ernie is gone, the gardens are under the care of his two granddaughters who admit that just keeping the sculptures presentably painted is a full time job. The second picture on the left is of lush skunk cabbage which drew the attention of a botanist who insisted those plants simply had to have been artificially pushed to grow so large. The plants are at least 3 times normal size in most other locations.
Kiki, one of the owners just laughs. "We don't have time for that. We're kept busy just maintaining the collection. This location is very hard on painted surfaces."
But, what a location. Walking through the gardens is a pleasant stroll that would be worrisome if the creatures were actually as alive as the very realistic setting where they stand.
These sculptures were done by Ernie and a friend in the early 1950's and were the culmination of a lifelong interest in the huge beasts as well as a long search to find a home that appeared natural to their existence.
And, a natural home it is - in a rainforest on the coast of Oregon. In an area where many fossils have been found. In an area where the ferns are lush, growing in deep organic soil that allows them to fully develop into sizes, shapes and colors that rarely exist outside of protected environmentally controlled locations.
In truth, maybe it is environmentally controlled it's just that nature is at the controls all year long. The proximity to the ocean helps create a relatively stable temperature range which supports the spectacular growth of the forest. It could easily feel like home to a stegosaurs or a T-rex.
In the third picture on the left, if you look really close on the center right side, you'll see an eyeball and some horns of a triceratops hiding among the ferns. Not at all uncommon in real life where these plant-grazing creatures spent much of their time quietly foraging for food out of sight.
The next picture, with Marge looking on, shows the size once again.
Finding the gardens is easy. Just head south from Port Orford about 10 miles and look for the dinosaur neck and head of the beast that Marge is looking at in the first picture. There will be a parking lot, some fencing and a welcome sign to greet you.
It was getting late in the day when we stopped. In our travels, we try to stop around 4:00 PM to get a good place to spend the night and this stop was pushing that limit. Marge asked if we had time to stop and Ralph answered, without hesitation, "we'll make time."
We never regretted it and were so pleased to find an extension to this experience at Christmas when we were visiting in L. A. We learned, via the internet, that the Natural History museum there had created a show of "live" dinosaurs which trainers presented to crowds several times a day.
Well, ok! The live part is a person dressed in black hidden inside a soft puppet animating it to follow the trainer's directions. None the less, the next few pictures are of that show and also a behind-the-scenes look at how science is making it all happen for your enjoyment.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM - Los Angeles, CA.
The featured dinosaurs are a baby triceratops and a baby T-rex. It's great entertainment for the entire family and you can expect a large crowd sitting as the picture shows, waiting for the show.
Perhaps the part of the show that's the most interesting is the story that goes on behind the scenes. That's where scientist study and build the fossils into the puppets and other full life sculptures that are on display. But let's go back about 50 years and look once again at Uncle Ernie's Zoo.
In the 1950's when Ernie Nelson did his thing, he had much less help from the materials he worked with in his sculptures That's probably the biggest difference between then and now. Technology just didn't exist that is in use today.
Now, the sculptures are created slowly and carefully from the actual fossils that have been collected in various parts of the world. Another little known fact about displays such as this is a weighty problem when using fossil remains.
The real fossils are not on display, but fabricated castings of the original are used. Why? It's the nature of the fossil itself plus the need to reconstruct certain missing pieces.
A fossil is no longer bone, but stone that has replaced the bone over the centuries. When you consider the weight of one of these monsters in life and then consider that the stone fossil would actually weigh a lot more; it's not possible to create a T-Rex, for example, out of the original fossil remains.
The plastic type of reconstruction is not only accurate but it also keeps the weight in bounds.
As good as the museum show is, and it is GREAT! Something is missing without Ernie's prehistoric atmosphere. It's a little like holding the World Series in a high school ball field Even these recreated ancient beast need the space to look complete.
The top museum picture on the left is the crowd waiting for the show to start. Everyone is in anticipation of the beginning of a very unique show.
The next one is a good close-up of one of the stars. If it had a name, and we're sure it did, we can't remember it. The tough beak indicates that the plants it ate were pretty tough in themselves needing a lot of power to cut through the stalks.
Also, it resembles what many scientist believe to be an indication that the species of the big fellows was early birds and not reptiles. This same community of science points to the dinosaur's having hollow bones that are common among birds.
In the next shot, the trainer is doing his part with the dinosaur following along. Obviously, the whole show is a lot of fun for everyone involved, audience and performers. This is a "must see" for childern of all ages.
Next, is a reconstructed T-Rex on display in the show area. Not something you'd like to meet on the street.
Last, is a group of pictures of science at work. This is where science and art come together and the end result can be truly breathtaking.
It begins here, where technology and art go hand in hand to create a better understanding of how this earth developed and the beauty that's all around us.
It's much like what we do here at Herbs That Work. A blend of traditional herbal solutions to common physical problems plus the technology needed to make Herbs That Work a truly effective health aid. Our name says it all! Herbs That Work - DO!
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