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BBC Live from Dinosaur Island

In 2001, I worked for the BBC (London , UK) on "Live from Dinosaur Island" a $1.8m 5 x 1hr live summer spectacular.

Site Purple: our presenter Edwina Silver talk to the camera during rehearsal while the crew looks on

The show ran on BBC1 from the 10th-17th of June and had ~2.5m viewers for the first programme. It was repeated on Christmas day 2001, and certain sections were used in Michael Parkinson's review of the year.

The digs all took place in the Early Cretaceous Wessex Formation. Through the week six sites were excavated. These were mostly excavations of old sites: the type localities of the small ornithopod Hypsilophodon foxii, carcharodontosaurid Neovenator salerii, and primitive tyrannosauroid Eotyrannus lengi; and the 1992 'Brachiosaur' site. However, two new sites were opened up for Iguanodon.

To start with, I worked on digging up a large Iguanodon bernissartensis at site Purple (left). After a couple of days it became clear that we weren't going to get much more from the site.

Site orange, note the log-jam on the right of the picture, and our telescope (centre): for spying on the other digsites!

While site purple was being cleared up, a few of us moved on to a beach-locality: "Team-orange" (left, yes that's a giant drawing of an orange in the sand). We had enjoyed some success at this site in 2000, digging up a partial skeleton of Iguanodon atherfieldensis, and I had studied the taphonomy as part of my MSc.

Initially we were supposed to find a coprolite for the show. This was straightforward as the site is littered with coprolites and shed teeth, suggesting the Iguanodon carcass was scavenged before it was fully buried. Having successfully found a coprolite, we carried on excavating, uncovering a fossil log-jam in which the Iguanodon carcass had become trapped. Interspersed amongst the logs were more Iguanodon bones, and the remains of other animals, including lepidotid fish, hybodont sharks, turtles, the crocodiles Goniopholis and Bernissartia, the fish eating theropod Baryonyx, Neovenator, and a pterosaur tooth.

Our site produced some nice material, but was eventually flooded. Contrary to some reports, there wasn't a "freak tide" that day: in fact it was one of the smallest tides of the neap cycle. Unfortunately, there was a large swell out at sea, and this caused some rougher than usual wave activity, swamping our defences, and flooding the digsite. The bones got covered in sand, but they were fine: we recovered them a day or so later.


Fowler, D.W. (2000) Vertebrate taphonomy of the plant debris beds form the ISle of Wight, UK: Palaeoenvironmental and Palaeoecological implications. Unpubl. MSc thesis, University of Bristol

A shed Neovenator tooth found amongst the Iguanodon bones at site orange

Cervical (neck) vertebrae of the Iguanodon discovered at site orange

Polished pebble and coprolites from site orange

dorsal vertebrae from site orange