The Day the Dinosaurs Died

Synopsis: Investigates the greatest vanishing act in the history of our planet - the sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
60 min


Once upon a time, dinosaurs

ruled the world.

But 66 million years ago...

they vanished, virtually overnight.

So what precisely happened in the

minutes, the days, the weeks

that wiped out three-quarters of

the animal species on the planet?

Many scientists now believe it

was the impact of an asteroid

that caused their extinction.

But nobody has been able to prove it...

until now.

Evolutionary biologist Ben

Garrod and I have been granted

exclusive access to a

multi-million-pound drilling mission

into the exact point

where the asteroid hit.

This really is one of the most

impressive science laboratories

I've ever seen.

Could the team's findings

about the asteroid

finally solve the ultimate

dinosaur mystery?

This is an absolutely amazing event -

mountains the size of the

Himalayas were formed in seconds.

With Ben at the impact site,

I will be traveling across the world

to look for evidence of

the events that followed.

That is a bit of fossilized bone,

and they're everywhere,

scattered across this hillside.

It's just extraordinary.

Armed with astonishing new revelations...

Right here, we have the smoking

gun, and here, we have the bodies.

We may finally be

able to paint a picture

of the demise of the dinosaurs.

I'm off the coast of Mexico right now

and this thing you can see behind me

is a specially adapted drilling platform.

Now, there's an international

team of scientists on board

who are drilling far beneath

the seabed where we are now

to look for evidence to see why

and how the dinosaurs died.

This is the exact spot of

a huge asteroid strike

that happened at precisely the same

time the dinosaurs were wiped out.

This is Earth, 66 million years ago.

Here's the asteroid.

It's nine miles across

the size of a city.

And here's the first surprising thing -

the speed of it.

It may not look that fast at this scale,

but it was traveling an

unbelievable 40,000 miles an hour.

Seen from the ground,

it would have gone from a

mere dot in the sky to impact

in a matter of seconds.

The asteroid smashed into a shallow sea

north of modern-day Mexico,

exactly where the team

is starting to drill.

The theory goes that this impact

set off a chain reaction of events

that killed the dinosaurs.

But here's the heart of the mystery...

When you compare the size of

the asteroid and the Earth,

well, the asteroid is comparatively small.

It's like a grain of sand

hitting a bowling ball.

So how did this asteroid

cause a mass extinction

all around the globe?

By extracting rock from the impact crater,

the team hopes to find out.

So, I'm not even strapped in, and

I don't especially like heights!

But this is great, this is great.

This multi-million-pound operation

has been decades in the planning

and we're the only film

crew to have access.

Professor Joanna Morgan first

proposed the operation.

It's been a long wait.

I've been excited for, you know,

16 years, so to actually...

For it to be happening

is quite scary.

We've had so much effort between

us to get us to this point

that... that you really

want some lovely results.

Joining her on board to

co-direct operations

is Professor Sean Gulick.

So, this is the ultimate

test of some ideas, right?

We have all these models about

how the extinction happened,

but without some samples from ground zero,

we can't really test them.

This really is one of the most

impressive science laboratories

I've ever seen, and it's an amazing place -

we're going to have a quick look around.

This central area here

is incredibly important.

This is known as Main Street

by the crew and scientists.

Now, these shipping containers

are actually science labs

and, in each one...

is a whole, entire laboratory.

You can see in here huge

amounts of equipment.

This is one of the scanning labs.

But there are still lots

of personal touches.

You can see where all the

different scientists

and the rest of the crew are from.

But my hometown's not on here!

But this is the star of the show.

This huge drill will bore

through 1.5km of solid rock,

taking us back to the

time of the dinosaurs.

This is the drill bit.

Each one of these little nodules

is an industrial diamond.

We've had this one modified

with a higher-speed head

that allows us to core.

Literally collecting a column

of rock three metres at a time

and, as we go further down the borehole,

we go further back in time,

until we actually get to

the moment of the impact,

about 66 million years ago.

As Ben joins the team

drilling down into the rock

for evidence of the asteroid's effects,

I'm traveling the world to

look for clues from fossils.

My first stop, 1,700 miles from the crater,

is New Jersey.

I'm here to see a mass

prehistoric graveyard

unlike anything that's

been unearthed before.

This disused quarry

may be one of the most important

paleontological sites in the world.

I'm here to view an intriguing discovery

that may directly link the mass extinction

to the asteroid impact.

There's something very strange

about this mass extinction.

So many animals died on that day,

and yet, it's virtually impossible

to find casualties of

this devastating event.

But palaeontologists here in New Jersey

think they might have found just that -

evidence of the day the dinosaurs died.

It's such an extraordinary claim,

I want to see exactly

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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