Eramanga

We were deciding where we would be spending the night when we hit the edge of Eromanga. The town has a lovely dinosaur sculpture. Okay it does look better from a distance. I guess if you are looking at a dinosaur it is better to look at them from a long way away so it makes sense.

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Why does Eromanga have a sculpture of a dinosaur? Eromanga is the home to Australians’ largest dinosaur and it is the home of the newest dinosaur museum. The museum opened its doors in 2016 and is just on the outskirts of the town.

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When we pulled into the dump point in the town we had to shoo some emus away. I don’t think they would have been a problem to us but you never know. It looked like a mother and her young ones, or it could have been the father. I know they sit on the eggs maybe they do some of the looking after as well, I will have to ask Mrs Google about that.

Our plan was to dump and run but we started to talk about the Dinosaur museum. We could go see it and continue on, or stay the night and see the museum either today or tomorrow. Such decisions we have to make. We did a little research and found out you have to book for a tour. After one quick phone call we were booked in for the last tour of the day. That meant we would be staying the night, one trip to the van park coming up.

The van park was very basic, only $10 a night for unpowered but it did have lots of lovely hot water. When you are trying to keep showering down to only using five liter of water at a time, a long hot shower at a van park is very luxurious. The park was very quiet as we were the only ones in residence (that meant more hot water for me.)

We rocked up at the museum a little early so we had to wait in the admin area. The museum looked like a large shed. Our tickets had cost $30 each so I had thought there would be something a little more substantial than a shed. After about ten minutes a group of 4 left and it was our turn. We had to wait another ten minutes just in case someone else turned up before we could start our tour. Nope, it was just us.

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We walked through the door into the shed and turned right to a small seating area. There was to be a short film to start the tour. I thought it was quite well done. The main actor was the local barman and he walked you through the history of how the bones were found and a little bit about the different dinosaurs and how it would look if one decided to walk down the main street of the town.

Sandy Mackenzie was only 14 when he found an interesting rock while he was helping muster sheep on his family’s grazing property near Eromanga. (The fossils in Eulo were also found by a 14-year old boy.) To start with the rock rolled round in the back of the Ute before he showed it to his father. His father agreed it did seem strange and interesting. The museum was contacted and the rock was identified as being a dinosaur bone. The discovery began a series of dinosaur site discoveries in eastern outback Australia. The Eromanga fossil fields along with the fields just out of Eulo are Australia’s newest sites and now one of the richest, revealing many completely new species both in terms of preservation and abundance of remains.

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The dinosaur discovered at Eromanga has been named Cooper, he is a new genus and species that grew to 30 m long and 6.5m high. Cooper was a significant find, as he is thought to be 95-98 million years old and is a titanosaur. Apart from Cooper, the museum houses the world’s largest megafauna and a range of micro fauna discovered in Eulo estimated to be 50,000-100,00 years old. The Eulo site has produced as many as thirty different species some being about 100,000 years old.

What is a megafauna? I had thought it was just a different type of dinosaur but it’s not. Megafauna are often similar to the animals we have today, just a lot bigger. The largest one, a Diprotodon (Kenny who was found at Eulo was a Diprotodon) would have been about two tonnes and was as large as a Rhinoceros. The Diprotodon once roamed inland areas of Australia. Most of the megafauna died out about 20,000 years ago.

Our tour took us around the shed to the different areas. In one area there were glass cases with different bones on display.

Along one wall were plaster cases with the bones tucked safely inside just waiting for work to start on them. The plaster casings are put on to protect the bones before they are taken out of the ground then the second side is added before transportation. Generally the bones stay in the case while they are being worked on as it helps to protect the bones. They are only taken out of the case if they are a complete bone.

We were introduced to Zac. It seems he is a friend of Cooper as he was found in the same area. The red bit on the display represents the bones the museum has completed. It doesn’t look like they have achieved or unearthed much considering Cooper was found in 2004 and Zac soon after. It is a long and slow process hence the museum needs lots of volunteers to help.

The shed is quite large and was built to house the bones as well as to give the workers an area to work in. They are finding so many bones they need a larger place to house them all. The museum is trying to raise money to build a bigger museum where they will have enough room to erect a replica of Cooper and room for school groups as well as a coffee shop and gift area. At the moment the tour takes you through the working area and sometimes the work can be very loud so it has to stop when a tour is on.

You get to touch some of the bones in the tour and to talk to some of the people who are working on the bones. (We spoke to Sandy Mackenzie’s mother, as she is one of the permanent volunteers.) You can even take part in the work as well. This is done in two ways. First as part of a tour where you can pay to help out at a dig. You need to book early for that as the museum has only one dig a year for two weeks. They are finding so many bones when they dig that there is enough to keep the staff busy for the rest of the year and them some.   Secondary they are always looking for volunteers to clean the bones, so if you are going to spend any time in Eromanga they will be happy to have you help. No experience needed, they will train you. I think I would find it interesting for a day and then it would probably be enough for me.

What blew me away apart from Cooper and Zac, was the museum is using a 3D printer to start to print out copies of Cooper’s bones. The models of each bone will be used to erect Cooper in the new building. Amazing.

Although the museum was basic I was very impressed with it. I would love to come back in ten years time to see how it has all developed.

We packed up the next morning and before we left Eromanga we took a tour of the living history centre. The building is locked but there is a sign on the front door to let everyone know you can collect the key from the ‘Royal Hotel.’ There is also another sign explaining it is not the dinosaur museum.

There was a short high Tec film about the town and the discovery of Cooper as well as other important events of the town history. Like the big flood, they even have the water marker in the museum letting me know I would have been walking in water at the time of the flood. I was impressed.

The area was first settled in 1860. Opals were discovered and the area took on the name of Opalopolis. The town was gazetted in 1879 and renamed Eromanga, which means windy plain. The Royal Hotel was built in 1885 and was originally the Cobb & co staging post. The first police station was built in 1891 and six years later the first school. The town became an important part of the main stock route to Bourke and blossomed. All of that has now gone; today the town only boasts of an old pub (the Royal Hotel) and the caravan park. There is little else apart from the odd house to embrace in the town but it does have a lovely feel to it. We have been in a lot of towns that look like they are dead but with Eromanga even though it looked like there was nothing there, it didn’t feel like there was nothing there. Maybe it is the spirits that are said to surround the area.

The legends of the town.

The story goes there are two Aboriginal spirits regularly seen by locals. The first is a little man named Grimmacha, who squeals at you and has been known to hurls sticks and stones at you if you camp in his territory. The second is Gulgura who makes circles in water, stirs dust and rustles leaves.

Then there is Mrs Webber, who with her husband owned Kyabra station. Her story tells that she was always seen wearing a hat with a veil and carried a large revolver every time she ventured outside. She owned 300 cats; yes that is cats not cattle. She was well known for being kinder to animals than to people, tormenting the staff especially the Chinese cooks. Her escapades and their often-serious consequences would have filled a book. She died in 1896 at the front of the homestead. Her husband buried her there in a small plot of lawn. He would sit on the front veranda every evening for many years keeping her company. Later owners removed the grave so she could join her husband in the Thargomindah Cemetery. It seem Mrs Webber didn’t appreciate the kind gesture as just weeks after she was moved people started to tell stories of seeing her walking the banks of Kyabra Creek. Others said they could feel her presence in the covered walkway between the living quartes and the kitchen on the station. Some even say they saw her face reflected in a large gilt-framed mirror that in the dining room, her favourite room.

The house is long gone now and the furniture was sold off but for some reason the mirror disappeared. However the ghost they say, has not.

What was lovely to see in the small Living History Centre were the stories collected for the senior citizens of the area as part of the ‘International Year of the Older Person.’ Everyday stories from everyday people remembering everyday events and in their own words capturing history.

Before 2007 when the first dinosaur bones were discovered, the town’s call to fame was two things. First, Steve Fossett landed his ‘Spirit of Freedom’ on a property west of Eromanga in 2002. Steve was the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon. Secondly the town has ‘the furthest service station from the sea.I really like the town and

I know I won’t return but I like the idea of coming back some day.

 

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