Let’s take a trip back in time. And I mean way, way back. So far back that there remained no trace of human existence yet. Back to a time almost 250 million years ago, when giant reptiles ruled the Earth. Back to the age of the dinosaurs.
So, where would one go to uncover the dawn of the dinosaurs? I took a trip next-door to Alberta to explore the Dinosaur Capital of the World – Drumheller. Millions of years ago, the area we know of today as Drumheller was once a very tropical expanse, an ideal environment for the plant and dinosaur populations to expand.
The dinosaurs persisted to rule the Earth for another 135 million years, before entering extinction about 65 million years ago. While scientists today are still not entirely sure about what caused some of the largest land animals of all time to be wiped from the face of our Earth forever, they can agree that the mass extinction was most likely caused by a chain reaction of events such as asteroid impacts, volcano eruptions, the release of toxic chemicals and climate change, amongst several others.
The following ice age formed what became the Red Deer River Valley, left behind as the enormous glaciers slowly moved and melted. The landscape that has remained as a result is absolutely striking given the rocky layers and structures. Today, this area is referred to as the “badlands”. However, only 11 thousand years ago did new plants and animals being to once again emerge and flourish.
Now, fast-forward a number of years into the 1880’s, when a man known as Joseph Burr Tyrrell came to the Red Deer River Valley in search of coal. Little did he know of what he would find. Instead, J.B. Tyrrell’s search for coal in the Red Deer River Valley lead him to the discovery of a dinosaur skull, which subsequently arose the field of study we know today as Palaeontology. The dinosaur J.B. Tyrrell uncovered himself further came to be known as the Albertasaurus.
In 1910 Colonel Samuel Drumheller bought the land of the Red River Valley, and developed coal mining operations, a railway station, and founded a town in the area, renaming the area after himself as “Drumheller” which remains the name to this day. Further, in 1980 it was announced that Drumheller was to be the home of a new research facility regarding palaeontology. In 1985, named in honour of J.B. Tyrrell himself, the Royal Tyrell Museum was officially opened.
Today, Drumheller remains a popular tourist destination, as it remains to be Canada’s only museums exclusively dedicated to the science of palaeontology, and overall houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs. Today, their mandate is to be an internationally recognized public and scientific museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, presentation and interpretation of paleontological history, while providing special references to Alberta’s own rich fossil heritage.