Explorer Beastie Special – Belfast Road Trip!

Explorer Beastie at Queen's University - CrawCrafts BeastiesOK, so normally Explorer Beastie and I would be taking you to one of our favourite Dublin places today… But when a rare opportunity to visit Belfast presented itself, we could hardly say no!

Although I originally hail from this part of the world, I very seldom get to hang out in Belfast any more. Trips “Up Home” seem to skim by in an instant – by the time I’ve shared all my news, heard what my parents have been up to, said hello to the cat and sampled the latest batch of my Dad’s homemade wine, I almost need to pack up and head south again! So when we heard there was a Rembrandt self-portrait on loan to the Ulster Museum, it was a perfect excuse to take the bus from the family homestead and pay a visit to one of my favourite childhood stomping grounds. On the way, Explorer Beastie had a quick look around the historic Lanyon building at Queen’s University…

Explorer Beastie at University! CrawCrafts BeastiesSandwich Time! CrawCrafts Beasties

…Then we grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading into the museum!

It turns out that there are lots of monster-like things living in the Ulster Museum, if you know where to look!

Monster Montage - CrawCrafts Beasties
Clockwise from main image: Totem pole, gold salamander pendant from the wreck of the “Girona”, Bacchus jug spout from the “Girona”, Sri Lankan Kolam mask

And you really need to watch out for those dragons flying around the atrium too…
Willow Dragons at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts BeastiesThese incredible sculptures are made from woven willow, and they’re the handiwork of local master basketweaver Bob Johnston. They’re so lifelike that you could almost imagine them swooping down from the ceiling! Fortunately, they seem more interested in each other… for now!

This trip was a great opportunity for me to check in with some old favourites – the exhibits I’ve been coming here to see since I was a small, creepily-obsessed-with-Ancient-Egypt-and-vampires child. Even after a complete refurbishment a few years ago, many of them are still on display! That includes Takabuti, the Eygptian mummy who has been an important part of the museum’s collection since she was first introduced to the public in 1835.
Takabuti's Hair at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts BeastiesSince long experience has taught me that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mummies, I’ll just include this photo of a lock of Takabuti’s hair here instead… but you can find out more about her on the Museum’s website if you like!

Next, we went in search of some dinosaurs…
Explorer Beastie with Dinosuars at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts Beasties…And some prehistoric creatures that are still with us!
Explorer Beastie and the Coelacanth - CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer Beastie was pretty intriuged by this coelacanth – a fish that was thought to be extinct until a live one was captured off the coast of South Africa in 1938. Before this, it had only been seen in fossils – ones that were at least 80 million years old! The Ulster Museum’s own “living fossil” was caught in 1973 off the Comoros Islands, and has been here ever since.

Also high on Explorer Beastie’s must-see list were the finds from the “Girona”, a ship from the Spanish Armada that was wrecked off the coast of County Antrim in 1588. He examined one of the original cannons…
Explorer Beastie and the Cannon - CrawCrafts Beasties…And discovered the kind of treasure that would make Pirate Beastie’s one remaining knee go weak!
Sunken Treasure from the Girona - CrawCrafts BeastiesThen we had a go at building a Neolithic stone tomb…
Explorer Beastie Builds a Tomb! CrawCrafts BeastiesWait a second… Tomb? Shipwrecks? Mummies? This is all getting very morbid! I think it’s high time we headed off to find that Rembrandt!
Rembrandt at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts BeastiesWow. The detail in the face is amazing – you can almost imagine him opening his mouth and launching into his life story. In fact, this is one of the last paintings Rembrandt completed… a final addition to the collection of 80 or so self-portraits he produced in his lifetime.

We could have stayed in the museum all day, but it really was time to head for home. At least we still had a few spare minutes for a leisurely stroll back into town through the Queen’s Quarter…
Around Queens Quarter, Belfast - CrawCrafts Beasties…And a quick hot chocolate on the way!
Explorer Beastie tucks in! CrawCrafts BeastiesThanks for joining us on our adventure north of the border! We’ll be back in Beastie Towers next week, bringing you monster news on Tuesday and another Dublin day out on Friday. In the meantime, have a super weekend!

Reader Beastie Meets Some Prehistoric Monsters!

Reader Beastie with some T-Rexes - N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties
Last weekend, I got an update from Reader Beastie, who is now happily living in Saskatchewan in Canada! This time, instead of helping out on the farm, he made an educational trip to visit a completely different type of animal…
Reader Beastie at the T-rex Discovery Centre - N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties

The T-rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, Southwest Saskatchewan, is home to Scotty – one of the largest and most complete tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found! There’s a great story behind the discovery too… the first pieces of Scotty to be excavated – a tooth and a tail vertebra – were actually unearthed by a local schoolteacher, who had joined a team of paleontologists from the Royal Museum of Saskatchewan on one of their digs to learn about how fossils are found and identified. Imagine how he must have felt when he found out what he’d dug up!

It was a couple of years before the rest of Scotty made it out of the ground… excavation began in mid 1994, and since then these remains have helped paleontologists to better understand this most celebrated of dinosaurs, and how life was for them in the Frenchman River Valley 65 million years ago. Since the skeleton is almost complete, the museum has also been able to make a cast of each individual bone and reassemble a life-size Scotty for visitors to meet! You can see Reader Beastie posing with the replica in the main photo… and here he is bravely demonstrating exactly how fearsome t-rex teeth were!
Reader Beastie with a T-rex Skull - N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties
Of course, t-rex wasn’t the only creature roaming prehistoric Saskatchewan! Reader Beastie also got up close and personal with a triceratops (my own favourite dinosaur)…
Reader Beastie with a Triceratops - N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties
… And a brontothere – a large prehistoric mammal that was a distant relative of modern horses, rhinos and tapirs!
Reader Beastie meets a Brontothere - N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties
He even came across some dinosaur poop! Lucky it’s fossilised… Am I the only one thinking of that scene from “Jurassic Park” right now?
Reader Beastie with some dino poo - N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties
All in all, it looks like Reader Beastie had a super day out! He might even consider a change of career… Hello Paleontologist Beastie!
Paleontologist Beastie! N Couture/CrawCrafts Beasties