Tidewater Traveler - August 2007

Dinosphere

by

George Sellers

   I am keeping my head low. The slightest motion to sit upright and my head bumps against the ceiling of the cave. I am crouched with one leg folded under me and the other knee up against my chest. As uncomfortable as it is to be in this dark, confined space, we were fortunate to find this refuge because now the storm is in its full fury. Lightning flashes violently through a crevice in the rocks, casting sharp dancing shadows all around our tiny grotto. The steady din produced by tons of water falling from the dark sky is punctuated by powerful, earth-trembling crashes of thunder. The time delay between flash and crash shrinks to almost nothing.
    It is fortunate that my grandson, Evan, had known where to take refuge from the storm. When the first growl of distant thunder was heard, he had run to the cave entrance shouting, “Come on Pop Pop! Hurry! It’s starting!” Fitting into the cave had not been easy for a Pop Pop of my stature; remaining in the cavern is even less comfortable. But Evan knows the terrain here better than I, and staying under cover seems like a good idea given the intensity of the storm.
    It feels like a long time that we have waited, but in reality only a few minutes have passed when we hear the pounding of the rain begin to slow. Lightning flashes are becoming less frequent and less intense; the delay between lightning and thunder grows longer. The storm is passing. Gradually the sky brightens. Through a crevice at the rear of the cave we see steamy spears of sunshine penetrate the forest canopy. A symphony of birds and other rainforest critters starts to warm up. The humid aroma of a fresh tropical rain fills our nostrils.
    Peering out I notice a tree trunk close to our rock formation in a location where I do not recall seeing a tree before. “What’s that?” I say, shifting myself to get a better look and scanning up the branchless trunk. I am awestruck to realize it is not a tree trunk; instead, it is the stocky foreleg of a huge brontosaurus. The tiny head of the great critter is grazing lazily through the tree-tops.
    Evan leads the way from our rocky shelter. I crawl out behind him and we find ourselves standing in a jungle-like setting, observing an array of young and mature dinosaurs doing what dinosaurs do - going about their business of survival. Muscles ripple and throats moan as the herbivores stretch to reach moist, tender foliage. Blood drips from the chin of a meat-eater, and guttural sounds emit from its nostrils as it presses a large, clawed foot across the shoulder on its unfortunate prey. The T-Rex turns its head in our direction.
    Now before you consider reporting to the authorities that I have placed a four-year-old in great danger (or vice versa), consider this – the rock grotto where we took refuge is made of a rubberized, composite material – top, side and bottom. Bumping our heads in there would be about as dangerous as rolling around on a plush carpet. The lightning is generated by well-placed, choreographed strobe lights; and the thunder is produced by an incredible surround-sound-style stereo system in the domed ceiling high above the life-sized diorama. Many of the trees and other flora may be real, living plants, but I suspect that some are artificial. As realistic as they seem to be, even Pop Pop knows that the animals are the artistic work of dreamers and scientists who possess great imagination and talent. The rain? It feels like the real thing!
    The storm sequence here in the newly constructed Dinosphere at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis repeats about every fifteen minutes. Over the span of a quarter hour one can experience a rainforest filled with life-sized dinosaurs in the brightness of daytime, during the darkness of evening and amidst the violence of a tropical thunderstorm. Umbrellas are available for those who choose not to take shelter in a natural cave.
    Surrounding the Dinosphere dome are many dozens of interactive displays where children (and adults) explore, discover and learn about the Cretaceous Period of sixty-five million years ago. Real working paleontologists discuss their projects with museum visitors who look into the paleo-labs from glass-enclosed observation areas. One could spend an entire day experiencing and exploring the Dinosphere; several more days are needed to do a thorough visit throughout the rest the museum.
    At the Dinosphere website I recently confirmed my suspicion about the plant life when I read, “The palmetto plants and palm trees in Dinosphere are real, not plastic or silk. Freshly cut fronds were allowed to absorb fire retardant and preservatives into the plant’s cellular structure. The tree bark is also real. Harvested trimmings were preserved and then assembled onto a steel tubular frame to make the trees you see in Dinosphere.”
    Kids love museums. And at facilities like the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, museums love kids. From mid-Delmarva a visit to this museum would make an exciting family weekend adventure.
    May all of your travels be happy and safe!

   George Sellers and his wife Priscilla are Certified Travel Counselors and Accredited Cruise Counselors who own Travel Selections by Priscilla and George, Inc. and the popular travel Web site www.sellerstravel.com