National Geographic: Dinosaur Hunters


Eighty million years ago,

disaster came to a world

ruled by dinosaurs.

It came in waves of

and and wind

that buried

every creature alive.

For eons,

the dinosaurs lay entombed

in a place that would

one day be called

the Gobi Desert

in a country named Mongolia.

Among the dead

was one of the strangest

dinosaurs that ever lived.

It was called Oviraptor.

It was swift, smart, lethal.

Now, only bones

tell us about its life.

And the vicious

world it lived in.

The bones have given us

a glimpse of those

ancient times.

A dim reflection of life

before history.

But there is more

to the story... still hidden

in the vast emptiness

of the Gobi.

Now an ambitious expedition

is traveling to

that distant desert

to uncover the secrets

of the Oviraptor's world.

They don't exactly

look like scientists.

Often, they're mistaken

for each other.

But Mike Novacek leads

the expedition,

along with colleague

Mark Norell.

They could be taken

for surfers;

but they're from

the American Museum

of Natural History -

scientists piecing together

an ancient jigsaw puzzle

of evolution and extinction.

To me it's so

obviously important,

I'm so emotionally

bound up in this.

I can't imagine why

a knowledge of our history of

where we come from isn't

important to human experience.

Could you imagine

what it would be like

to live in the late

and not know that extinction

actually existed?

There's also just

this sense of discovery.

I mean,

every bone that we find

tells us something about

how the world

was 80 millions years ago,

which is... pretty neat.

Just having a sense of history

of what the planet was like

and what the planet

has gone through,

I think, just increases

our appreciation

for our own existence.

Mike and Mark are about to journey

to the sun scorched badlands of the Gobi.

It's a desolate area -

a half million dusty

square miles of sand, scrub,

and redrock cliffs.

But it's a paleontologist's

version of heaven.

For this is where

the Oviraptors lived and died

and lay untouched

in the earth for millennia.

Then, in 1922, one of the

most famous scientific

expeditions in history

wound its way toward

Mongolia's dinosaur graveyard

Its leader was a charismatic


controversial explorer

named Roy Chapman Andrews.

Like Mark and Mike,

he came from the

American Museum

of Natural History.

But Andrews was an

incurable publicity hound -

and a scientific cowboy.

Where his paleontologist

used a camel-hair brush,

Andrews hacked away with

a pick ax.

But he found one of the

richest dinosaur boneyards

in the world.

He returned with a spectacular

collection of fossils...

and a library

of stunning film images.

But in the 1920s,

Communists seized power

in Mongolia.

The open door to the West

slammed shut.

For the next 65 years,

the fabulous fossil fields

of the Gobi

were forbidden territory.

Now, everything's changed.

Only token symbols

of Russia's domination remain.


Western scientists can return.

We don't want those onions?

They rot.

They rot in two days.

Mark and Mike were among

the first scientists

allowed in.

They're now back

for their sixth expedition

with the Mongolian Academy

of Sciences.

Three kilos?

Three kilos.

They have just enough supplies

for a short month,

and a long way to go...

retracing Andrews' footsteps

on their way to

one of the richest

concentrations of fossils

in the world -

a place called Ukhaa Tolgod.

Over a vast span of time,

Ukhaa Tolgod

was ruled by dinosaurs.

Dinosaur history

can be thought of

as a great empire

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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