Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Diving for dinosaur bones in the North Atlantic


Red Deer Advocate

Canadian Pacific (CP) ship SS Mount Temple; undated.
The photograph is credited to Stewart Bale.

EDMONTON (CP) - Ever since he was a kid, Darren Tanke has been fascinated by a ship full of dinosaur bones from Alberta's badlands.

The ship is sitting at the bottom of the North Atlantic after a German naval attack during the First World War.''I first read about them when I was about eight years old,'' said Tanke, 44.

Tanke is a technician with the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.

''I never dreamed that one day I would be trying to recover them.''Tanke, along with professional diver and marine archeologist Rob Rondeau, are in the early stages of a salvage effort that could someday bring dinosaur bones from the shipwreck SS Mount Temple - including a rare 75-million-year-old duck-billed hadrosaur - back to the surface.

Next month, Rondeau, 40, will lead a diving expedition to the Oldenberg, the German ship that sunk the Mount Temple before it, too, sank off the coast of Norway at the end of the Second World War.

That's just a prelude to the more ambitious task of recovering the fossils.Rondeau hopes the first dive will attract a film producer, such as James Cameron who produced the mega-movie hit Titanic.

He also seeks sponsors with deep pockets to cover the Mount Temple costs, which will be in the millions of dollars.

The story starts in the summer of 1916 in what is now Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks. American fossil hunter Charles H. Sternberg, working under contract with the British Museum of Natural History, collected a treasure trove of fossils, including a nearly complete hadrosaur skeleton and an equally rare turtle.

The fossils were loaded onto the steamship Mount Temple, destined for London to be put on display.But en route to England, the Mount Temple was intercepted by a German ship, SMS Moewe, which was later renamed the Oldenberg.

After firing on the Mount Temple, the crew of the Moewe boarded the Canadian merchant ship and planted explosives on the hull.

The scuttled the craft and sent its precious 75-million-year-old cargo to the bottom of the ocean.

Four of the Canadian crew were killed and the rest were captured. The ship now sits somewhere in a remote patch of the ocean, about 700 km northwest of the western Azores.

At the end of the First World War, the Moewe was seized by the British and later sold back to the Germans, who renamed it the Oldenberg.

Pressed into military service in the Second World War, it sank in a rocket attack in 1945 near Vadheim, Norway.

With a team of commercial divers from Canada and Norway, Rondeau plans to spend the first two weeks of February exploring the Oldenberg, submerged in a relatively shallow 20 to 70 metres of water.

Renowned underwater photographer Dave Basiove from Vancouver will film its contents for the Discovery Channel.

Know more about it in www.ssmounttemple.com.

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