Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blackgang Chine: Part 1

Smile! It's time for some goofy fibreglass dinosaurs...

Blackgang Chine is a tourist attraction on the southernmost tip of the Isle of Wight, an island off the south coast of England. It originally opened in 1843 around a scenic gorge leading down to the sea - such gorges are known as 'chines' on the island - and has been owned by the same family, the Dabells, ever since. For decades, it operated as a purely scenic attraction with some pretty landscaping, a fin whale skeleton and some gnomes, but a visit to the newly-built Disneyland inspired the owners to create a series of themed tableaux set on the hillside, mostly consisting of fibreglass models. 

The dinosaurs were added in 1972, and the vast majority (if not all) survive to this day, in spite of the fact that most of the park is in perpetual danger of falling into the sea at a moment's notice, and in spite of the fact that during the famous (er, in Britain) storm of October 1987 a lot of them did end up in the sea. Looming bizarrely out of the trees on a cliff edge, they are grotesque and often very hilarious. Of course, they also have a nostalgic appeal for many people, including me (my first visit was in 1992).

The models often shown an interpretation of the animals' anatomy that's a little, uh, creative. In case you haven't guessed, the big blue guy is meant to be Brachiosaurus at about 1/2 scale. Its hosepipe neck and rather shapeless, lizardy body are certainly strange, but it's got nothing on some of the other models.

This might just be the derpiest Tyrannosaurus model ever. Certainly, it's a very strong contender. It's the man-in-a-suit tyrannosaurs of pre-1980s art writ large, and it's absolutely bloody hilarious - I love the way the neck merges into the torso with no shoulders to speak of, the weird squatting posture and the HUGE eyes. My cousin included for scale.

Oh boy. It's clear they were close to being on the money with this Triceratops (at least the head is basically the right shape, although it has sprawling forelimbs), but then somebody (presumably) became heavily intoxicated and thought "Bah, sod it, just add dirty great fangs into its beak. And give it molars". Of course, even this has nothing on...

STEGOSLUG! Just feast your eyes on that. And then prepare for...

PTERANODUCK! Actually, Blackgang were just championing the totally sensible hypothesis that Pteranodon used their beaks for dabbling, the apparently narrow beak of the skull actually supporting a very wide, keratinous sheath in life. It's just one of the many pterosaur heresies that those elitist, super-wealthy palaeontologists don't want you to hear.

Here we have Protoceratops, defending its nest from...something.One would expect Oviraptor, given the now-discarded idea that an Oviraptor with a crushed skull found on a nest was killed by an angry Protoceratops parent (it turned out that Oviraptor itself was the parent). However, it looks more like an ornithomimosaur, while a nearby sign identifies it as...Ornitholestes! Well, they all begin with 'O'...it's easy to confuse those damn complicated dinosaur names.

Here we have a giant Dimetrodon, and it clearly isn't happy about something. Bless its grumpy red-lined chops.

As well as a number of unique specimens, Blackgang also boast fibreglass dinosaurs that can be found in other parks. This puny-armed 1950s-style Iguanodon has even appeared on LITC before - remember Paradise Park? (Come on, somebody must've read that post.) Here, one has the opportunity to view it from both an elevated walkway and ground level, which helps emphasise its enormous size and is a rather nice idea, truth be told. Of course, Blackgang's Dinosaurland just couldn't possibly do without...

...Our old friend, the gigantor elasmothere-styracosaur thing! I love the near-psychedelic paint job and demonic, solid red eyes. When the model's this silly already, why not?

And finally...unlike most parks, Blackgang allow many of their dinosaurs to be climbed upon, which proves absolutely irresistible to children. Here we have a demonstration, utilising a rather odd-looking sprawling Polacanthus.

Come back tomorrow for an aristocratic singing allosaur!


  1. Ah, you saved the best pictures for this post, I see!

    It isn't just the molars on that Triceratops; it's the apparent sneering curl of what appears to be mobile lips...

    And you may as well have just given in and smiled, Marc. Why resist? ;) Polacanthus, go!

    1. "it's the apparent sneering curl of what appears to be mobile lips..."

      Maybe it's supposed to be a notch like that of coelophysoids & spinosaurids for catching small prey. This would explain the fangs. ;)

    2. I think the seriousness on his face makes it twice as funny, especially with the look on the Polacanthus!

    3. Very true, you are right. It's only that I see a smile just on the point of breaking forth there, but is being held in check; which I suppose is pretty funny too. Besides, Marc needs to be encouraged to smile more. ;)

  2. "This might just be the derpiest Tyrannosaurus model ever."

    OK, it's a tie.

    "My cousin included for scale."

    I don't think kicks to the crotch work when your enemy has internal genitalia.

    "It's just one of the many pterosaur heresies that those elitist, super-wealthy palaeontologists don't want you to hear."

    Shush! You'll give David Peters ideas ( http://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/ )!

  3. 'Stegoslug' might have his origin here.

    This was produced by the German illustrator Heinrich Harder on the say-so of Gustav Tornier, he of crouching Diplodocus fame. (Source: Tornier, Gustav. 1913. Reptilia: Paläontologie. In Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften. 8. Band, Quartärformation - Sekretion, 337-376. Jena: Gustav Fischer.)

    1. Nice. Interestingly, the Stegoslug does buck a certain trend in vintage Stegosaurus restorations in that its head is actually held quite far off ground level (in spite of the sprawling forelimbs).


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