I was home with the kids this week, so I took them to one of my favorite places where some “damned” things are on display — Yale’s Peabody Museum. It’s a good place to whet their curious young appetites — like many of you, I remember going there as a kid, but of course now as a grown-up kid, I better appreciate what specimens they have on display.
Speaking of, I almost forgot that the first “damned” thing you see walking through the front door is the giant squid model hanging from the lobby ceiling —
With apologies to Nessie and Bigfoot, there may be no more elusive cryptozoological-type creature actually proven to exist than the giant squid. This renowned life-size 35-foot model was designed and built in the 1960s by New Haven native Harry Townshend, who went in search of the creature repeatedly in the waters off of New Foundland and offered a bounty for a specimen.
Of course, he could’ve held out for the even bigger and more rare are the colossal squid, like this one caught last year in New Zealand, which came in at over 1,000 pounds and 39 feet in length.
I think they’re going to need a bigger boat …
As mentioned in a recent blog post, the Peabody is also home to the much-heralded Weston meteorite, which sits in a case on the third floor near some other rocks from the heavens. The museum used to be home to artifacts from Hiram Bingham’s 1911 discovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu in Peru, but recent dust-ups between Yale and the Peruvian government has lead the museum to scale back its offerings on this subject. Next month, the new exhibit Darwin: 150 Years of Evolutionary Thinking opens at the museum, a continuing celebration of the guy whose theories were once quite damned, and has come a long way since.
The Peabody also has all sorts of other unusual things, from mastodon skeletons to live poison dart frogs to an actual mummy. What’s not to like?
This week was “Dino Days,” and as the kid in you might remember, the museum houses the skeletons of lots and lots of dinosaurs, plus the famous “Age of Reptiles” mural by Rudolph F. Zallinger.
We have the puzzle . . . somewhere.
Anyway, one of the things I find interesting about dinosaurs is that, like meteorites, they are relatively recent discoveries in the annals of science, and ones met with much debate that, in retrospect, seems kind of naive and silly. Although random dinosaur bones had been found for hundreds of years, it was only during the late 1700s and early 1800s that it became accepted that there may have been a very different geologic past than previously thought, with creatures never imagined. The term “dinosaur” (meaning “terrible lizard”) wasn’t even coined until British scientist Richard Owen came up with it in 1842 — which is amazing when you consider that these creatures ruled the planet for a few hundred million years.
As you’re probably already thinking, Connecticut has even deeper dino-connections, including Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. But that’s a another trip for another (warmer) day.