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At the bottom of the Bahariya Depression, Stromer will find the remains of four immense and entirely new dinosaurs, along with dozens of other unique specimens. But there will be reversals—shipments delayed for years by war, fossils shattered in transit, stunning personal and professional setbacks. Then, in a single cataclysmic night, all of his work will be destroyed and Ernst Stromer will slip into history and be forgotten.
The date is January 11, 2000—eighty-nine years to the day after Stromer descended into Bahariya. Another young paleontologist, Ameri-can graduate student Josh Smith, has brought a team of fellow scientists to Egypt to find Stromer’ s dinosaur graveyard and resurrect the German pioneer’s legacy. After weeks of digging, often under appalling conditions, they fail utterly at rediscovering any of Stromer’ s dinosaur species.
Then, just when they are about to declare defeat, Smith’s team discovers a dinosaur of such staggering immensity that it will stun the world of paleontology and make headlines around the globe.
Masterfully weaving together history, science, and human drama, The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt is the gripping account of not one but two of the twentieth century’s great expeditions of discovery.
The second extinction of the dinosaurs from the Bahariya Oasis began shortly after midnight. It came from the sky. It began with a barely discernible disturbance in the air, a distant rumble that insinuated itself into the quiet of the night and quickly grew in intensity to a deafening roar. Then, suddenly, the sound became sight and the dark became light as the sky itself became fire. Moments later the roaring was punctuated by a stunning explosion that shattered the still night air. Then another. Then dozens more, until the earth shook and the ground split. Almost immediately, the sound and light became smell-the smell of burning, the singed stink of death. Screams rent the night, and soon the living became the dead.
There have been roughly a dozen mass extinctions during the history of life on Earth, five of them so severe and all-encompassing that they killed off vast numbers of living things. One was so catastrophic that it came close to ending life altogether. Indeed, all of the species alive today represent only 1 percent of all the life that has ever lived during the Earth's history. The other 99 percent have long since perished.1 By far the worst of the mass extinctions occurred an estimated 245 million years ago and took several million years to run its course. But though it was gradual, it was also exceptionally deadly. Scientists believe fully 95 percent of all the forms of plant and animal life in the seas at that time were likely eliminated. Though the cause is still hotly debated, many scientists believe that the consolidation of all of the continents then in existence into a single landmass-called Pangaea-caused sea levels to fall, the land to heat, and the ocean to stagnate. In this scenario, carbon dioxide levels rose, the heat increased, oxygen levels in the ocean plummeted. Slowly but surely, life in nearly all its forms suffocated to death.2 All we know about the creatures that vanished is what they left behind, their fossilized remains-petrified plantlike stems and calices of sea-dwelling crinoids, limy corals, bits of ammonite shell, skeletons of certain kinds of fish, tiny seagoing creatures.
But extinctions can also occur with cataclysmic suddenness. The age of the dinosaurs, those massive reptiles that ruled the Earth for more than 165 million years, appears to have ended abruptly, in geological terms, roughly 65 million years ago. To this day, no one knows why. One theory, intriguing though not widely accepted, points to the fact that this was a period of intense volcanic activity in many places on the Earth's crust. Perhaps the most spectacular eruption occurred in what is now southern India. There, between 66 and 68 million years ago, the Earth cleaved apart, spewing what may have been as much as 48,000 cubic miles of lava over an area of more than 772,000 square miles,3 an area roughly three quarters the size of the entire American West. The remnant of this event is a formation known to geologists as the Deccan Traps.4 The consequences of an eruption of this scale could have been appalling: Immense quantities of dust and ash would have been flung into the upper atmosphere and, in a matter of weeks, would have darkened the sky everywhere on the globe. In time, starved of light, plants would have shriveled and died. Animals that lived on plants would have followed, and animals that lived on other animals would, in turn, have followed them. What may have happened next is uncertain. The sulfurous air could have reduced temperatures sharply worldwide. Alternatively, the death of plants on land, and algae in the seas, may have caused carbon...
|Map of Egypt|
|Prologue: Death and Resurrection||3|
|1||Reaping the Whirlwind||7|
|2||The Bone-Hunting Aristocrat||21|
|3||Unearthing a Legend||46|
|4||Dragomen, Fossils, and Fleas||66|
|5||The Road to Bahariya||83|
|6||Finds and Losses||102|
|7||Sand, Wind, and Time||118|
|8||The Hill Near Death||138|
|9||Solving Stromer's Riddle||156|
|10||Lost World of the Lost Dinosaurs||180|