I’m in the zone! Can’t wait to find out more about our pre-historic life and Richmond is certainly the place to do it. Kronosaurus Korner is the information centre, coffee shop, fossil museum and a working fossil laboratory. It was only a short drive from my overnighter at Marathon and I was ready for breakfast when I arrived. I really shouldn’t get excited about a bought breakfast – it rarely lives up to my expectations and this one was no different. Am I getting picky in my old age? (That question doesn’t require an answer.)
I wanted to see the fossil museum so paid my $16 and it was well worth it. There was loads of information, as well as fossils, and I learnt something about Australia that I never knew before, and that was about this amazing inland sea that existed about 100 million years ago. And it is this sea that has left behind an incredible record of creatures that lived at that time.
The most famous in this area is the Kronosaurus.
Kronosaurus, named after the Greek God of time “Kronos: belongs to a group of short-necked plesiosaurs called pliosaurs. It was the largest marine reptile living in the Eromanga Sea and may have been the largest marine reptile in the world.
With teeth up to 30 cm long (most of which was embedded in the jaw) Kronosaurus was clearly a carnivore. The teeth had evolved for tearing huge chunks of flesh off prey rather than chewing.
Kronosaurus head was over 2 m long – twice as large as the skull of T-Rex. Four massive flippers, up to 2 m in length, powered the beast through the water.
Only a handful of Kronosaurus specimens have ever been found – most are from this region. Tthe first was a section of jaw with 6 teeth, found by Andrew Crombie near Hughenden in 1899.
An almost complete skeleton of Kronosaurus was collected from Richmond in 1932 by a team of palaeontologists from Harvard University in the U.S.A. It was reconstructed to a length of 12m. As a reptile, Kronosaurus had to continually return to the surface of the water to breathe, as modern whales do.
There was also a huge display of ammonites.
Ammonites are perhaps the most widely known fossil, possessing the typically ribbed spiral-form shell.These creatures lived in the seas between 240 – 65 million years ago, when they became extinct along with the dinosaurs. The name ‘ammonite’ (usually lower-case) originates from the Greek Ram-horned god called Ammon. Ammonites belong to a group of predators known as cephalopods, which includes their living relatives the octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus.
Well, enough of all this looking, I want to go out to one of the sites and find myself some fossils! There are 2 public fossicking sites but you know, it was a bit like looking for sapphires at Anakie – you have to know what you are looking for. I found a few rocks with fossilized shells in them but nothing that was breath-taking. I could have been walking over Kronosaurus bones and not recognised them. So I threw them in the van to take back to Kronosaurus Korner for identification.
On the road to the digs I crossed the Flinders River, which is Queensland’s longest river. An interesting fact is that rivers north of the Flinders flow to the Gulf of Carpentaria and those south of the Flinders flow to Lake Eyre. That’s when there is water in them.
There was a bit of a puddle in the Flinders River looking west.
Back at Richmond I wandered along part of the Heritage Trail but I was keen to get settled before it got too late so headed off to my next free camp, a roadside stop at Maxwelton (emphasis on the ‘wel’ – nothing says you are a stranger to the area as much as mispronouncing place names!)
This is typical of the landscape I have been travelling through since Hughenden – dry, dusty, barren – and dare I say it? Boring!
I am so grateful I have met up with fantastic people every time I have stopped and tonight was no exception, with Happy Hour at the undercover tables with 3 caravanning couples and another solo traveller. A drover came in with his ute and dogs and rounded up some cattle for the night and was telling us that they are going to take 80,000 head to Hay in NSW. I did a double take because the last time I was in Hay, which I admit was a few years ago now, the country looked exactly the same – dry, dusty and boring!
Where to tomorrow? Julia Creek.