Hi. I'm Charlie and that's my wife, Florence, with me in
I thought you might like to hear about our Summer, 1995 trip
to China. We planned to visit 3 dinosaur egg sites during our
10 day trip:
1. Nanxiong Basin,
Guandong, Southern China, Well known deposits of dinosaur fossils
and eggs. Most common egg is a raptorid species, most likely
2. Xixia Basin, Henan Province,
Central China, Many varied types dinosaur egg types discovered
3. Newly discovered deposits in Hubei Province, Central China
Our interpreter made all the
necessary arrangements before our arrival. We had written permission
from the Cultural Bureau in each province that we planned to
visit and from authorities in Beijing.
was to collect data and photographs (not eggs).
Our traveling companions included (from Left) Our
Chinese interpreter who spoke remarkably good English considering
he had never traveled outside of China, Dr. Philip Currie from
the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta, Canada, Chinese Geologist,
Photographer extrodinaire, Louie Psihoyos, his assistant John
Knoebber, master of humor, and me on the right. Not shown is
Florence (she took the picture) nor the driver of our mini-van
and its contents which included luggage for 6 people, camera
equipment, Johnny Walker, Glen Livet and a foot locker full of
food and water from home (just in case).
The Journey Begins
Our mission seemed simple enough, arrangements all in place....hours
traveled half way around the world to Hong Kong...Then a flight
to Guangzhou, Southern China, piloted by Chinese, that landed
with such a jolt that we were amazed the landing gear sustained
the impact...then crammed into a mini-van with all the darkened
windows closed, (our interpreter cited security when we all asked
,"why?") for a 100 kilometers ride north on roads so
rutted that my shoulder was bruised when I arrived in Nanxiong.
Great relief.!!!..We finally arrived in Nanxiong
Glad to not be moving and ready to see the first egg site....but
wait !!! .. not so fast....In China one must first negotiate....
for hours....while guests wait
in concrete hotel rooms.... in a place so far from anywhere that
Florence wondered if we would ever see our children again. Alas...
We did NOT have permission from the Public Security Bureau....the
PSB...the Chinese police ... the official officials.
They did allow us to visit the local museum .... without
cameras. No cameras??? No Louie !!! He's a walking camera!! Can't
let him in here !!! You can see for yourself....he's not in the
above picture that Florence shot at the entrance to the museum
. We saw some interesting Kong Long (Terrifying Dragon) fossils
and took notes....that's all. Another hot bumpy 8 hour ride back
to the airport in Guangzhou.
Twice our requests
to visit egg sites were refused in cities 1000 miles apart. Five
days into our trip and no pictures of eggs or fossils of any
kind. The unofficials who had officially granted permission for
our visit were powerless to help us. Guests in China....especially
Western guests...are expected to bring money....the more the
better....for the official PSB officials they chance to meet
along the way.
Get Us A Helicopter !!!!
Denied access to the first two egg sites, we were determined
not to miss the third and most recently discovered site. We were
told, by our interpreter that it was too far. This had never
stopped Louie before...."Just get us a helicopter !",
Louie announced. "Impossible !!! " was the reply.....a
word we heard often from our interpreter.
Not to be defeated, we made a pact a dinner.
We would get to the site no matter what. We didn't care what
we had to pay. Just to be sure we wouldn't miss out a third time,
we decided that we would go to the site first, ask permission
later. We left Nanyang City, Central China the next morning at
5 a.m. This time in a good sized bus with the air conditioning
dripping on us as we bounced along. We felt like a large fish
swimming upstream through schools of bicycles with people commuting
to the city for the day. With one hand on the wheel and the other on the horn,
our driver weaved and honked his way through this glimpse of
life in China. One crushed bicycle in the middle of the road
gave us real cause to call this rush hour "crush hour".
Here's me and Florence somewhere in Central China. Photo
by John Knoebber, click the image to zoom to see what a curious
site we were to the people of China.
our destination in Hubei Province, we were met by more Chinese
unofficial officials...more negotiations...more long waits in
stuffy concrete hotel rooms. Finally, Phil came in to announce
that the unofficial officials of the Cultural Bureau would escort
us to the site without notifying the official PSB officials.
Another bumpy ride, but this time only 45 minutes up a beautiful
valley... winding past the Red Stone Village through farmland
and orange groves, up to Green Dragon Mountain....so well named,
strictly by accident.
We're Here and They Really are EGGS !!!!
The eggs we found, or what impressions
they left on the surface, were untouched. Some could be seen
sandwiched in the strata. I found them used in the terrace walls
in the fields and in the stucco walls of their homes. I searched
hard to find a fragment of bone or a complete egg but found neither.
The people were also untouched...as amazed at the sight of
us and our collection of modern camera equipment as we were at
the site of these eggs. The kids quickly understood why we came
and led us from place to place showing us more and more deposits
of eggs, cascading down the hillside in a valley that was inhabited
by great herds of dinosaurs over 65 million years ago. Shown
here are a few of the villagers who watched every move we curious
We shot a lot of video too. Maybe we'll put some of it
on line sometime.
During the minutes (not hours) we were allowed to stay there,
Phil and Florence mapped and recorded 153 dinosaur eggs in nested
groupings of as many as 23 in one group. There was so precious
little time, but we learned so much. Florence and I would like
to thank Phil for all the knowledge he has shared with us.
We gotta GO !!!!
Reluctant to leave we all looked back for one last look at
the village we would, very likely, never see again. For sure
it would never be like this again. Here's a picture of Louie
getting one last photo as we clung to the moment. The bus was
already loaded with all the official unofficials, waiting to
rush us away to more hours of negotiations. The PSB.... official
officials, having learned of our secret visit to the site, were
waiting for us. This time we were ready with the cash.
For all the hardships and disappointments,
in the end, we were lucky. We accomplished our goal ...to catch
a glimpse of this precious moment in time. Our interpreter learned
the art of negotiation (bring cash) and turned out to be an excellent
student in the American School of Humor as taught by John Knoebber,
a star graduate. Many thanks to John. His humor sustained us
through many a dreary or tense moment. Thanks also to Louie.
It was an honor to be there to see him perform his magic. He
is the best !!! His book is a delight. Click
here to see it. We still have autographed copies available.
One more banquet, a few more rounds of beer with the official
to all and to all a good journey....we were on the road again.
Two more days of bouncing around on the hand hewn "highways"
of China gave us all time to reflect on what now seems almost
like a dream. For Florence, a roller coaster ride of emotions
touching all you can name. We dream of someday returning, but
realize it's unlikely. One thing's for sure...Florence and I
will never be the same again after our visit to Green Dragon
Mountain. Here's a picture of the mountain...you can click for
a zoom. Do you see the Green Dragon resting there, keeping watch
over what was once his great flock?
Travel Documentary by Charlie and Florence Magovern
Photos by Florence Magovern & John Knoebber