Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure, by National Geographic. Undoubtedly my favorite paleo-documentary. It was and remains a microcosm of certain aspects of my life, as well as being a great piece of art and documentaria.
As a 11 year old child, I read a magazine article in the popular "Dinosaurs!" partwork, where a junior time-traveller journeys to the Niobrara Sea. Ever since then I have been smitten by this geographical unit, and it remains my absolute favorite. I found "Raptors Fossils Fins and Fangs" in a store later that year, and Ray Troll's illustration of the Niobrara seaway yielded more questions than it answered. The hugely crowded page spread showed many fish and other animals I had not known about, and it wasn't until I found "Planet Ocean" by Troll in 1997 that my questions were answered.
Cut to 1998, after futile months of trying to find more references about these fish and the unit in general, I found oceansofkanasas.com and my mind exploded. This website provided vital succor to my thirst for Cretaceous seawater and remains so to this day.
Years came and went, and eventually, even, my urge to draw dinosaurs diminished as I explored Sci-fi. "Oceans of Kansas" the book eventually came out and was bought (I have since bought the second edition). At 22 or 23, I was entering my second degree at college, and I fell in love. I started a long-distance relationship that continues unabated to this day. In 2007 I heard about "Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure" coming to various IMAX theatres, and I told Byron, my long distance partner, how unfair it was that my city had no IMAX for me to view this. Byron went to see the film himself on my behalf at Fernbank, which I didn't begrudge at all, and since then in the intervening years, that act has made this film very sentimental to me.
Eventually I produced some attempted landscape artwork of the Niobrara Formation that can still be seen on Deviantart, I think I have improved in the last few years, so maybe I should try again and redraw this series.
Since then, I had failed to procure said film it on dvd, It didn't show up at first and then after that I missed its circulation run at stores here. I downloaded it from a torrent and enjoyed that greatly, but it is only now, squeaking past the July 1 cutoff for shipments to Australia from Amazon's American site that I have ordered my own hard copy.
I watched it just now on Youtube, at a pitifully low resolution, just to stroll down memory lane. It's been 11 years since my still-long-distance partner went to see it, and it's 22 years since I first discovered the majesty of the Niobrara sea. With Brain Engh's new exhibition of art and Triebold's mounts coming to museums in the USA, I can't help but miss the boat again in this trans-pacific struggle for inspiration and thirst for seawater.
And of course, the actual film is out of date now to some extent. Dolichorhynchops should be thickly fatted and penguin-like, Platecarpus and arguably Tylosaurus should have flukes o their tails, and the mama Dolly should only give birth to on one large pup. Bonnerichthys and a few other creatures join the pantheon of chalk and salt as we had not known before. And of course, I still lament the overly hammy badly acted South-Aussie accent used when explaining Coober Pedy.
More questions remain than ever in my mind, that I might thirst to ask any relevant paleontologist. Would invertebrates from the overlying and Northward Pierre Shale form a good idea of what some of the missing parts of the Niobrara picture might look like such as gastropods, crayfish and various ammonites? Or is the climate and time frame too far removed? After All, the preservational bias against smaller or thin-shelled calcified or chitinous creatures is high in Niobrara. And similarly, what about the smaller baitfish, which are similarly so rare in Niobrara chalks, what other unit could provide a stand-in? And do the small clam-preserved fish in the Niobrara count, or are they perhaps reef-dwelling shy forms not so prone to schooling? What about Niobrara birds besides Ichthyornis or the hespers, what were they potentially like? Were there any anseriformes? It goes on and on.
It all comes down to the great Darwinian rabbit-hole that is paleontology, it really is almost like a drug. You get your first hit of inspiration and thirst for knowledge, and it drives you wild. Romances with various aspects of paleontology remain a big part of my life, though now I am well past 11 or 22 years of age. But still, as always, I yearn to journey in my mind, sans wetsuit and mortality, to this ancient seaway.