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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday, 7th September - Remarkable Creatures (Chosen by Ca)

Su:    Reading the book was like going for a leisurely walk along the beach, looking for fossils.
Ant:  I enjoyed it but my favourite is still "Girl with a Pearl Earring" .......
He:    I loved it!  This one is my favourite!
Je:     Imagine getting a postcard from a friend who has just gone there!  What a coincidence!! The coastline is just stunning.
An:   The romance part was not quite believable. Also can't see the beach scene happening.
Cat:  Times were so hard for women then. Did Mary die in poverty?
Ge:   I've been struck by lightning twice! 
Ca:   I really wanted to see what Mary found. I wanted to touch and hold the fossils .......  

Some Interesting Links:

Tracy Chevalier's website (Remarkable Creatures)  - We watched the video clip from this website that shows Tracy Chevalier talking about Remarkable Creatures. We also read through author information, interviews and noted  that there are some useful discussion questions for book groups found here.

Audio Slideshow - Jurassic Women (BBC)  (Great background info here!  Enhanced the reading of the book. We had passed this around through email before our meeting.  Not sure how long this will be available for as this is a cached link.)

Lyme Regis Museum article on Mary's first Ichthyosaurus. (Mary Anning's first fossil find has come back home to Lyme Regis for a short period of time this year.  It usually is found in the Natural History Museum in London.)

Mary Anning (Biography) NHM link
Cat asked the question which all of us were curious about.  Did Mary die exploited, unrecognised and in poverty?  This link tells us that "nine years before her death, she was given an annuity, or annual payment, raised by members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of London.  She was the first honourary member of the new Dorset Country Museum.  Her death in 1947 was recorded by the Geological Society (which did not admit women until 1904) and her life commemorated by a stained glass window in the local church."

Hub pages Link  (Has great pics!! Picture of Anning stained glass window and Lyme Regis Church also found here.)

Bullock's Egyptian Hall (The Georgian Index)  (p118 William Bullock's museum, where Mary's first ichie was shamefully "dressed up" and displayed.)

Montague House (The British Museum)  (p117, p235)

Montague House - slideshow (15 pictures)  Excellent collection of pictures scanned by Bolckow  from the British Museum calender of 1965 showing what the British Museum at Montague House looked like 1790-1880.

Lyme Regis Museum   Tracy Chevalier's inspiration for the book started off in this museum where she first found out about Mary Anning.

Discovering Fossils today in Lyme Regis

Mary Anning and her dog, Tray

Mary Anning's first fossil find with her brother, Joe - Ichthyosaurus  (p71)
Now in the Natural History Museum,  Kensington

"Straightaway I saw the teeth, just below eye level. They weren't even in rows, but all a jumble between two long dark pieces that must have been the creature's mouth and jaw.  These bones met together in a tip, making a long, pointy snout. ...... Joe put his finger on a large bump above where the jaw was hinged. Rock covered some of it, but it looked to be circular, like a bread roll sitting on a saucer. From the curve you might think it were part of an ammonite, but there were no spiral with spines going round. Instead there were plates of bone overlaid round a big empty socket. ..... Is that its eye? ......"  (p71-72)

Mary Anning's House and shop in Lyme Regis, 1842    (p.27, p242)

"I was behind our table in Cockmoile Square, ....."  (p242)

Mary's drawing of plesiosaurus and notes  (p271)

Grave of Mary Anning, Joe Anning and three other children.  Mary died of breast cancer at the age of 47.


We looked at a map of the places mentioned in the book.  Je, by coincidence had a beautiful postcard from a friend who had just been to the jurassic coast and it was great to be able to see the beautiful coastline we had just read about in the postcard.  :)

While looking at the Map, we noted Chesil Beach, near Lyme Regis,  the setting for Ian McEwan's book On Chesil Beach. We also followed Elizabeth Philpot's 4 day journey to London by sea on the map.

The Map

Elizabeth, on board the Unity and the 4-day journey to London p285 (Days are marked on map)

Day 1 (p285)
"We sailed out to sea rather than hug the coast for we had to clear the tricky isle of Portland. So I did not get to see up close the places I know well - Golden Cap, Bridport, Chesil Beach, Weymouth.Once past Portland we remained out at sea until we had gone around the Isle of Wight, finally coming closer to shore."

Day2 (p287)
"The first I saw of land was on the second day when the chalk cliffs to the east of Brighton came blinking into view."  (Brighton was where Elizabeth's sister Frances lived ... but Elizabeth decided not to pay her a visit and was "content to remain on board."

Day 3 (p287)
By this stage the boat reached Dover and this was where they discovered that the Dispatch, the vessel carrying Mary's Plesiosaurus was stuck in a sandbank.
"On the  third day we passed over Dover with it's stark white cliffs, and were coming around the headland by Ramsgate when we saw a ship off our port side run aground on a sandbar."

Day4 (p288)
"We reached London in the early hours of the fourth day, docking at a wharf on Tooley Street."

Below is a picture that we looked at showing Tooley St on the Southwark side of the River Thames..... between the river and the railway line.  There were a few landings on Tooley St in the early 1800's....    The largest wharf, called Hays Wharf on Tooley St was destroyed by fire in 1861.  The area is now the location of a shopping mall called Hay's Galleria.

Tooley St (seen on the left)

(Movies filmed at Lyme Regis)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (starring Meryl Streep)
Persuasion (2007)
Emma (Starring Gwenyth Paltrow)
Gulliver's Travels (Omar Sharif)
BBC's Tess


We passed an ammonite and a trilobite fossil around .....

....... and had a look at some books with colourful illustrations of these ancient creatures that also showed what they were and how they evolved through time.....

There are many books on Mary Anning available for children.  This book was from our local library and was simple with beautiful illustrations for younger readers.

A few more places and people mentioned in the book that we found ....................

Red Lion Square where the Philpots grew up (p15)

Interior of British Museum at Montague hall showing grand staircase

Map showing location of British museum to Red Lion Square - close to Philpots

William Buckland,  1845 (p147, p297 and more)

William Conybeare  (p272, p297 and more)

Fossil Gallery at the Natural History Museum, Kensington where  most of Mary's finds are displayed. Most of these pictures are the copyright of the NHM and the Lyme Regis museum, with a picture of Tracy Chevalier and Mary's first Ichthyosaur from her website too. Ca however, did take the picture on the bottom left corner ... the one of Mary's Plesiosaurus ..... in 2008 before the book was published.  Pity we live so far away....... Would love to visit the museum!!

And we digressed as we usually do. Among some of the things we got talking about:

  • We definitely know why we called our group "Escape"!!    :)

  • The huge sum of money that America spends on insurance for alien abduction.  What this has to do with fossils? ... we don't know ....

  • Ant's amazing gift for a friend, ordered from the book depository that managed to reach it's destination in Singapore despite the fact that she incorrectly addressed it.  The only correct thing written on the package was the street!!  She put the wrong country down too!!  It happened by accident, while ordering the item online.

  • Ge and how she got struck by lightning ...... TWICE!!  Not a pleasant experience .......

  • Some of us are making plans to see "The Help" which is now showing at the Cinemas over here.  (Some have already been .... )

  • Alexander McCall Smith will be visiting in October, this year ...... !!! 

(We missed De and Fra who are away this month.  De is heading for London this year and might see some of the places mentioned.!  Fra visited the Jurassic Coastline last year and is at the moment somewhere in South America .... but will be back soon!)

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