Our Dinosaur adventure starts at Boulia

Friday, Aug 28, 2009 at 00:00


Imagine holding something 100 million years old – how young do you think you’d feel? Our introduction to the dinosaur and even more ancient marine fossil belt of Queensland was an awesome feeling. What an experience in Boulia, a small and welcoming town in outback Western Queensland.

Boulia is alongside the Burke River, which rises to the north from near Duchess and enters the Georgina River some fifty kilometres south of Boulia and makes its way towards Lake Eyre. The river was named in memory of Robert O'Hara Burke of the Burke and Wills expedition. The river was now just pools and it was hard to imagine that earlier in the year the river was flooded and Boulia isolated, following seven drought years.

Boulia is the gateway to the west as the Donohue Highway into the Northern Territory and the Plenty Highway leaves not far to the north of the town, forming part of The Outback Way crossing Australia east to west. The road to the south continues to Birdsville, and to the east to Winton. We were in the heart of the Queensland outback and at the start of our ‘age of dinosaurs’ adventure.

Visit the Stonehouse museum and the treasures in the shed behind the house. Stonehouse was built in 1888 as the home for storekeeper James Edward Jones and is now furnished in the period and open to walk through. Go through to the Fossil Display shed and be welcomed by Dinosaur Dick Suter. All the fossils in this display were found and excavated within the Boulia Shire, mainly by Richard and John Suter.

Where other museums often have replicas of skeletal finds, at Boulia, you are looking at the real thing, and if you are lucky, talking to the highly entertaining local who uncovered many of the fossils; Dick Suter, otherwise known as Dinosaur Dick. Together with his brother John, Dick uncovered many of the fossils on display, including an as yet unnamed species. Marine fossils date back 100 million year and early crustaceans such as Ammonites date back 200 million years. Some Nautiloids are dated at between 450 and 500 million year old.

Much of what is now western Queensland was once part of a huge sea known as the Eromanga Sea, which through several stages millions of years apart, proved to be an ideal medium for preserving the ancient fossils we are now privileged to see being uncovered in our lifetime. Fossil formation in these ancient inland seas was dependent on a chemical stream coating the bones. Others just rotted away.

Most of the fossils found in the Boulia district are marine invertebrates or large marine reptiles. The reason is that about 100 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous Period, the Boulia district was part of a shallow inland sea.

The last inland sea during the late Albian period, about 98 million years ago is depicted here taken from information at the fossil display at the Stonehouse museum in Boulia.Boulia fossils are principally marine fossils, many of which pre-dated land based dinosaurs. This area encompassed parts of New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The larger seas of the late Apian era between 116 and 112 million years ago had a spur extending from South Australia right through Western Australia all the way to the coast at Broome.

About 450 million years ago, Boulia was beneath a deeper ocean which covered most of the eastern half of what is now Australia.

Mass extinctions of most species occurred world wide approximately 65 million years ago, including most of the marine reptiles as well as dinosaurs.

Boulia has something else special; the story of the Min Min Light. We went to the Min Min Centre for the highly recommended Min Min experience. A theatre consists of a series of rooms you visit progressively during the 45 minute experience where characters tell their stories of seeing the mysterious Min Min Light, which is displayed with high tech wizardry. This very clever and complex theatre which envelops the visitors into the story culminates with sitting in the last room in which the seating area rotates a full circle while visual displays of all types of lights onlookers have seen are screened before you.

We continued east towards Winton.

Read more detail about this trip and see all the photos in our 2009 Travelogues

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