“I never let practical considerations clutter my youthful dreams.” ― Roy Chapman Andrews
I enjoyed reading Dragon Hunter, Charles Gallenkamp’s biography of Roy Chapman Andrews. He was the one who made all sorts of fantastic dino discoveries in the Gobi Desert. I have always had a soft spot for dinosaur skeletons. I donned my pendant of polished, fossilized dinosaur bone, and considered a trip to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. I had seen dinosaur bones being unearthed in Drumheller, Alberta. And that was awesome. But was there truly a place where these bones lay so close to the surface that even someone like me might trip upon them?
The Gobi Desert proved to be a bit off the beaten path. After much study and contemplation, I booked a camping tour with an ambitious itinerary in Mongolia that spent two days in the Gobi Desert area. In an effort to get myself in a camping mood, I had arranged some days in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, where they were celebrating the National Holiday of Naadam. In front of the parliament building, I believe it was, there were ceremonies each evening to mark the festival.
In this main square (Sukhbaatar Square), a temporary structure had been erected to exhibit a huge dinosaur skeleton. It was the impressive Tarbosaurus, a dinosaur even larger than T-Rex. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an interesting story set forth in chronological news articles from American newspapers! This skeleton was unearthed in Mongolia but most recently found at an auction in New York City. As it was illegally transported out of Mongolia, the USA’s courts, ultimately, ordered the return of the Tarbosaurus. (How some people get through Customs is beyond me.)
After an extensive overland journey along the multiple sets of tire tracks that serve as Mongolia’s roadway, we reached the Gobi Desert. While it was a sandy desert, it also had many big rocks and rock ledges. I climbed and tramped around. I did come upon a camel but alas no dinosaur bones, not even an egg! So I sat on a ledge and tried to conjure images of what it must have been like on the days of Roy’s finest discoveries. The Flaming Cliffs, where he had made important finds, had sand and rock of a reddish hue. I thought it could have used better signage. As a consolation prize, there were more evident dinosaurs elsewhere in Mongolia.
“Always there has been an adventure just around the corner–and the world is still full of corners.” ― Roy Chapman Andrews