American Museum of Natural History
After four difficult hours commuting to the AMNH museum, I was relieved to be out of the teeming rain and eager to meet up with my DVPS friends. The museum was bustling with guests, and I confess to being surprised by how crowded it was considering the aggressive rain storms. I had thought the combination of visiting during the off-season and having such bad weather would deter most people from visiting the museum.
Either I have no idea how crowded this museum can get, or I grossly underestimated people\’s desire to visit this museum despite the horrid weather. I guess the only way to know is to return several times and compare!
Our tour\’s starting point was perfect. We met under the ridiculously small skull of a giant Titanosaur.
The Titanosaur is known as Patagotitan mayorum, and is an impressive 122\’ in length. The dino is so large that the skeleton is displayed in a curled fashion, wrapping around a large room. Comically, the tiny head is bursting through the doorway and appears to be entering into the next exhibit area.
I had a giant smile staring up at the long neck bones of this massive creature, amazed at the diversity and variety that evolution and biology produced. The sheer size is hard to appreciate until you are standing under it, imaging how large this creature was when fleshed out and breathing. Disregarding the height alone, imagine the weight and immensity of a creature of this size. Did it walk quietly like an elephant? Or did the ground tremble as it passed by? Did it barge into foliage without regard? Or was it careful as it moved about?
Also – the neck support bones are longer than most of the bones in my body. Seriously – this creature is massive.
During our tour of the dinosaurs, we were shown two teeth indentations in the Titanosaur\’s tail bones. A red laser light was used to point out the \’dents\’ – aka bite marks – on the bones.
While our tour guide shared details about this dinosaur, I tried to back up as far as the room would allow. And even then, I couldn\’t get the entirety of the skeleton in one frame. Plus his head is still sticking outside of the door!
We eventually made it to the Tyrannosaurus Rex display. Here we learned that this poor dino had a pretty hard life. Or so the bones tell us. The dino had three fractured ribs, which healed. And you could see the fracture mark on the display. I tried to photograph the fractured / healed ribs:
The T-rex also had a back injury which became infected, and this infection fused several of the spinal vertebra. Poor baby! I was starting to feel pretty bad for the dino when I learned that the skull had a puncture bite mark on one side of the face. OUCH!
Rumors of Squatters
On a lighter note, during our tour, it was whispered that there may be little furry critters illegally living under the dinosaur display platforms. And sometimes the furry squatters may make a bold appearance during business hours, and scare the guests.
Imagine the life style of these critters:
- living under a massive skeleton in one of the busiest museums on the east coast
- comfortable with the noise that thousands of people generate
- conditioned to hours of stomping feet
- …and finding that living to be so normal that they\’ll pop out of their safe place to check out the scene and stroll around the exhibit in broad daylight!
That\’s about the most New-York-ian thing I heard. I couldn\’t tear my eyes off of the display bases after that – in the hopes of seeing tiny New York mice. Sadly, nothing appeared while I was at the exhibit. The legend lives on as a legend only.
The dinosaur exhibits are not displayed in chronological order. Instead of touring through the ages, you are escorted through evolutionary stages and the importance of these changes. So each cluster of displays is based around an evolutionary development.
I\’ll do a poor job of retelling this museum\’s layout, but I\’ll try!
For example, there was a stage in which animals would bite off chunks of food and swallow it whole. Much like alligators and crocodiles chomp, tear and swallow food whole. But then jaws evolved and cheeks emerged. Now animals could chew food. And several displays showed how different evolutionary branches took this new feature and advanced upon it.
Such critical evolutionary changes are grouped together in logical clusters. I found these exhibits to be very thought provoking.
I had wanted to visit the Hayden Planetarium ever since I learned of it. Much like biology, the Hayden exhibits display items by scale and size. As you stroll up the curling ramp, you are shown items of increasing size and scale – and given comparisons to other items in the same space. It is an amazing and humbling climb up to the Planetarium\’s hallway.
I eventually made it to the top and enjoyed a planetarium show. Which was the first time I was able to sit down since getting off the subway several hours earlier. So I really enjoyed that show!
- Does visiting the Planetarium count as a separate bucket list item?
- Or does it count as one event since it is part of the AMNH?
Finally, I discovered items I was genuinely unaware of existing. I had no idea they had such massive meteorites in the museum!
According to the display text, this is a small fragment of the original meteorite, which broke up before impact. And that this single chunk of meteorite weights 34 tons, which makes it the largest meteorite on display in any museum.
This massive beast is so large and heavy that it has supports leading directly to the bedrock of New York. Think about that. It is so large and heavy, there are structural supports under it that go through the building and into bedrock. What?! I had to walk around the rock to fully appreciate it\’s size, and snapped a few pics.
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I had to take a selfie with this beast and send it to my mother, listing some specs about it. Naturally, she knew about this meteorite already because she (frustratingly) knows everything. But, still! How cool is that?!
Then I stumbled upon the Willamette Meteorite. A smaller rock, but a beautiful iron-ore meteorite blistered with pock marks and texture. It was a raw beauty, and I had to play with the image.
My next favorite discovery was one of the largest mammals, an extinct relative of a hornless rhinoceros. Why they didn\’t name it Rhinocersaurus, I\’ll never know.
But what they did do was erect a wire frame outline of the Paraceratherium in 2-D fashion, which loomed over everyone\’s
head. And in that wire frame they mounted the skull – way way WAY up over your head! With adorable ears popping out.
You knew exactly how small you were in relation to this mammal. I really enjoyed the experience this museum created.
Time to head home
I spent the entire day at the museum and am already plotting and planning for my return. Maybe in the fall.
Having learned my lesson from my first subway ride, I found the subway route that was right outside the front door of the museum and made my way back to Penn Station. I sought out NJ Transit trains, found my platform and crossed my fingers I wouldn\’t end up lost. But the system worked perfectly and I found myself back at the garage. I drove home in the pouring rain, satisfied and exhausted.
NYC has so many places I want to visit. I simply have to grow move familiar with the subway system to know how to get around town. I\’m adding to my list of places to visit:
- African Burial Ground
- Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
- Governors Island
- Castle Clinton
- Federal Hall
- Tenement Museum