Science Writing Competition 2022 – Joint 2nd Place

by Nicola Robson, MSc student, Department of Life Sciences

The Fossil Gallery

My life in this museum may
Seem rather dull to you,
100 years stuck on a wall
Sounds tiring, it’s true.

But if you knew my story, you
Would soon begin to see
That epochs pass like seconds
When you’re as old as me.

I watch you humans flit about
Like ants, from my display,
And I confess, I do enjoy
To people-watch all day.

And so I’m quite content here, in
The Fossil Gallery – yet
I often reminisce about
My old life in the sea.

My ancestors were lizards
Slinking through the sun-kissed sand,
‘Till one day they decided
They were not content on land.

A major mass extinction meant
All sea creatures were killed;
The ocean was an empty niche
Waiting to be filled.

This drove their evolution,
And scales turned into skin,
Their fingers became flippers
And tail turned into fin.

And so my kind invaded
Any ocean that they pleased.
The ichthyosaurs were reigning
Every corner of the seas.

The Mesozoic Era
Was when I lived and died.
When reptiles ruled the oceans,
Land, rivers, seas and skies.

As powerful as any tide,
My tail swept to and fro,
Wide eyes made for the darkness, so
Into the deep, I’d go.

But I was made for swimming –
Chasing prey in open sea.
You wouldn’t find another who could
Swim as fast as me.

But then there came a time when I
Could chase my prey no more,
I knew my time was over
And sank gently to the floor.

I lay there for millennia,
Upon the ocean bed,
As sediment, like sands of time
Built up upon my head.

And as the heaviness above
Pressed down upon my bone,
Rock soon replaced my body,
And turned me into stone.

The continents all shifted –
Either merged or broke apart.
New species rose and fell, just like
The beating of a heart.

And all the while I stayed there
‘Till my rocky tomb unfurled –
And I gazed upon the landscape of
An unfamiliar world.

You dug me up and hung me on
The wall for all to see.
No living soul had seen a stranger
Animal than me.

A funny fish, or crocodile,
Were both bandied about.
Sea-dragon, dolphin, dinosaur,
You couldn’t work me out.

But science has progressed, and so
You know me now, it’s true.
But just think, I’ve had lots of time
To get to know you, too.

Your climate’s getting warmer, you’re
Held captive by your phones,
Will you only stop to see it
When all that’s left of you is bones?

So as the day comes to a close here
In the Fossil Gallery,
I watch you down below me, and
You look, but do not see.

So I look on with interest
Because stay on this wall I must –
Until you come to join me
Or I crumble into dust.