The First Mosasaur Meeting
Maastricht, The Netherlands
May 8-12, 2004
Copyright © 2006-2010 by Mike Everhart
Web Page created June 25, 2006; Last updated 02/14/2010
Left: Right lateral view of the skull of the exhibit specimen of Mosasaurus hoffmanni at the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht.
In May of 2004, I attended the First Mosasaur Meeting in the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht in Maastricht, The Netherlands, along with about twenty other paleontologists from around the world (Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Japan, Canada and the U.S.). It was the first time that such a meeting had been held just on mosasaurs. Maastricht, of course, is where the first recognized "Meuse River Lizard," Mosasaurus hoffmanni, was discovered deep inside a limestone mine about 1780. A translation of the original story of the discovery of the mosasaur by Faujas Saint Fond (1799) is here. Note that earlier specimens were known (See some of the specimens in the Teylers Museum below) but did not receive the scientific attention brought about by the efforts of Dr. Hoffmann). The The First Mosasaur Meeting was an overwhelming success, thanks in large part to the work done by the staff at the museum (Anne Schulp, John Jagt, Eric Mulder and others) and the enthusiastic support of the museum director, Douwe Th. De Graaf.
Many of the papers (listed here) presented at the First Mosasaur Meeting were published in September, 2005 in Volume 84, Number 3 of the Netherlands Journal of the Geosciences (Geologie en Mijnbouw).
|LEFT: Anne Schulp (hands on hips) meets three of the
attendees at main entrance of the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht.
RIGHT: Another early arrival, Takehito Ikejiri, waits in the courtyard of the museum.
|LEFT: The display specimen of Mosasaurus
hoffmanni inside the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht.
RIGHT: "Ber", the type specimen of Prognathodon saturator recently acquired by the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht from a nearby quarry.
|LEFT: The right dentary of Carinodens belgicus,
a rare and unusually small mosasaur from the Netherlands.
RIGHT: Paleo-art of the restoration of Carinodens belgicus by Wouter Verhesen - A small (2 m) mosasaur from the Maastrichtian of the Netherlands with a highly derived dentition (Schulp, et al. 2004). Used with permission of the artist and the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht. This illustration was used on the cover of the First Mosasaur Meeting Abstract Book and Field Guide.
|LEFT: A replica in the Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht
of the type specimen of Mosasaurus hoffmanni found near Maastricht in the late
RIGHT: A photograph of the type specimen of Mosasaurus hoffmanni in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France.
|LEFT: John Jagt provides scale against an exposure of
Maastrichtian sediments at the ENCI quarry near Maastricht. This is the quarry where the
type specimen of Prognathodon saturator was discovered.
RIGHT: An older section of the ENCI quarry showing the tunnels where blocks of limestone had been mine centuries earlier.
|LEFT: A gathering of mosa-ologists getting a safety
and history briefing on the ENCI quarry from one of our hosts, Anne Schulp
RIGHT: Walking down through time as we walk to the bottom of the ENCI quarry. The quarry is in operation on weekdays. We were there on a Sunday when the quarry was shut down.
|LEFT: The view looking across the ENCI quarry. While
the area historically supplied limestone blocks for building materials, the limestone
being currently mined is sent through a kiln and turned into cement.
RIGHT: While all of us had hopes of finding another mosasaur, this was the best I could do... a collection of belemnites from the Maastrichtian rocks.
|LEFT: Around noon we gathered for lunch outside an
old mill that had been turned into a restaurant.
RIGHT: We ate inside in the room where the machinery of the mill had once operated. The tables were made of old millstones. Here Eric Mulder, another one of our hosts, goes back for seconds.
|LEFT:After lunch we visited another old limestone
mine that had been turned into a museum. We were able to travel quite some distance
underground through the hand hewn tunnels. The map provides some idea of the complexity of
the mine. Not a good place to get lost! Note that one of the lanterns being used was made by the Coleman Company in
Wichita, Kansas. Small world
RIGHT: John Jagt shows the group the K/T boundary (wavy line about the level of his head) in an area at the back of the mine. A portion of the the mine had also been used as a church several hundred years ago.
|LEFT: The meeting included two days of sessions where
papers about mosasaur research were presented. Here Takehito Ikejiri discusses his work
with Gorden Bell. John Jagt is standing behind the lectern.
RIGHT: There was also a poster session held during the meeting. Here Mike Caldwell and Mike Polcyn are having a bit of a discussion.
|LEFT: Near the end of the meeting we gathered in the
new Prognathodon saturator exhibit for a group photo.
RIGHT: Here Gorden Bell and Takehito Ikejiri continue their discussion while Robert Holmes listens. Note Ike's T-shirt.. good advertising of Oceans of Kansas!
|LEFT: Gorden Bell and Mike Caldwell made one of the
more interesting "discoveries" just prior to the First Mosasaur meeting. This is
a mosasaur premaxilla they examined in the Paris Museum of Natural History. It is the
missing piece from the skull of Mosasaurus "Maximiliana" missouriensis
that was described by Goldfuss in 1845. (Go here for the full
RIGHT: The broken end of the Goldfuss Mosasaurus Maximiliana skull compared with the broken end of Harlen's "Ichthyosaurus" missouriensis snout.
LEFT and RIGHT: Two views of the hotel (Maison du Chene) that many of us stayed in downtown Maastricht. My room was on the second floor between the two flags.
On the last day of the meeting, we took a three hour train trip from Maastricht to visit the Teylers Museum to Haarlem. It is one of the oldest natural history museums in Europe and home of the Teylers specimen of Archaeopteryx. The museum opened in 1784 and contains the earliest known collection of mosasaur fossils.
LEFT: A gaggle of paleontologists on the way from the train station to the Teylers Museum.
RIGHT: A bust of the founder over the main entrance.
LEFT: One of the more complete specimens of Mosasaurus hoffmanni in the Teylers Museum (Specimen #7424)_
RIGHT: A close-up of the teeth in the right dentary of #7424.
|LEFT: The museum placard describing the #7424 specimen. The label
indicates that it was discovered in 1766.
RIGHT: Dorsal vertebrae of Prognathodon marshii Dollo.
LEFT: A lingual view of the left dentary of a very large Mosasaurus hoffmanni specimen.
RIGHT: Articulated caudal vertebrae from a Mosasaurus hoffmanni specimen.
|LEFT: Mosasaurus sp. paddle elements.
RIGHT: The same gaggle of paleontologist leaving the museum and headed for one of the local pubs to get a beer before catching the train back to Maastricht. (and a picture of me bringing up the rear)
Travelogue: One of the things I did when I traveled to Japan in 2002 was to record my trip in a travelogue, writing down my thoughts and impressions of the country and my experiences. I thought it worked out well then, so I kept a journal of sorts while I was in The Netherlands.
My 2004 Trip to Maastricht - The First Mosasaur Meeting Blog
Friday-Saturday, May 7-8: Left Wichita on time, flying on a Northwest Airlines twin-jet by Bombardier. Nice plane (new) and smooth flight. Arrived at the Minneapolis airport on time long walk from the gate to the terminal (G) where the international flights depart fortunately they had moving walkways all the way between the two terminals. I converted $100 into 70 Euros (including a $5 fee) which didnt seem like a good trade to me.. but I did not much choice in the matter. Ill convert some more cash in Amsterdam and see if theres any difference. (actually found out that they also have Cirrus ATMs in the Netherlands and there is no need to convert .)
The flight to Amsterdam loaded a bit early and left the gate on time, but someone realized that they had put too much freight (overweight or out of balance or something) on the plane. The pilot announced that we were returning to the terminal to unload a pallet of cargo. It didn't take very long but we were still almost 45 minutes late getting off the ground. Once we were in the air, he announced wed arrive about 15 minutes late, so it looks like hes planning on making up some time along the way. Were flying on a DC-10, and its apparently full. They had beverage service just after take-off and turned right around and served dinner.. we had a choice (actually a non-choice) between chicken and a vegetarian curry Im glad I was sitting near the front of the plane because they were running low on chicken by the time we were served. I kidded the stewardess about running out of chicken and she said that the back of the plane wasnt going to get a choice. The meal was pretty decent, although a bit short on the chicken and they served wine with it. Much better than pretzels and glass of Pepsi!!
A lot of older people (even older than me!) are wearing little plastic badges that say they are part of a tour group going to the Aegean (Greece) . As I write this, weve just had the sunset behind us while we were somewhere just east of Labrador, over the Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland. We are supposed to land in Amsterdam Saturday morning, about 6:30 AM their time, which would be 11:30 PM Wichita time, Friday night. The flight is only seven and half hours, much shorter than my 2002 trip to Japan (12.5 hours). From there I have a 45 minute flight to Maastricht. They told me its a 25 Euro cab fare to the hotel (actually ? 26). From there I go to the museum to look at the collections should make it a long, long day unless I get some sleep on the plane.
Weather seems to be improving in Maastricht - showers, temperatures in the 60s.
No real sleep on the plane.. I watched part of a movie and then they fed us another meal (breakfast) before landing.
We landed on time at Amsterdam (early morning), and taxied for a long time before reaching the gate. The weather was cloudy and cool, but not raining. Apparently the rain had stopped over night. Once we were there, they apparently were unable to find someone to operate the gate to the plane, so we waited for another few minutes. Once in the airport, I had trouble figuring out where to go for customs, so I just followed the crowd initially. Once I figured out the signs, all was well and I went through Customs in less than three minutes, most of which was waiting in line. Then I went to the Departures area and had trouble figuring out their system for getting to the right gate for the planes. I asked one of the KLM employees at the ticket counter and she told me which gate the plane was leaving from. As would happen several times during the trip, she somehow recognized I was an American and switched from Dutch to English easily. I was beginning to wonder how they knew to speak English to me but then realized they were reading the Oceans of Kansas logo on my shirt. For a while it was as if I had American stenciled on my forehead.
It was another fairly long walk to the gate, and I met some
Canadian friends (Robert Holmes and his wife) on the way.
They were on the same plane to
It was another fairly long walk to the gate, and I met some
Canadian friends (Robert Holmes and his wife) on the way.
They were on the same plane to
Once in the air, it only took 30 minutes to fly to
After arriving at the small, quite old looking hotel (Maison du Chene), we were told that our rooms were not yet ready. We made arrangements to leave our bags at the hotel, and asked for directions to the museum. Like the cab driver, the clerk was not familiar with the Maastricht Museum of Natural History and we had to pull out our maps and show her where we thought it was. She finally got the maps oriented correctly and told us how to get there. Mostly her directions were a series of rights and lefts but it got us there. It was easy to see why it was difficult for even the natives to describe how to get to the various places in town. Nothing is on a grid. Every street winds around the buildings and many of them simply dead end at some point.
We arrived early (before 10 AM) and the museum was not yet open. Fortunately our host (Anne Schulp thats a guys name here, at least in the Netherlands) was already there and checking to make sure all of the arrangements were taken care of (they were). We got the 50 cent museum tour (its a relatively small museum but very nicely done) and then went to their café area for coffee. The coffee was very good and they always had cream and sugar available. Soon other members of the group arrived and several of us went downstairs to the collections where we were able to seen some of the specimens that had been collected locally.
Then things became more interesting when Anne Schulp asked me if I would be interested in doing an interview with the local TV station. I told him "no problem" and about two hours later the TV news crew arrived. I was downstairs in the collections talking with a student from Bulgaria when they found us. We took turns answering questions in front of the camera and by 4 PM that afternoon, we were on the local news. Instant TV celebrity in the Netherlands!
After the interview, some of us realized that we were approaching the 30 hour mark without any appreciable sleep (and for me, a very extended period of wearing hard contacts). Anne had other things to do to get ready for the meeting, so we eventually left the museum and returned to the hotel. One of our group (from Rhode Island) got the directions to an Italian restaurant, so about 6 PM we took off in an attempt to find the place. We failed. After walking around for 45 minutes, and listening to one of our comrades complain about being hungry, we decided on an Italian restaurant that just happened to be right across the street from our hotel duh! It turned out to be a nice place and our group (German, Japanese, American and Canadian) had an International meal of sorts. I ended up with a thin crust pizza that was really good and a beer (the first of many beers consumed on the trip). By the time we finished, it was almost 10 PM and we went directly back to the hotel, said our goodnights and crashed.
I was sharing a room with my Japanese friend, Takehito Ikejiri, or "Ike" (E-kay) for short. He had already been in Europe for two days and was planning to go to Germany after the conference. We discovered that a double room is just a single room with another single bed squeezed in (imagine two single beds in the space of a queen-sized bed). The hotel is something like 300 years old and the original hand-hewn beams (reinforced by iron bands) still go across the ceiling. The room was clean, airy and faced the street. We were on the first level of the hotel (the second floor) the restaurant and lobby occupy the first floor. The hotel is quite small .maybe 30 rooms in three levels. Some of the rooms have a complete bathroom with shower. In our case, we got the shower and a wash basin, but toilet was out the door, and down the hall, in a small closet sized space. We were even given a skeleton key to unlock the door (it was seldom locked). The room itself was small and included few of the amenities you might expect in American hotels there were towels (no wash cloths), individual soap and shampoo packets and little else besides a cellophane wrapped hard candy on the pillow. No Kleenex, a tiny closet, two chairs and the narrow desk that I am writing on. There is no air conditioning, which is not a problem on this trip, but was a major issue last year during the very hot summer that was experienced in Europe. One of our group was here during that time with his family and found that the heat was not very enjoyable.
The temperature was in the 60s as promised but the humidity is about 95 percent. Most of the local people are still wearing winter coats while Im walking around in short sleeves (and sweating). Its very much like the conditions I experienced during my visit to Japan (where they did have air conditioning) but this time I was prepared with plenty of cooler clothing.
Sunday, May 9, 2004
After getting up fairly early, we went downstairs for breakfast. The hotel set up a nice buffet (a variety of breads, meats and cheeses, plus boiled eggs, cereals, fruit, juice, milk and coffee). While it was all quite good, we would later discover that it was exactly the same fare each day. In fact, just about all of our breakfast and lunches would revolve around fresh bread, a variety of meats and cheeses. We never saw anything like donuts or sweet rolls, but there was a variety of jams, jellies, peanut butters, flavored butters, and even hazel nut butter for the breads. No one went away hungry.
We all met at the museum this morning at 9 AM. After walking through one of the ancient gates through the out wall of the old city and past a small zoo, we then took a bus to the very large ENCI quarry outside of Maastricht where they are mining limestone for the production of cement. The company is apparently a German-Swiss consortium and the locals are very concerned that they will find another, cheaper place to mine the limestone, and just leave. Apparently the long range plan is to operate the mine (a large pit) for another 15 years or so, and then stop the pumps, then let it fill with spring water and become a large, very deep lake. Our hosts believed that it would happen much sooner than that and they wanted to get as much of the paleontology work as possible done at this site. Besides being the locality near where the very first mosasaurs were collected sometime after 1760, this is the place where a very large mosasaur (Prognathodon saturator) was found in 1998. It has a lot of historical as well as current scientific interest.
We walked down to the bottom of the quarry where we collected belemnites (squid pens) from the Early Maastrichtian (about 70 million years ago). Then we walked upward to the top of the quarry where the rocks of the Late Maastrichtian end (about 66 mya), and are replaced by much younger Holocene gravels. While I was at this quarry, I collected a number of large belemnites, a fish vertebra and a pectin shell. No one in the group found any mosasaur remains. This was a disappointment since all of us have collected mosasaur fossils around the world (including a student in Bulgaria) but since we would have not been able to keep them, no one minded too much.
We re-boarded the bus about noon and traveled to the other side of town where we had lunch in an old water driven flour mill that had been converted to a restaurant. We had a buffet style lunch in the old milling room that sat over the mill stream. The buffet was set up on a table under the large gear wheel that drove the gears for the millstones. It was placed rather low and some people bumped their heads while fixing their sandwiches. They had a variety of meats and cheeses set out for lunch and two of us in the front of the line sliced off chunks of cheese. Very shortly we also noticed a rather foul odor, which was quickly traced back to a pale colored cheese and the fingers that we had used to pick it up. One of our hosts then mentioned that it was a mild form of Limburger cheese it did not taste bad but the odor ruined any desire I had to be close to it, let alone eat it. Other than that, the lunch was excellent.
By lunchtime, however, most of us were very thirsty. They served very good coffee and tea with the lunch, but it was gone fairly quickly. One of the hosts went down and brought back a waiter who took our orders for drinks, mostly beer. One couple ordered water which came back in a small bottle (6 oz) and cost more than the beer!! We were still thirsty after the beer and eventually consumed all of the fruit (grapes, strawberries, etc., mostly intended as decorations) on the buffet table.
After lunch we went down and stood on the bridge over the mill stream that powered the water wheel for the mill. While not in operation, the mechanism that raised and lowered the sluice gates was well lubricated and it appeared that the mill could be put back in operation fairly quickly. About 1:30 PM we walked a hundred yards or so up the hill to the entrance of an underground limestone mine that had been in operation since the Middle Ages. It was no longer operating but was open to tour groups such as ours. We, however, were not there to see the historical features, but rather the boundary between the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Tertiary i.e. the K/T boundary that marks the end of the Age of Dinosaurs and the beginning of the Age of Mammals. To see the exposed strata, however, we had to walk at least half a mile underground through a series of passages that seemed to twist and turn at random. The mine had produced blocks (each over 6 feet long) of building stone for hundreds of years from a layer of strong, weather resistant limestone that was several feet below the layer of clay that marked the K/T boundary. In order to see the clay layer, they literally tore the ceiling down in one stretch of the cave.
At one point, I ended up carrying one of the three lanterns that we used to light the way in and out of the cave. I was pleased to see that it was a standard Coleman lantern made in Wichita, Kansas, the city where my flight had originated. Small world....
Once we had finished looking around, we walked back out of the cave. On the way out, we visited an underground Catholic church that had been secretly built in the late 1790s when the practice of religion was outlawed by one or another revolutionary council in France. Apparently the place was still used occasionally for thing like weddings but it was not particularly attractive in any way to me dark, chilly and damp .
From the cave tour, we returned to the museum, and then walked back to the hotel. Being sweaty and muddy from the quarry, we showered and changed clothes before taking a walk to the Maastricht train station. Mostly we just wanted to see where it was. We knew we would be taking an early morning trip and thought it might be a good idea to know in advance where we were departing from. It was no problem, since the street leading to the station was well marked and called Stationstrasse (station street). It was interesting to see the buildings (mostly old) and the neighborhoods between the hotel and the train station. There are also many nice cars (BMWs Volvos, Mercedes, etc) on the street and absolutely no American cars so far. Many people ride bicycles and there are lots of buses. I also noticed that there are few stoplights except on major roads. Inside the downtown area there are no stoplights and cars, buses, trucks and bicycles seem to blend in with the pedestrian traffic without honking or any other indication of rudeness or impatience, although at a somewhat faster speed than I would feel comfortable with. Everyone seems to nonchalantly watch out for everyone else and traffic just merges seamlessly from one street to another. It seems to work very well here but would be a disaster in the States.
After returning to the hotel I went out to dinner with my friend, Ike-san, from Fort Hays State, and another Japanese researcher (Masahiro Tanimoto). We ate at a Greek restaurant where we were served by an Albanian waitress .in the Netherlands. It was truly an international experience. the food was good and when we got to talking to our waitress after the meal, I discovered that she not only spoke English very well, but also knew more about current events and politics in the U.S. than most Americans. It was a very enjoyable evening.
Monday, May 10, 2004:
Today we officially started the First Mosasaur Meeting at the Maastricht Museum of Natural History. There were three oral presentation sessions, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. Just about everyone ran over their time limit. I got to meet several people that I have only talked with via the Internet, and renew friendships with others that I have known from previous meetings.
On the way back from the museum this afternoon, I stopped by the local McDonalds to grab a sandwich. We are going back to the museum at 7:30 PM for a social hour and to meet with some local fossil collectors. The girl behind the counter switched instantly from speaking Dutch with her previous customer and greeted me in English.. I asked her how she knew to speak to me in English and she pointed to my shirt and the Oceans of Kansas Paleontology logo She then said something about Dorothy and Oz and it was clear she knew more about the States than you might expect. Turns out that she had an Aunt living in Pennsylvania, and she had lived in Australia for 5 years. I ordered a fish sandwich, which they were just out of, and she asked me if I could spare a moment? I wasnt sure what she meant at first, but finally realized that she was asking if I could wait for the sandwich. Wow! This was not your usual McDonalds
I told her, Yes, it looked like I would have to.
Then she asked me if she could wait on the customer behind me. I told her Sure, go ahead. When she was done, I told her that no one at McDonalds had EVER asked me if I could spare a moment, she acted briefly like she was offended, then smiled and said that they had trained her well. To which I certainly had to agree.. McDonalds USA could certainly take some tips from the McDonalds in the Netherlands. It took several minutes for the fish sandwich to appear and at one point she told me that they must still be catching the fish. It was certainly a different McDonalds experience than what I have been accustomed to. The fish sandwich finally arrived and I left.. they must have run out of ice before I got there because my Coke was just that barely cool, no ice. As it turned out, little or no ice is the rule, not the exception. One of our hosts (John Jagt) indicated that he was not happy to get a glass full of ice and little water when he was visiting the U.S. Apparently just a difference you get used to.. but we found that getting even plain water (here called tap vasser) is difficult. Water is seldom served with meals, although we had pitchers of it at the French restaurant where we where held the banquet dinner.
The Parking Garage (aka Dominicankerk (Catholic Church), built about 1200) Across the street from the McDonalds near the town square is a beautiful, large and very old stone church, built of stone 8 centuries ago. Ike-san and I walked in the open front doors yesterday and were amazed to find that it was being used as a parking garage for small cars and bicycles!!! It was complete with stained glass windows, stone floor and a lofty vaulted ceiling supported by massive stone columns. A small brass plaque beside the door (in Dutch) gave a brief history . but no one that Ive talked to can explain how it came to be converted from a church to a parking garage. It seemed that the congregation dwindled to next to nothing and the church was more or less abandoned. The Dutch, being a practical, if rather pragmatic, people, saw nothing wrong with using the large building for a parking garage. I would imagine the cost of the upkeep on such a building as a church would have been horrendous.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004:
Up again for a 7 AM breakfast. Today is my day to make a presentation in front of the group and I am bit nervous about it. While I know many of the people in the audience, there are enough others to make me wonder what sort of questions might be asked. As it was, the toughest question came from an American, and it went very well. The result of my paper and this meeting is that I will be authoring a paper with another mosasaur expert and naming a new species of Tylosaurus (the first new mosasaur from Kansas in over a hundred years, and the first new Tylosaurus from Kansas since Edward Cope named the last in 1874 cool stuff!! ) from specimens that I have collected and several that are scattered in museums from Harvard to Los Angeles. Since this mosasaur is found only in Kansas, for the most part, it will be named Tylosaurus kansasensis. You might ask why it has taken so long to name something like this, and the best I can tell you is that we have been politely waiting for someone else to do it The consensus of the group was to get it done. (I did... see: Everhart, M. J. 2005. Tylosaurus kansasensis, a new species of tylosaurine (Squamata: Mosasauridae) from the Niobrara Chalk of western Kansas, U.S.A. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences / Geologie en Mijnbouw, 84(3), p. 231-240)
I was supposed to have a luncheon meeting with the museum director to discuss our respective web sites. He is very proud of the museums web pages and deservedly so. However, he was also impressed that I was doing the Oceans of Kansas Paleontology site on my own. The museum contracts with an outside webmaster for their pages and only provides the content. At any rate, he found that he had a scheduling conflict and had to postpone our meeting. I ended up going with a group to a sandwich shop near the museum for you guessed it a ham and cheese sandwich (hold the pineapple, please) on a freshly baked bun. Tasty!
The rest of the day went well and we finished the official part of the meeting about 4 PM. The schedule had us attending a dinner at a nearby French restaurant and we all assembled there about 6:30 PM. The meeting had gone well, and everyone was in a good mood at the dinner. I sat across from the museum director and talked with him for a large part of the evening (there were mosasaur conversations on either side) since he was a prime mover in making this meeting happen. The wine started flowing early and the wait staff kept refilling glasses. They also placed dishes of bread on the table and kept refilling them (everyone was hungry!) After about an hour of conversation, they brought out the menus and we had a choice of three salads and three entrees I choose a sea food salad (nice shrimp, and thin fillets (uncooked, I think) of a pink fish, and a white fish didnt ask what they were but they tasted great). I also selected the salmon dinner with pasta. Gorden Bell sitting next to me ordered steak . and it looked very edible. The wine kept flowing as we finished dinner, and then someone (Lou Jacobs, from SMU) proposed a toast from there it went downhill as almost everyone in the group of 20+ people made some sort of a toast. Wine glasses were emptied and refilled and we sort of became an embarrassment to this quiet, refined French restaurant (just a bunch of paleontologists having a good time). I think they finally brought out dessert so we would leave . unfortunately I dont remember what it was.
One of the major outcomes of the discussions at the banquet was an agreement that that there should be a Second Mosasaur Meeting... and it was agreed that the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kansas, might be a good place to have one...
A group of the die-hards, including moi, decided to go out for another drink. We wandered across the river Meuse to a bar that was closed, stopped in another bar that was full, and at 10 PM ended up sitting on the outside of another bar on the other side of the river (the same side we had come from). By then the group was down to Americans, Dutch, Canadians and one German. They started ordering beer and Gorden decided to have a shot of Tequila What the heck I had one, too. After the third round, the group again split up and the sensible ones (me included) went back to the hotel. We had to be at the train station at 9 AM and we were taking bets that some of the others might not make it
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
All of us arrived safely and ahead of time at the station, although a fair number were very much worse for wear. For some reason all the wine and tequila didnt affect me that much (they cancelled each other ... right!) but the other group who had continued for a while after we went to bed seemed to be having some problems.
It was a three hour train trip from the southern most point in the Netherlands to the northern most part of the country, and a visit to Teylers Museum in Haarlem. The Teylers Museum is the oldest museum in the country and the home of the very first (although poorly recognized) fossil of Mosasaurus hoffmanni. The countryside was lush and green, with very few farms visible. There were a very few old windmills along the way, although we did see a number of new, wind-generators near the tracks. The train tracks paralleled one or more of the major canals along the way and we were able to see lots of boats hauling cargo or pushing barges.
Haarlem is also an old town, and the buildings looked very much like those of Maastricht. We walked briskly from the train station to the museum (our train was a little bit late and we had scheduled a time for the museum tour). Once we were inside the museum, we had lunch (bread, cheese, meat and fruit) in the museum lunchroom. Then we were taken upstairs where we listened to the museum director explain some of the history of the museums and its acquisitions. It began as a private museum, initially (1779) as a concept of the Teylers Foundation and concentrated on science and art. The museum first opened in 1784, and then grew steadily in size as more wings were added to house the growing collections. Most of its fossil material is Jurassic in age but their Cretaceous specimens from the mountain of St. Petersburg, near Maastricht is the oldest such collection in the world.
Once we had some of the history of the museum, the group (20 people) was divided in two, and went off on tour in opposite directions. Our group was lead by the former (retired) director of the museum who was very precise and Prussian in his demeanor. Most of us were interested primarily in the Cretaceous collection, but he wanted to show us ALL of the collections and moved us quickly along through the various halls and exhibits. We endured his leadership and then were able to return to the fossil exhibition hall when he was finished.
We said good-by to many of the group at that point and only about 8 of us got on the train for the trip back to Maastricht. Two of the museum staff (John Jagt and Eric Mulder) got off along the way to return to their homes. The remaining six of us arrived at Maastricht about 8 PM. From there we walked a LONG way to an Irish bar near the museum and had our dinner. The place was really not much to look at, but the service was good and the food was even better. Our remaining host, Anne Schulp, had arranged to meet his wife there. Apparently she was on her way to work (third shift). When I asked her where she had such hours, she said she worked in the pediatrics ward at a hospital where she was a doctor in her last year of residency.
I had a steak smothered with mushrooms, a salad and French fries the fries were more like English chips and arrived in three large bowls at the table. One of the quaint differences was that condiments (mayonnaise, catsup and mustard) had to be ordered separately and cost .25 Euros each.. I ordered catsup for the fries and found that my Swedish friend (Johann Lindgren) and my Japanese friend both liked catsup, too! It came in a small bowl, and didnt go very far. Another thing that was a bit different was that the most Europeans apparently eat their fries with mayonnaise.
We finished the meal rather quickly (about 10 PM) and no one suggested another round of drinks or a visit to another bar. It was pretty much back to the hotel and to bed.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
A free day. I returned to the Maastricht Natural History Museum for a meeting with the museum director, Douwe Th. de Graaf to discuss Internet issues and websites. After the meeting, I spent some time with Plamen Tzankov Ivanov, a student from Bulgaria who is interested in mosasaurs. There have apparently been a few specimens discovered there. However, they are still not reported. He is apparently the only one in his county who wants to study mosasaurs. He had borrowed some books from the museum library and I was able to photograph an original copy of the book by Faujas St. Fond which contains the first known pictures (woodcuts) of the strange animal of Maastricht. These drawings were done before anyone in the world understood evolution, extinction or anything else about prehistoric animals.
spent most of the day at the museum and then returned to the hotel. After dropping off my computer and camera in the room, I went over to a nearby Internet Café and purchased an hour and a half of time on the net to send some emails home. It was an interesting place, visited mostly by students, most of which appeared to be from the Middle East or Africa. I think the owners were from Turkey. At any rate, their computers worked and I got my fix on the Internet unfortunately, I wasnt able to access my server at home (used Yahoo instead) and so I probably have 3000 SPAM emails waiting for me.. I spent another couple of hours walking around town looking in shops.. its a shoppers paradise with dozens of shops selling all kinds of things. However, Im not much of a shopper, so it was all lost on me.
Later in the evening I decided to go out for dinner and asked my other Japanese friend (Ike-san had left for Berlin the previous day) if he would like to go somewhere. We went to a nearby Chinese restaurant where he ordered Wonton soup and some fried rice dish with shrimp. I ordered sweet and sour pork (interestingly, the menu in a Dutch Chinese restaurant is very much like one in a comparable American restaurant).
After dinner, I went to the Internet Café again and sent off the original version of this travelogue. I also cleaned out the inbox of my Fort Hays email account (227 messages all SPAM. When I tried to do the same with my main email address, I quickly clogged up my in box (4 megs!!). It was also getting late and I was the last one left in the Internet Café. I finally got back to my room about 10:30 and then stayed up past midnight watching television. Unlike the other times when I had turned it on, there seemed to be a lot of American movies on in English with Dutch subtitles.
Friday, May 14, 2004
I didnt get much sleep last night. As it turned out, they have a Fish Market in the town square of Maastricht every Friday. They bring everything in by truck and set up VERY early in the morning. One of the areas that they set up in was right outside my window. There was a constant buzz of activity and more than few loud noises outside from about 2 AM and my window was open. It turned out that most of the fish/seafood came from the northern part of the Netherlands and most of the customers were Belgians, Germans and French from outside the Netherlands. It seemed to be a very big deal.
I ate the usual breakfast at the hotel, paid my bill and met the cab (another Mercedes) I had requested out in front. This time the driver was a lady. The trip to the airport was expensive (30 Euros), but worth it in terms of getting there on time. I checked in at the KLM gate, went through security and boarded the plane about an hour later. One of the neat things that I noticed as I buckled in was the music being played in the background.. Dust in the Wind by Kansas. I decided that was a good omen. It seems that Europeans do like American music.. It is definitely the popular choice in many public areas and was very loudly evident at the carnival in Maastricht that we passed everyday on our walk to and from the museum.
The plane ride to Amsterdam was uneventful (the best kind of flight). After arriving at the Schrepl Airport, I had a four hour wait for my flight to Memphis. There wasnt much to see or do, so I mostly worked on this travelogue.
KLM started the boarding process about an hour and a half before the flight and everyone had to have their passports checked, and go through a short interview process. It was much more complicated coming back than going over. The flight back was longer than the one over (fighting a headwind instead of riding a tailwind, and there were storms along the East coast that caused our flight to be re-routed further south. Otherwise, everything worked as planned and I got through Customs in Memphis without any problems (although not without complaining about the long lines). .
Trivia: It is interesting to note that in the Netherlands (and probably the rest of Europe, the size (width) of paper towels and toilet paper is smaller than in the U.S., while typewriter paper is larger Im sure there is some hidden significance there, but I was polite enough not to ask
Bicycles are very popular in the Netherlands and it appears that they are probably a faster way to get around on the narrow, winding streets than are automobiles. I saw no American cars here, and only a few Japanese models. It seemed like you either ride a bicycle here, or drive an expensive European car (BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Audi, etc).
Traffic flows freely and could be considered a polite form of anarchy everyone seems to make their own rules, but the number one rule is to get along with everyone else. Cars, buses, motorbikes, bicycles and people seem to merge seamlessly. There are very few stop lights and no stop signs. While some people drive a little too fast for the crowded streets, they seem to be very alert and manage quite well. There is no honking or other obvious signs of rudeness or anger. In fact, the city is very quiet. (Unless of course, your hotel room faces one of the town squares and there are late night activities going on below but even then, it is people noise, and something that you get used to). Maastricht seems to never sleep. There are a large number of young people here, and it has all the flavor of being a college town. It is also quite international.
I have only seen two near accidents while I have been here. One involved two kids on a motorbike that were going too fast on a narrow bridge with pedestrians and almost hit a woman. The other was a near rear end collision that occurred when the first car of a group of three stopped suddenly to avoid hitting a motorbike.
Most people live in apartments inside the town, and I havent seen much in the way of major residential (single family) developments around any of the towns that we rode through on the train. The old buildings are conserved as much as possible in the downtown area. However, there are few, if any, vacant or rundown buildings. I saw several places along the walk to the museum where the insides of buildings were being gutted and refurbished. It is not unusual to see a 21st Century computerized office inside the window of a building that is several hundred years old. As long as the outside is preserved, the owners are free to modernize the inside as much as they like.
Maastricht is, of course, a very old town and there are even some archeological digs into Roman ruins fairly close to the city. Many of the larger buildings (churches, etc) date from the 12th century. Most of the paving of the city streets appears to be the original cobblestones (roughly 5 by 9 inches). These stones are uniform in size and shape, and are produced from granite which is mined / quarried in nearby Belgium. We were able to see work being done on a plumbing line that ran under one of the small side streets. The city workers simply removed the stones, dug down two feet or so to the water line, and replaced the leaking pipe. Then they replaced the dirt/sand, tamped it down and replaced the stones. Once the stones were grouted back with sand, the street was swept and the repair disappeared. No patchwork of asphalt or new concrete. I am not sure that I could locate it today. It was all done very quickly (two small trucks, 2 or 3 workers, no jackhammers or heavy equipment).
Ah, yes I saw my first American car on Thursday before I left.. or rather an American truck there was a bright, shiny red Dodge Ram pickup parked in front of the hotel when I came back from the Internet Café . looking very large and out of place.
Mike Everhart May 14, 2004