July 27, 2016
Dinosaurs may be creatures of the past but interest in the monstrous beasts seems to be growing exponentially in these post-modern times. At least this seems to be true of the artifacts these animals have left behind. A few weeks ago I attended the “unveiling” of a dinosaur trackway in a wilderness area mainly west and a bit north of Chetwynd. Based on the information I gleaned from the experts in attendance, this is one of the largest trackways known to modern bipeds. Some of the experts in attendance travelled from as far away as China and Europe to be present at this unprecedented-in-our-area event.
What is it about the dinosaur that makes it such an attraction for us? After all, we can never know how they actually appeared, the sounds of their voices, their mating rituals. True, a dinosaur is a dinosaur, but their varieties were as different as the birds that hang in our atmosphere today. From chicken size to monsters of many tons, they roamed the earth leaving only the evidence of their passing as imprints in the mud or skeletal parts and broken bones, now mineralized.
To use the term, “unveiling” to describe the event at the trackway may be a bit misleading, even hubristic. We moderns love to know everything there is to know and to show that we know. About dinosaurs, so far we don’t a whole bunch. And we can’t. These tracks were left by sentient beasts (sentient’s an assumption) who existed before we do (a fact) so, by the nature of our mortal limitations we have to make conjectures to the best of our abilities (somewhat limited by time in the case of dinosaurs).
All this means that the “unveiling” is more like an uncovering, a sweeping away of some of the detritus of centuries to reveal only that there is so much that we don’t know and, perhaps, can never know. So far away; so unreachable; so tantalizing, so keep on studying!
This detritus of centuries is more than a burden of earth and rock with its tendrils of organic matter. It is ideas, philosophies, prejudices, commitments, funding handicaps, all of which are harder to move than the natural litter that has covered and hidden the stone-bound evidences until the present has revealed them.
What does all this mean to us? Have these ancient wanderers of the earth left us a benefit also to be unveiled? Well, maybe.
Tumbler Ridge has certainly taken advantage of dinosaur discoveries adjacent to the community to plant the seeds and nurture the plant of an almost-unrivaled tourist attraction. Discoveries around Chetwynd, Hudson’s Hope and in the regions to the west simply tell us that we are sitting on the overburden that hides as well as preserves. The evidence is here, everywhere, under our chairs, unseen, mostly unseeable.
In the Pine Pass the casual wanderer will readily find fossils by the ton. And we pause and wonder. How? When? Why?
But the present benefit of past wonders? It, too, is there to be uncovered, unveiled, waiting for the detritus of rivalries, prejudices, personal ambitions to be swept away.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor