2024 Eclipse vacation

You likely know by now that I traveled to see the “Great American Eclipse” a couple weeks back. If you didn’t, well, you know now.

I planned this trip about a year ago, or at least I started planning it then. I had seen several partial eclipses before going at least as far back as the early 90’s; like many people I figured a total eclipse wouldn’t be very different. However, after the eclipse in 2017 I heard from several trusted sources that this impression was absolutely wrong. I had considered traveling for that one, but I was already doing a lot of other travel that year for various reasons and thought my work was “very important”. Hearing what I missed, I definitely regretted that choice. The next one wouldn’t be for 7 years, so I resolved to make an effort at that time.

2024 seemed like a very long way off back then, but of course most of 2020 through about 2022 kind of blurred together. Other stuff has happened over the last couple years that has changed my perspective a bit too, so on April 8, 2023 I picked out a place I wanted to go and tried to reserve it. It didn’t work.

After a few moments of despair I went to bed, and the next day I tried again, successfully this time. As the time approached I decided to tack on some other stuff before and after the eclipse, and I’m going to go ahead and talk about that here as well. If you want to just hear about the experience of the eclipse though, I will try to remember to turn these words into a link to that section (otherwise just scroll till you see something that looks like it might be it, I’ll do section headings or something).

I’m not a writer and I think this reflects that, but I’ll do my best.

First stop: Fort Wayne

Photo album link

I had chosen a state park in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio (otherwise known as “any part of Ohio”, ha!) and a 4+ hour solo drive didn’t appeal to me. I decided to stop in Fort Wayne on my way there for no particular reason other than being roughly in the middle.

As is often the case with me, my packing wasn’t done until well into the day I wanted to leave. In this case it wasn’t that big a deal as I had nobody and nothing specific waiting for me and only about 2 hours to drive.

I stayed at a hotel that was very much a generic hotel with no noteworthy features. On the drive in, I passed the Sweetwater campus, a large music retailer that I knew about and heard good things about. After checking in and dropping some things off at my room I headed back to check Sweetwater out.

I was expecting it to be basically just a popular music store, on the order of a Guitar Center but maybe a little bigger (since Sweetwater is mainly known online but I expected their main store to be a little more impressive), but I was really blown away by what I saw. It was more like a small campus, I guess is the best way to describe it. There was a small section by the main doors with some company-related historical displays, a small arcade with a couple of games and pool and ping-pong tables, a big cafeteria, at least one concert hall, practice / lesson rooms, recording studios, a medical clinic, salon and spa, and yes a pretty good sized music store. I bought nothing because while the idea of getting a new instrument appealed to me, I had finished packing my car just hours before and didn’t have room where it wouldn’t get damaged without rearranging everything. If I’m ever back in the city though I’ll definitely be stopping in again.

The next morning I packed back up and went into the city for a bit. After lunch and a cider at a crowded pub I went to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, one of the higher rated attractions. For a small city like Fort Wayne, I honestly wasn’t expecting too much, and kind of as I expected a lot of the galleries were taken up by relatively unknown local artists and local high school art class projects. Not that these can’t be good, of course, but it didn’t quite live up to the art museums I’ve seen in Chicago, Seattle, and DC. They did have a fun display of classic toys.

What was impressive was their glass wing. They have one of the largest collections of Studio Glass around, and it was duly impressive. I recognized works from Chihuly, but only because I saw a ton of them in Seattle. It was impressive enough that I forgot to take pictures of anything except one piece; you can see that one in the link at the start of this section.

Second stop: Mohican State Park

Photo album link

I will discuss everything about the park in this section; while I saw the eclipse at the park, it deserves a dedicated section at least.

Next I was on the road again heading to Mohican State Park. I had picked this place based on three very basic criteria: (1) In the path of the eclipse; (2) Cabins available, not just tent sites (a year out there’s no way to know what the weather will be like); (3) Not too far into the state.

As it is I now know I could’ve stayed longer in Fort Wayne, seen the eclipse, and gotten home earlier and with less driving; but I’m glad I did it the way I did.

Ohio gets a lot of flak from me for being flat, boring, and a pain to drive through, and that was certainly true for most of my trip. However, Mohican State Park is located in one of the northernmost areas that has actual geography that hasn’t been scraped flatter than a pancake by glaciers. You can even tell from satellite images of the state:

There was a little bit of up-and-down back-roads hill driving as I got close. That isn’t something I do often but I was glad to have a chance to practice it a bit somewhere less scary than Pike’s Peak.

I got there fairly late compared to my original plan, I think after 5; the lady at the gate checking people in said they knew they had a few more out-of-state guests on the way and I was one of them.

The campground was busy. I’d say about 90% full, possibly more. Arriving as I did one day before the eclipse though it was clear why – people from out of state, or less favorable locations in the state, wanted to witness it here.

The amenities kind of blew me away. In my younger days I was a bit more adventurous – tent camping in the snow, backpacking on Isle Royale – but I’m not that young any more, so I certainly have mixed feelings about finding out that the majority of the campground had free WiFi. Granted it was kind of bogged down the first couple days I was there, but that’s not something I had ever seen before. There was a pool in the central area, although it looked like they were still preparing that for the summer season (understandable in early April).

The “cabin” that I had rented was more like a small house. I was expecting it to exceed my needs already (I had seen that it could sleep 6 people; I hadn’t been sure a year ago if I would be going by myself or possibly inviting others with), but I wasn’t expecting central air conditioning, forced air heating, everything fully finished, a full kitchen (the only thing it was lacking, and I mean only, would be a dishwasher, but honestly that’s more of a luxury; it had pots, pans, utensils, six full place settings of dishes, cups, and silverware); a bathroom with a shower; and of course, out front towards the river, a fire pit and picnic table. I managed to cook 2 meals a day over the fire, which isn’t something I can usually manage.

There was a river running through the campground. To get to the cabins you had to go over it. It was pretty clear that it was deeper and faster than usual; I had heard that there were flooding concerns in parts of Ohio, and I was a little concerned there might be trouble (since you had to cross the river to get to the cabins, and there was no other road out of that area); but in the end it was fine. The river is called the “Clear Fork River”, but it was definitely not clear while I was there, rather very muddy-colored and opaque.

The first night I walked to the camp store and back just to see what was there. I found they had ice cream, as well as beef apparently grown at a different park. I hadn’t walked in there with the intention of getting either, but of course I walked out with both (along with some post cards that have since reached their recipients and a couple other things).

The first full day I was there was the day of the eclipse. I ended up walking around a ton just within the campground, over 8 miles. Unfortunately that resulted in blisters, so while the park seemed to have some great hiking trails I would’ve liked to have checked out, I had to leave them for some possible future visit.

Predictably, by that evening a lot of people were leaving. Quite a few stayed another day, but the eclipse was Monday and I didn’t leave till Wednesday. By then it was virtually deserted; a few RV’s and trailers, though it didn’t look like they were all occupied. At this time of year, though, that’s pretty much to be expected.

On my second full day there I did get in my car and visit some other parts of the park. The park is centered around a river valley with a gorge, and there are some areas with good overlooks of it. I stopped at a couple of these and took some photos, but this time of year isn’t the best for it; a lot of the trees still haven’t grown their leaves back. I saw what some of these areas look like in the fall on the post cards I bought, and I have to say that seems like the right time to visit. Obviously this trip wasn’t about the fall colors, though. There was also a historic fire tower and a memorial shrine located fairly near the campground; I stopped at both of those.

Later in the evening I cooked the steak, some baked beans, and some onions. The steak and onions came out good, the baked beans not so much. Overall pretty good though. Campfires are my favorite way to cook steak; not because it necessarily tastes any better, it just means that I’ve had enough time to build a fire and am not in a hurry. Also I’m usually more tired than after a typical work day (hunger being the best spice).

One of the nice things about the cabin was its covered porch. The first day I was there I picked up a bunch of kindling; when I was done starting fires for the day I put the rest in there. When it rained overnight I was glad I had, since all the sticks on the ground were soaking but the pile I had brought in was good to go. I guess plentiful kindling is one of the benefits of going “camping” so early in the year; usually if I go on trips like this it’s not till September and everything’s been picked over all summer.

I did not get up to much at the park during my last day there; mostly just packing up and taking a couple more walks around. Unfortunately the camp store was closed; I would’ve liked to have gotten a couple more steaks to bring with me. I suppose it’s one more thing I can do if I ever go back there again. It was raining, too, so that kind of put a damper on things.

Overall I can highly recommend Mohican State Park if you’re looking for camping in that general area. While my experience was clearly pretty far removed from actual camping, it looks like they have extensive trails and backpacking campsites as well. I will certainly be keeping that in mind if that’s something I try again in the near future.

The Eclipse

How do I even describe it?

It was indescribable. I am unable to describe it.

Ok. I’ll give it a shot.

You’ve probably already heard others describe total eclipses. I know I had, and I had usually thought that the descriptions were exaggerated. After the eclipse in 2017, though, I heard about it from a few trusted sources and saw some videos; I realized I’d had missed out because I figured it was important to be at work (it wasn’t) and because I was busy with a lot of travel and other stuff going on (I was, for example that day was the day I finished moving to a new house, and the next week I was in Europe for a week). But after hearing and seeing how it was I decided that I’d go to the next one I could, and that was the one this year. 2024 seemed a long way off then, but the years have really gone by quickly.

Anyway. You’ve probably heard people describe eclipses before, and thought it was exaggerated. I will start by saying it’s true, all of it. It lived up to my expectations, which isn’t something I say very often (not positively, at least).

It starts with nothing. Just a normal day. But you know the moon’s starting to touch the sun, and you’ve got these silly glasses just for looking at it, so you put them on and take a peek – sure enough the sun you see has a bite taken out of it. You check again a while later and it’s a bigger chunk. Eventually you notice the sunlight is getting dimmer; it’s kind of like when there’s clouds in front of the sun, but the shadows it casts are still just as sharp as ever. You think it’s your mind at first but pretty soon it’s clear it isn’t. It gets dimmer, dimmer, kind of but not really like sunset, since again, the shadows are still sharp, they’re not changing direction, and the color of the light isn’t changing, it’s just that there’s less of it. It really isn’t like the sun going down but that’s really the closest thing to it you’ve ever seen. You check the sun again with the funny glasses, and it’s down to a sliver. You notice the crescent-shaped patterns in some of the shadows of the leaves on the trees. It gets darker.

You know what’s coming, or you think you do. You know what time it’s supposed to start because you looked it up a year ago, again a week ago when you were packing, and three more times earlier today. “Totality” is just a couple minutes away and it’s already very dark; the lights on the cabins are coming on because they think it’s evening. But the shadows aren’t like in the evening, and it’s barely 3 in the afternoon. You take a look through the glasses again and the sun’s almost gone. You think it can’t get any darker at this time in the day. You start to feel… something. Something’s not right.

At this point you think it’s pretty cool, but is it all that different from the partial ones you’ve seen before? Only by degree, right? But you know that it’s not over yet.

And then it happens. The world goes dark – you thought it was dark already, but now it’s really dark. Dark like the night. You take the silly glasses off, you’re not going to need them for a couple minutes at least. You hear the cheers – for me, from about half a mile away. It’s literally as dark as night in the middle of the afternoon, but it’s not clouds; the sky is clear. And you look up.

There are lots of pictures of this last eclipse already out there. Most of them are better than what I was able to get, but I did get one pretty good one, which mostly captures what you see:

(The corona is bigger in this picture than I remember seeing in person; again, I took this pretty quickly and didn’t know what I was doing, but it did kind of come out so I’m sharing it).

I said it’s as dark as night, but obviously that’s not a clear description. Night comes gradually along with the changing of the color of the sunlight and its angle. An eclipse comes suddenly, and the sun is actually still there; it’s just not lighting you anymore. You can see its atmosphere, though, and it’s freaky. I heard that there were planets and stars visible, but to be honest I didn’t look for them so I can only kind of recall seeing a few stars.

The feeling I mentioned before is back, and strong. I believe humans didn’t evolve to understand an eclipse; they don’t happen often enough for it to be selected for. Academically you know what’s going on, but it’s so far out of the normal experience that it’s unnerving.

I obviously can’t speak for anyone else here, but I knew exactly what was happening, what to expect, and that it would all be over soon, but even that wasn’t enough to prevent feeling a sense of dread and awe. Someone who didn’t know what was happen would very easily think that this was the end of the world, that the gods had been angered and had blacked out the sun (or maybe set it on fire, if the corona was as active as it was this year; or that the sun had been replaced with the eye of an angry god). I could feel that too. It’s a rare thing, so I allowed myself to feel the dread and experience wondering “what if this really is the end?” for just a moment – but of course I knew better. This eclipse had been predicted centuries ago, and happened right on time. But the fact that you’re living on a sphere, orbiting another sphere, with a third sphere orbiting you, with the bright sphere and the small one just the right combination of sizes and distances that one could just barely block the other, suddenly just isn’t an abstract concept; it’s frightfully real. It was only for a moment, but it was worth thinking about (compared to my normal approach of ignoring feelings if they’re not helpful).

Isaac Asimov wrote a story (“Nightfall”) about a society on a planet that was only dark for one day every 2,000 years. The planet was in a system with 6 different stars, and it was never fully in the dark; but it had a very large moon, and periodically there would be only one star visible and the moon would block it. I have to wonder if Asimov (or Robert Silverberg, who expanded it into a novel) saw a solar eclipse and experienced the same awe that I did, because after seeing it the madness they describe makes a bit more sense. In that story the people never knew darkness and their eclipse lasted half a day, so it’s a big difference from the 3 minutes or so that I (someone who sees night every day) had.

And as suddenly as it started, totality was over. The sun gets a “diamond ring” appearance when it starts peeking over the limb of the moon; one spot bright where it’s visible behind the moon, and a much fainter ring around the moon from the corona. You don’t want to look at it directly anymore, but you can put the glasses back on and check it out. For the next hour or so things get steadily brighter again until it’s back to being a normal day, although after a minute or two you don’t even notice how dim it is anymore.

I really cannot overstate how cool it is. You should not dismiss it as being “just a little darker”. The next one going through a substantial part of the US is in 2045, so you’ve got time to prepare; there’s also one in Australia and New Zealand in 2028, and… well we’ll see, that’s far enough out I’m not going to make any plans yet.

I had set up 3 different cameras (2 old cell phones + current cell phone) to record it, which is part of the reason I was so far away from most of the rest of the people at the park. That might’ve been a mistake, but the choice was really being surrounded by strangers or being by myself – I picked by myself. Anyway, here’s the videos if you want to check them out. By the time all of them were started the eclipse had already started and totality was getting close; I wasn’t going to leave them going for over an hour just to get the very gradual dimming.

First one: shot with my current phone pointing at the river, unfortunately stops right after totality. I used this camera shortly after I realized I’d stopped the video to get that picture of the eclipse, though.

Video 1

Second one: shot with a slightly older phone with a 360 degree camera attached. You might be able to see me in it at some point. If you’re on mobile you can move your phone around to change the point of view, if you’re on desktop you should be able to click and drag

Video 2

Last one was set up and just left, pointing in no particular direction. Recorded on a 10-year-old phone which thought it was the wrong date and time (which actually delayed me posting this because I wanted to figure out how to fix that before uploading it, not that it ultimately mattered). This is probably my favorite one overall even if it’s lower quality.

Video 3

And here’s a small photo album so you can see how I had it all set up, along with the one good picture and two not good ones that I got of the eclipse itself.

Aside: Why Ohio?

As it turns out, Ohio was the place to be for the eclipse. I didn’t pick out out of foresight though.

A year out, Ohio was actually one of the worst-looking places to see the eclipse. Shortly after I booked the cabin, I found out that there were a bunch of maps for typical cloud cover that time of year. If I’d seen them, I might have chosen to fly to Texas instead. I’ve been there once so it wouldn’t be too terrible to go again. Ohio would generally expect heavy cloud cover so I was worried I might not see it very well at all (plus I’d be in Ohio, ew), while Texas is generally expected to have clear skies.

As it turned out there were storms in Texas, and Ohio had some flooding, but besides the higher and faster river I didn’t even notice. The day of the eclipse was pretty clear.

My choice really came down to two preferences: I didn’t want to go too far, and I wanted to experience it somewhere in nature. Indiana would’ve been closer, but I didn’t find any parks that I was sure would be in the path (I’m sure there were some but I didn’t look too far). Ohio, as it turns out, has a pretty good state park system. Overall everything turned out very well.

Third Stop: Toledo

Photo album link

A few weeks before leaving for the trip I started looking for places I could stop on the way there and back, and the two big-ish cities I found were Fort Wayne and Toledo. I’ve driven past Toledo many times and this time I decided I’d stop there for two nights.

It was rainy when I got into town, so I found some indoor activities. I went to another hobby shop, and then a mall, and finally got some groceries. Unfortunately the refrigerator in my hotel room froze everything inside, which was kind of annoying and spoiled some of those groceries. I looked up the manual and tried to set it warmer but that didn’t help.

The next day I chilled a bit before checking out an antique mall nearby. It had a lot of stuff but not very much that I actually cared to get. Apparently lots of video games are antiques now – and some adult magazines? (including issues younger than me, so I guess maybe I’m an antique now too).

After lunch I went to the Toledo Museum of Art. As with the one in Fort Wayne, I figured it as a fairly small city it wouldn’t be too big, but I was wrong. Again it wasn’t quite the same scale as the one in Chicago, but size-wise it was probably almost as big as the one I went to in DC, and it had a lot of cool things. One whole building has the cloister from a medieval abbey; a big open room with a huge piano (apparently a concert space); a couple spaces for rotating exhibits that I skipped; and all kinds of art from recent to ancient Egypt. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend going out of your way for it, but if you’re already in Toledo for something or passing by and looking for somewhere to stop, I can definitely recommend it.

And that was it. The next day I finished packing up, I threw out the frozen food from the fridge and loaded the frozen drinks into the cooler, and drove home. It was Friday and I was ready to be back at my own house.


The eclipse was worth it. What everyone says really is true, it is magnificent and awe-inspiring and creeps out your brain just a little bit.

I’m glad I took the extra time off instead of my original plan of going back to work by Thursday. I was feeling kind of burnt out before and having a week to cool off was good. I don’t know what the rest of the year holds yet, but I have plenty more time off left if I need it.

Thanks for reading the lots of words I put here. Let me know if you’ve got any questions. Let me know if you saw this or another eclipse too. Let me know how sorry you am that I spent so much time in Ohio (just kidding, kind of). If you don’t believe me or think I’m being silly, don’t let me know, I already know.

Dino Isle Chapter 10: The Mystery of Dino Isle

The two explorers managed to relax a bit as they got closer to their home base on the far side of the island. As they approached the small lake nearest their camp, they stopped for a break and saw a familiar sight.

“Look! The Suchomimus!”

Sure enough it was the Suchomimus they had seen early in their stay. They had seen it only a few more times since then. Right now it was standing by the water, relatively still.

Nick and Charlie knew the drill by now and got out all their recording equipment. Shortly after they started it lashed out into the water with its front legs and brought out a large fish. It took a big bite of the fish and started walking away.

“A lot like the Baryonyx, isn’t it?” asked Nick.

“Yeah. It was probably related to Baryonyx,” said Charlie. “Both of them are thought to have been mainly fish-eaters, but we saw the Suchomimus eat whatever that Ceratosaurus had hunted down too, so I guess now we know they could have eaten meat, too.”

The Suchomimus was not heading towards their base camp, so they let it go and continued towards the place that had been their home for several months. There were no other major dinosaur encounters on the way, but they saw plenty of familiar smaller ones around.

The day was getting late by the time they got back to camp. Nick insisted that they approach quietly and carefully. “The Others don’t seem to know we’re here, but no point taking unnecessary risks,” he explained.

Fortunately their camp seemed undisturbed; much of it had been packed away anyway. They set up enough to have a stealthy late dinner.

“No campfires anymore,” said Nick. “We know they’re out there, and it’s always dark enough that they could see one if they wanted.”

“At least they probably didn’t see the smoke,” said Charlie, “since it’s almost always cloudy here the smoke probably blended right in.”

“Oh man, the clouds. I’d like to see the sun again soon,” said Nick.

That night they went uneasily to sleep. With only two, it didn’t make sense to set a watch but they did set up all the perimeter alarms.

The next day they got a call back from the professor.

“I know it’s not what we sent you there for, but if you’re willing, we want you to learn some more about these Others. Try to learn as much as you can without letting them know you’re there, if possible, and report back. After that for your own safety we’re going to ask you to head home.”

Charlie sighed. “I would have liked to see more dinosaurs if we could.”

“It’s fine. We’re almost out of food and other supplies now, so we’d need to be heading back soon anyway,” Nick reminded them. “We’ll do it. We’ll be careful. We don’t think they know we’re here.”

The Professor smiled. “Ok. Just be sure to be careful. I don’t like putting you in harm’s way like this, but by the time someone else could get out their to investigate they might be dug in or might have packed up and left without a trace.”

And with that they knew the plan.

They did not leave right away. They spent several days packing what they would want to bring with them for the spy mission, and packed away the rest on the boat.

They decided to keep the boat where it was. “It’s not huge, but they’re more likely to spot it coming than us coming in on foot,” reasoned Nick. “And besides, we know about where their base is and there aren’t any other good landing spots near there.”

“Ok,” said Charlie. “That means we’ll have to hike all the way there and all the way back, right?”

“Yeah. So we’ll have to plan carefully,” Nick said. “Probably we’ll be eating a lot of the lightweight emergency rations. I’ll take care of that part of it, it’s like the backpacking trips I used to do.”

Finally, after a couple days of preparation, they were ready. They were leaving most of their normal field tools and supplies behind in favor of anything that they could use to gather information on the Others, but that meant they still had their drones and lots of cameras. “This isn’t the end of learning about dinosaurs after all!” said Charlie when he realized.

They took much more care heading back to the other side of the island than they had the last time, but because they were not collecting and categorizing any kinds of samples they got there in about the same amount of time. Once they reached the other side, they spent one night at the same site they had used the last time they were over there, before starting to scout out where the Others had went.

They spent a couple fruitless days trying to find clues with no progress, until one day they heard the sound of people talking. Nick and Charlie looked at each other, got quiet, and hid.

The voices got closer, along with the sound of stomping dinosaurs. The voices clearly belonged to the two hired workers that had almost caught Nick and Charlie the last time. Before they came into view, they saw the dinosaurs.

One was familiar: the Giganotosaurus that had suffered a loss in its fight with a T-Rex last time. The other was another therapod they hadn’t seen yet, somewhat smaller but still quite large.

“Torvosaurus. Mid to late Jurassic,” whispered Charlie. “And the same Giga we saw before.”

The taller Other spoke up. “I don’t see any sign of that Rex today. Maybe we scared him off the other day.”

“Yeah, maybe. Ok, let’s head back to base for now,” said the other Other.

Nick and Charlie stayed hidden as the group moved off. Once they seemed far enough away, Nick slowly crept out, stood up, and then beckoned Charlie to do the same. “They’re far enough away, they can’t see us,” he said quietly.

The trail was pretty clear. Two large carnivores walking together tended to have that effect. Nick and Charlie followed it as quickly as they could while still staying out of sight and being as quiet as they could.

“I think we’re falling behind,” said Nick.

“Let’s send up a drone. Carefully,” suggested Charlie.

The drone showed them what they expected – the Others were pretty far away and still going, but at least in the general direction they expected.

Eventually, they got close to the edge of the island where the crater rim met the tall sedimentary formations that held the fossils. “Looks like they’re following that little trail we never got around to trying,” said Charlie.

“Ok. Let’s stay out of sight while they head up. I can park a drone in the top of a tree and try to keep a camera pointed at them with it.

They settled down for lunch while they watched what the drone could see. The Others and the two dinosaurs with them made steady progress up the fairly narrow trail. At the top, they walked right past the fossil bed Nick, Charlie, and John had explored and around a corner. At this Charlie and Nick packed up and started heading up as well.

“We’ll have to hurry,” said Nick, “there’s not much cover in some spots of the path up and we don’t want to be in the open if they come back.”

The Others didn’t come back, though, and they made it to the top without issue. They followed the trail they had seen The Others go down, but it came to a dead end – a sheer rock face on one side, a drop into the sea on another side, the long crater rim to another, and the path they had just taken on the last side.

Charlie frowned, feeling the rock face. “This feels weird… this isn’t natural, is it?”

Nick examined it. He brought out a magnet – which stuck to the rock face. “No. I’d say it’s not natural at all.”

“Locked though.”


And like the trail, their investigation seemed to be at a dead end.

Some time later, as they hid nearby thinking what to do, they heard a rumbling and a clang, followed by stamping. They turned back to see the two Others walking out with a new dinosaur and a new person behind them all wearing a labcoat.

“What’s this called again?” asked the shorter one.

“We’re calling it a Carcharovenator for now,” said the scientist, ”a hybrid between Carcharodontosaurus and Neovenator. Plus all the other little bits, like the others… Take her out, let her run around a bit, observe her behavior, then bring her back.”

“Ok. Well you heard him, let’s go!” said the taller worker.

The new hybrid dinosaur looked like no natural predator seen before. It had huge spikes along its back and was bigger than anything Charlie or Nick had seen, even the Tyranosaurus Rex.

“Well I don’t think we have to worry about any other dinos picking a fight with her,” the smaller one said, “except maybe that pesky Rex.”

“Yes, yes, you’ll let me know if that happens,” said the scientist. “I’ve uploaded her chip’s address to your tablets already so it’s just like with the other ones, but turn it off when you get far enough away so we can see how she behaves.”

With that he turned around and the doors closed. The Carcharovenator growled and followed the two workers down the trail.

Once enough time has passed, Nick turned to Charlie and said “there’s no doubt now we’re in the right place, and no doubt they’re responsible.”

“A hybrid dinosaur?!?” asked Charlie, “as if there weren’t already plenty? I wonder what they’re trying to do?”

“Well… let’s try to find a way in. Let’s scout around a bit more.”

Eventually, Charlie was looking over the cliff face and he called Nick to come over. “Is that supposed to be there?”

Charlie was looking at a stream of water going down the side of the crater ridge into the ocean. It seemed to appear out of nowhere on the side of the mountain.

“No. I’d say not,” said Nick. “Let’s take a closer look.”

The two carefully set up some climbing gear and went down. Up close it was even more clear that the water was artificial – the source was a wide metal pipe set close to the edge of the mountain. It looked fairly new in design, but was already fairly corroded. “The weather here isn’t great for metals like this,” said Nick. “Always damp so they corrode pretty easily. In fact…”

Nick kicked at the grate at the end and one of the bars bent. “Just call me Bender. Bite my shiny metal… ah let’s just go.”

They stowed their climbing gear and went inside. “This is it. We’re in. We’re going to learn where these dinosaurs come from, and what these Others are doing here,” said Charlie.

At least, that was the plan.


The Nothosaurus was awoken by splashing. Nothing down here made splashes that big, not often anyway. It looked up and saw two of the bipedal mammals – the same kind that had released it into the sewer.

They were a bit big for it to hunt down, but one of them was much smaller, and after all there wasn’t much else down in the sewers for it to eat. It stirred and swam after them.

The End

Charlie and Nick will return in Dino Isle book 2… hopefully!

Dino Isle Chapter 9: Dangerous Game

Woo-ee, what a fight. Our Giga sure hung in there long this time, didn’t it?

A second new voice answered: “Sure did! Wow, what a fight indeed. Git outta here Rexy!”

The T-Rex, already quite some ways off, growled back but turned and kept stomping away.

Nick and Charlie were still frozen, but Nick looked at Charlie and carefully whispered: “Keep absolutely still… humans’ vision is partly based on movement.”

The two newcomers walked into view from opposite ends of the clearing. The first speaker was taller and wearing a wide-brimmed fedora, while the shorter one was more muscular. Both had clearly seen some rough years in their past judging from several visible scars.

“Yeah, quite a fight all right,” said the shorter one, “but don’t you think it’s a bit cruel? Forcing this beast to fight, get all torn up, just to take it back in, patch it back up, and send it out again?”

“Cruel?” said the tall one. “They made this thing. It wasn’t captured or found on the streets, they made it. Somehow. Far as I’m concerned that means they get to do what they want with it. And they’re paying us well enough I don’t mind doing it for them either.”

“I suppose that’s so.”

A loud snort came from the clearing – the Giganotosaurus was down, but clearly not out, not all the way at least. The taller man pulled out a tablet and tapped at it a few times, then put it back away. “There, she won’t give us any more trouble. Help me with these bandages.”

Nick and Charlie watched for nearly an hour as the two men bandaged the injured carnivore. It didn’t seem to fight them, but its eyes were darting all over the place, clearly disturbed. Eventually they packed it up onto a rugged trailer and hauled it off with some off-road equipment that had been disguised in the trees by some brush.

Then, after the sound of the motor faded away, Charlie and Nick finally moved again.

“WHAT WAS THAT???” Charlie said, whispering but clearly shocked. “I thought nobody else was here!”

“Me too, or at least I wasn’t sure, but clearly we were wrong,” replied Nick. “Let’s head back to camp though, at least that’s in a different direction than they went.”

They quickly and quietly packed away their gear and then headed back towards their temporary camp as stealthily as they could. As they got closer NIck sent out two of their drones to do some surveillance. “It’s lucky they didn’t spot this one back there,” said Nick, “it was more or less out in the open watching the fight.”

“Yeah. That fight. I think they were making the Giganotosaurus fight,” said Charlie. “Didn’t it look like it wasn’t happy?”

“Yeah, you’re right. I think they almost said as much too,” replied Nick. “Maybe that would explain the T-Rex’s aggravation, too. Another Tyrannosaur shows up acting all weird? Acting like a zombie or something… they call that ‘uncanny valley’ for humans, or at least it’s something like it. It’d freak me out to see something near human acting like that Giga was acting.”

“I feel so bad for it. Why did they do that?” asked Charlie.

“I don’t know. But I’ll tell you one thing,” said Nick, “I want to find out.”

While the Others had been heading generally away from the explorers’ temporary camp, the direction they went led to the ocean before too long, so Nick guessed that their base couldn’t be too far away. That evening they packed up what they could do without, and the next morning they finished packing and started back towards their main base on the other side of the island.

Making contact back home was now their top priority, but they didn’t feel comfortable doing so. “After all, we know John and Lily probably picked them up on the radio on their way over; there’s a chance they will be able to tell we’re here from our signals,” explained Nick.

“They probably already know we’re here,” worried Charlie. “Maybe they’re looking for us… Coming to get us…”

Nick stopped in his tracks. “Charlie. Buddy. Come here.” Charlie walked up to Nick, looking down at the ground. “Ok, this is serious, and we’ve got reason to be careful. But chances are they’ve known someone else was here for a while. They definitely heard that helicopter, and between the trip here, the scouting trip we took in it, and the trip they took home, they knew it wasn’t just flying over. They didn’t come and find us then, and even though I was a little paranoid it’s not like we were hiding all that well.”

Charlie sniffled. “They’re… probably not looking for us now. Hey, maybe they thought we left on the chopper!”

Nick smiled. “Yeah, maybe. Now let’s keep going. Be careful and be prepared, after all we got into this adventure by taking a chance-”

“And we’ll get home by being prepared,” Charlie finished. “Yeah. We’re prepared. And we’re going to get more prepared after we get back to base!”

Despite this reassurance, they did take much more care to stay quiet and out of sight on the trip back than they had on the trip out, so it took over two days to make it back. Along the way they continued to record and catalog the dinosaurs they came across.

Back at base they made their first call to the professor who had sent them.

“Hmm,” the Professor said, “I did not expect there to be anyone there. You say it was only the two?”

“We only saw two, but they talked about other people,” replied Charlie, “and they had all that equipment, and there was the boat we saw from the chopper, and-”

“Yes, yes, I get the picture,” the professor said. “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. I’m taking this very seriously, I’m not doubting you, I just – I’m a little shocked is all, and more than a little worried.”

“Us too,” said Nick. “I want to go back and check it out, but before I went creeping and spying I thought I’d see if you knew anything.”

“I don’t, and I can say definitively nobody in the academic community does either,” the professor stated. “I’ll make some discrete inquiries though. Maybe someone I know knows someone who knows someone who heard a rumor.”

“Don’t forget that boat!” said Charlie. “If you can find it on satellite pictures maybe you could track it, somehow.”

“Great idea! I’ll try to get someone to look into that, too. Not exactly my area of expertise but maybe someone over in geology, or weather sciences…,” the scientist trailed off. “Ok, sorry, it’s just it’s the first thing in the morning here and I haven’t had my coffee yet.”

“It’s okay,” Nick replied. “We’re actually pretty tired, so maybe we’ll do a bit of work camoflaging the camp better and go to bed. I think we’re going to stick around here for a couple days either way, so if you call us back in your evening tonight it’ll be tomorrow morning for us, or if it takes a bit longer we won’t go off till we’ve heard more.”

“Ok, sounds good,” said the professor. “Be careful you two. I’m grateful you were able to go there. John delivered your first batch of samples already and they’ve been invaluable, but I never wanted to put anyone in harm’s way. And remember. Humans can be much more dangerous than the biggest dinosaur out there.”

Charlie then caught up with his family while Nick spent some time alternating between camouflaging the camp and typing up notes. Eventually the two had a quiet dinner and went to their beds.

The rest of their stay on Dino Isle was bound to be interesting.

Dino Isle Chapter 8: Tyrant King

Thump. Thump.

Charlie and Nick shrank into the trees and tried to stay as still as possible. Approaching them was a huge dinosaur with a long mouth full of sharp teeth, and a low back sail. They held their breath – and it kept going.

Right towards the Carnotaurus the two had been observing.

John and Lily had left about a week ago after a little more exploring together and a bunch of good-byes, taking most of the old samples with them. After inspecting and finishing organizing the new supplies, Nick and Charlie had taken an overnight trip to a far corner of the island. They had followed a herd of Hadrosaurs for some time as well as stumbled across a Tyrannosaurus nesting ground – fortunately their new dirt-bikes were near at hand then so they were able to escape the angry parents.

Today, they were on their way out for a two or three night trip out to the other side of the island. On the way they had seen a group of Carnotaurus stalking a herd of Ankylosauruses. The Spinosauruses had managed to single out a weaker one, and most of them had eaten a bit before wandering off. The largest was still eating when the Spinosaurus had appeared.

“Psst. Nick. Spinosaurus!” whispered Charlie, “one of the largest dinosaurs there ever was!”

Nick was already filming, but he said (in silly voices): “argh, rawr, I’m the biggest baddest carnivore! This clearing ain’t big enough for the two of us.”

Charlie giggled but kept his own camera on the pair.

The Carnotaurus’s family was far enough away to not be in danger but were clearly unsure whether to help their large kin or flee the bigger carnivore. The Spinosaurus stomped and growled. The Carnotaurus turned, growled back, but then thought better of it. Taking one last bite of meat, it stamped away towards its family. The Spinosaurus, satisfied with what was left of the Ankylosaurus for now, let it leave without further disturbing it.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.” said Nick.

Charlie giggled. “That was one of the least violent encounters we’ve seen. The Carnotaurus was smart though – he’s no match for a Spinosaurus.”

“Yeah, that was a good call. Better to walk away hungry than not at all,” replied Nick. “It does mean we can’t easily collect any tissue samples or DNA from it, but that’s probably fine.”

“Maybe the Spinosaurus will lose a tooth in the meal, that would be nice both to study and as a memento,” said Charlie.

“Ok, it’s just about time for a break. We can wait around a bit and if the Spinosaurus leaves before too long we can take a look.”

That didn’t take long, as there wasn’t much of the poor Ankylosaurus. Nick and Charlie spent several minutes quickly but carefully photographing, collecting, and labeling samples from the scene before moving on.

They reached their destination, as the sun was setting, leaving just enough time to set up a sheltered campsite for the night. There was rain that night, so not much more work was done.

Their destination for this trip was an area near the fossil bed they had studied from the chopper. Scans from the air had not shown any good way to get up to that area from the crater, so they spent the morning scouting the area to get to know the area generally and also for a path up. They had found a fairly sheltered area near where that rock formation met with the crater valley and done their best to stay out of reach of hungry predators.

While the geology of the area was quite different from the rest of the island, consisting of sedimentary rocks, the animals and plants were much the same as elsewhere.

“Maybe this used to be two different islands,” theorized Nick, “which just crashed together some time in the last 66 million years. I don’t see how else you’d get dinosaur fossils all the way up there and living dinosaurs down here.”

“Yeah, maybe the plate – they’re called plates, right? Maybe the big volcano was on a small plate and it went under the edge of the one with those fossils,” suggested Charlie. “I guess if that had been going on long enough ago it could explain the big volcano too, right?”

“Maybe,” said Nick. “We ought to recommend they send some geologists here next time.”

As they went through some more trees they heard running water – a small spring was nearby. They checked for dangers, then Nick took out some testing equipment to see if it would be safe to drink. “Looks clean, but we should probably run it through the filters anyway,” he pronounced.

They took advantage of the opportunity to refill their canteens as well as marking down the location on a map. As they sat, they watched as several smaller dinosaurs came by to drink as well. A small theropod, roughly as tall as Nick when walking but over twice as long head-to-tail as he was tall, also came to get a drink.

“That’s a Rugops! I’m surprised to see that one,” said Charlie.

The two took that as a hint to set up some cameras to start recording what else they were seeing while they finished packing away their water.

As they continued on their way, they broke into a clearing and suddenly stopped. A large theropod was digging into some unfortunate prey it had captured.

“That’s not a T-rex, but it looks a lot like one,” observed Nick, quietly.

“No, it’s not. It looks like a Giganotosaurus. About the same size, but see the longer arms and three claws?” Charlie corrected. “Fossils of them are around 95 million years old, so this might be another one of those weird ones we didn’t expect.”

The two started taking out their usual recording equipment when a loud roar echoed through the clearing – they froze.

Stamping towards the Giganotosaurus was another predator – similar in size but slightly different, but much more familiar looking to every dinosaur fan everywhere. The new theropod had two long, strong legs with three-clawed feet, two short, virtually vestigial arms with two small claws each, and a mouth full of teeth like something out of a nightmare.

It was a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

“What’s he doing here?” asked Charlie. “There’s a T-rex family off that way, is this one on its own? Why’s he facing down this Giga instead of hunting his own meal?”

“Shhh… probably better not to ask questions too loudly when a dinosaur is acting strange,” said Nick. “Never know what other unexpected things they’ll do, and no point reminding either that we’re here.”

Charlie took the advice, but the two did their best to start gathering pictures and videos. Nick sent a drone out to the other side of the clearing, doing his best to keep it out of view of the two hunters who seemed intent on battling over the Giganotosaurus’s lunch.

The Giganotosaurus turned as if to run, then stopped, shook its head quickly, and turned back to the T-Rex and growled. The T-rex seemed particularly aggravated with the Giganotosaurus and took that as an opportunity to charge. The T-rex bit at the Giga, but the Giga’s longer arms helped it push away the other dinosaur. The Rex backed up, and the Giganotosaurus tried the same thing. With only tiny arms, the T-rex had to pick a different strategy, and it responded by backing up and lashing its tail towards the Giga’s ankles before backing up.

The two predators battled for several minutes, but the T-rex was clearly more angry. The Giganotosaurus seemed to be growing increasingly agitated but continued the fight until the T-rex finally got a good bite into the Giganotosaurus’s leg. The injured Giganotosaurus went down one last time, and the triumphant Tyrannosaurus bellowed in victory.

Nick and Charlie stared silently at the scene, then looked silently at each other. This fight had been unlike any they’d really seen so far – all the other fights between predators had ended with one stalking off, hungry but alive. This one had seemed almost personal.

Right as they started to stand up to see if they collect samples, they froze again as they heard:“Woo-ee, what a fight. Our Giga sure hung in there long this time, didn’t it?

Dino Isle Chapter 7: Reconnaissance and Return

The next day the whole group slept in late – the excitement from the previous day had tired them all out but also kept them up late. Lily was the first one up, followed not too long after by Nick. The two set about organizing the supplies a bit more and preparing breakfast, occasionally stopping to take photos and notes of interesting dinosaur behavior below.

Charlie was up not too long after, and managed to get out quiet enough for John to sleep a little longer. Pretty soon all four adventurers were sitting around the revived campfire munching on toast and cereal.

“Thanks for the tea re-supply, I was just about out,” said Nick. “Earl Grey with a little lemon juice, my favorite.”

“You’re welcome!” said John and Lily.

They took it easy for the morning, with more work storing supplies, packing up samples for John and Lily to take home, and packing for the day. They prioritized cameras and equipment that would help them map out areas they either wouldn’t be able to reach on foot, or might want to visit later. They debated on the survey drones but decided to bring a couple in case they landed anywhere.

Once they were ready, they trekked back down to the beach where the helicopter was parked. It was just about lunch time, so they sat on the beach eating some sandwiches and talking some more about what had gone on over the last months. Afterwards, they got ready to go.

Lily was staying on the beach checking out the boat, so John was piloting the helicopter for this trip. “I have some extra presents for you!” he told Charlie. There in the back of the helicopter were two dirt bikes and a big tank of fuel.

“Those will be really helpful to get around!” said Charlie. “Can we drop them off in the camp?”

“Yeah, we should be able to do that by lowering them out the side of the chopper on a rope or something. Let’s do that later when we have someone on the ground there though,” suggested Nick.

The chopper had limited fuel, so they planned out their route carefully. They would circle the island once, going back and forth over the crater ridge to get good views of both sides, then cross it twice. Nick was interested in getting some good images of the far side of the island where he and Charlie hadn’t been yet and where Lily had seen different geology than the rest of the island as well.

The trip out got them plenty of opportunities to spot more dinosaurs. There were a couple herds of Hadrosaurs grazing, as well as small groups of predators nearby them looking for easy meals. At one point they spotted the group of three Baryonyxes that Charlie and Nick had seen shortly after arriving; John was excited, so Nick promised to take him to see them before he left the island.

When they got to the far side of the island, the sedimentary rock Lily had pointed out was clearly visible. The trees and plants nearby were similar, but the underlying rocks in that area were clearly different. Not too far away was a fairly flat clearing big enough to set the chopper down.

Once there the three set about setting the drones to start gathering pictures and data as well as taking some pictures of their own and rock samples.

“Look! Nick, John! Fossils!” cried Charlie.

Near the clearing was a sheer rock face where the sedimentary nature was obvious in the layer lines. Sure enough, there were actual fossils visible near the level they were standing at.

The others rushed over. Charlie was pointing out different layers and some of the fossils visible there. Charlie and John quickly set about taking notes and pictures, while Nick went back to the helicopter to get a tool kit for taking delicate samples.

The three spent some time documenting what they saw and even extracted a few smaller samples. After a while Charlie got up, frowned, and looked around, looking at the ground and the edges of the rock face quite closely.

“What’s up, buddy? Something wrong?” asked Nick.

“Nick… this area doesn’t seem entirely natural, does it?” asked Charlie. “I mean the clearing nearby, the… is that a path leading off that way? The exposed fossils, none of them are all that worn away. And those look like tool marks, but none of us were digging here. And the layer we’re standing on is roughly the early Triassic. Right where you’d stop digging if you were only interested in dinosaurs.And it’s pretty flat too.”

“Yeah, that is strange. But how could it be anything else? Did someone excavate it before us?” wondered Nick. “If so, where are they?”

“Maybe a Spinosaurus ate them!” exclaimed John.

“Maybe,” agreed Nick. “If that’s the case then we’d better be careful too – I don’t want it coming after us for another meal or three.”

John and Charlie returned to examining the fossils, many of which seemed very well preserved, but Nick was clearly puzzled by these signs of artificial alteration. “Do you mind if I repurpose one of the drones to signals for a bit?” he asked. “I think they’re almost done scanning the area anyway.”

“Sure, go ahead. We’re not in any rush,” replied Charlie.

Nick took out a tablet, recalled one of the drones, then sent it straight up with orders to record radio and IR spectra for a while. Then he started hiking around the perimeter of the area, peering off in different directions with binoculars.

After some time Charlie and John were satisfied with what they’d recorded and collected. Nick had made some notes and started looking at the signals data the drone had recorded, and they all piled back in the helicopter.

Once they were back in the air they flew back to the other side of the ridge. Off a few miles in the ocean they saw what looked like a medium sized boat heading straight away from the island. “Wait, who’s that? That’s not Lily leaving with our boat, is it?” Charlie asked, angrily.

Nick poked some buttons on his headset. “Chopper 1 to Dino Base, come in.”

“Hey Nick! What’s up?” Lily replied.

“Lily, where are you at right now?” inquired Nick.

“I’m back where you left me. Well I’m on the boat now, but it’s still near the beach. Why?”

“That’s odd… we just saw another boat leaving the island. But we’ve got no idea where it came from.” said Nick.

“Well it wasn’t over here, I would have seen it for sure,” LIly replied.

“Ok. Well hang tight, we’re about halfway done with our survey now – yeah I know it’s been longer than you thought, but we spent quite a bit of time on the ground in one place,” said Nick. “I don’t think I want to spoil the surprise on an open frequency but we’ll be back soon.”

The rest of the survey went much more according to plan. In addition to the clearing they had landed at, Nick and Charlie picked out a few good places to take day or overnight trips to for the remainder of their stay, and John got to see quite a few new dinosaurs.

After they landed back at the beach, John and Charlie started trekking back up the crater while Nick and Lily prepared the bikes and fuel tank to be lowered into the camp. They quickly dropped off the bikes, and then after landing the chopper again Nick and Lily scaled back up into the camp.

After they got there Lily started checking the bikes over mechanically while John, Nick, and Charlie headed towards where the Baryonyxes had last been seen. “A lot of dinosaurs gather by the watering hole near sunset, and those three are usually there,” said Charlie.

When they got close they stopped talking and moved forward as stealthily as they could. Sure enough, the three Baryonyxes were there drinking water.

“See, John?” Charlie whispered, “Three Baryonyxes!”

One of them was clearly no longer thirsty and was staring intently at the water. Then, suddenly, it lashed out – and it grabbed a fish. The other two moved to either side before staring into the water themselves while the first one ate its meal.

John was clearly excited by this development, turning to his brother with a huge smile, but did a great job staying quiet despite his obvious glee. Nick and Charlie couldn’t help but smile.

After they hiked back up to the camp site. John and Lily had brought the ingredients to make a couple pizzas, which Nick cooked in pans over the camp fire. They enjoyed their meal while the sun set behind the crater rim in the distance.

“This was a great day,” said John. “We have to leave tomorrow, but I’m really glad I got to see so much. And I really liked seeing the three Baryonyxes! Thanks for showing them to me!”

“You’re welcome buddy,” said Nick. “I hope we can count on you to come back if we need more supplies or a quick pick-up later.”

“You’ve got it!”

Dino Isle Chapter 6: Resupply and Reunion

The valley echoed with the crash of trees and the cries of the two beasts.

A four-legged dinosaur with dual rows of plates and spikes running down its back was facing off against a large two-legged therapod with three-clawed forelimbs.

“Ok, Nick, you focus on that Kentosaurus and I’ll get video of the Megalosaurus,” directed Charlie.


They stayed still; they weren’t directly in the arena, but they were close enough to the fight that they might not have been able to get away in time if the predator decided to go after smaller prey. The Megalosaurus stomped and roared, while the Kentosaurus bellowed back and swung its tail. The Megalosaurus charged; it tried to get a bite on the side of the Kentosaurus, but its back plates made that impossible. Meanwhile the Kentosaurus tried to fight back with its tail, but the angle wasn’t right and the spikes on the end got nowhere near the predator. The Kentosaurus did have large spikes coming out of its forelimbs that stopped the Megalosaurus from circling behind, so it broke its hold and backed off.

The two squared off again; this time the Kentosaurus turned as the Megalosaurus approached and scratched it in the face with its tail. The Megalosaurus screamed and withdrew, but not before lashing out with its claws and leaving a couple shallow scratches on the Kentosaurus’s shoulder.

Tag, you’re it!” said Nick in a high-pitched voice. Charlie giggled.

The Kentosaurus’s wound was not bad, but clearly a shock. The Megalosaurus took advantage of this, lunging in to bite at it. The Kentosaurus feebly tried to fight it off, but its tail spikes bounced off the predator’s own very short dorsal spines. A few more chomps and the fight was clearly over.

“Wow,” said Charlie, as they hiked away, “I know we’ve seen a lot of these fights, but they’re all so intense.”

“Yeah,” replied Nick. “We’ve been here almost a month now, but we’re still seeing new species. By the way, what do you know about those two?”

“Well… Kentosaurus was a stegosaurid, obviously. Herbivore. They were around in the mid to late Jurassic. Same thing for the Megalosaurus. It was actually one of the first dinosaurs to be discovered and properly described. You should have seen the early reconstructions, from the 1800’s, they were very different from what we just saw!”

“That’s interesting,” said Nick, “the late Jurassic? Many of the dinosaurs we’ve seen are clearly related to ones that were around in the late Cretaceous, which makes sense if their ancestors survived and have been evolving here since then. But the Jurassic?”

“Yeah, it is weird,” said Charlie. “You know, dinosaurs were around for way longer than they’ve been extinct. Stegosaurus and T-rex were farther apart in time than T-rex is from us.”

“So how could these be here? Any thoughts?” asked Nick.

“Well… maybe some kind of convergent evolution,” theorized Charlie. “That’s when two animals that are not closely related end up looking similar because they are in the same role, doing the same kind of thing. So that would mean that wasn’t really a Kentosaurus and a Megalosaurus, but another stegosaurid and therapod that just happened to evolve to look similar.”

“Yeah, it could be something like that,” admitted Nick,”but these aren’t the first ones we’ve seen. For example, there’s that T-rex, and I’m not sure whether all those sauropods we’ve seen were ones around in the late Cretaceous. I really think one of them was an actual Brachiosaurus. And a lot of them are only here in ones and twos, not enough to sustain a whole species for 65 million years.”

“It is strange,” said Charlie.

They walked on in silence for a while, pondering the mysteries of Dino Isle. Some small animals skittered to get out of their way, and the two explorers idly took pictures of them as they went.

As they approached camp Charlie mentioned one thing that had clearly been on his mind. “Nick, we have learned a lot here, but there is clearly a whole lot more to learn. I’m still a little homesick, but I’d like to stay a bit longer if we can. The only problem is I was checking our supplies, and remembering what we had back on the boat, and… I’m not sure we can stay much longer. Were you thinking we’d have to go home soon? I wouldn’t like that but I’d like it better than starving I think.”

They had cleared the trees and started climbing the loose gravel path up to their camp, carefully walking up the camouflage steps they had installed weeks before. Nick smiled. “Oh, I know, I’ve been checking them too. Actually with only what we’ve got on hand, we would have to start heading out in a day or two to make it to the nearest port, and even then our fuel is getting a little low. But that’s why I made some calls, and if I got the timing right they should be answered right… about… now.”

They paused and were still for a minute; the sounds of the forest below had died down too. Within moments they heard a low thrumming sound coming from across the island. It gradually got louder, and soon they heard it getting louder and closer, until they could see a large helicopter coming their way.

The two explorers started waving their arms. The helicopter flew over them, close enough to have clearly see them but high enough to clear the crater rim.

“That’s the first part of my surprise for you, buddy. Let’s go meet them down by the beach.”

Some time later they had made the climb down to the beach. The helicopter had parked on the large clear space they had used as their first camp over a month ago, and two familiar figures were unloading crates and tanks.

“John! Lily! Oh man I can’t believe it! Nick it’s John and Lily!” cried Charlie. “This has to be the second part of your surprise, right?”

“Yes it is. I knew you’d like it! And the third is they’ve brought enough supplies that we can use the boat a lot more and stay about another month.

“Charlie! Nick! Hi guys!” yelled Lily, the young helicopter pilot.

“I saw some dinosaurs!!” exclaimed John.

Nick and the three siblings had a lot to catch up on, so they took turns talking and unloading supplies. When they were done they sat down to a late lunch on the beach with some fresh food from the chopper.

“Really? A Megalosaurus and a Kentosaurus?” asked John.

“Yes! For real! The Megalosaurus won that one. He’s not going to be hungry for a while,” said Charlie.

“So Lily,” asked Nick, “when did you learn to fly one of these?”

“You’ve been gone a while Nick,” she said. “I’m really good at it!”

“Yeah, so good to almost crash!” laughed John.

Lily gave him a mean look. “Come on guys, be nice,” said Nick. “Lily did a great job flying here and landing on this little beach, and it’s great to see both of you. Now, how are the dogs? Is Lucy still crazy?”

They shifted topics from large dinosaurs to small mammals for a while. Lily was excited to talk about a friend’s cat she had met too.

After that conversation died down Charlie thought of another question: “So how long will you guys be here? I guess someone probably wants the helicopter back, but there are some places that would be good to scout with it.”

“We can stay a couple days. We have overnight bags in the chopper still and we can stay in your camp if you have room,” said Lily

“Yeah! And see some more dinosaurs!” said John.

“But then we have to go back. You should have enough supplies for 3 or 4 more weeks here, but after that you probably have to head back.”

“That sounds alright,” said Nick. “There is a lot more to see and do here, but we do have to get back some time. I think if we get to scout the island a bit more with the helicopter while you’re here, we can find some good places for future expeditions to check out at least. Maybe we’ll even come with them, huh?”

The rest of the afternoon was spent hauling supplies. Some went on the boat, but most they had to carry up over the crater rim to their base camp. John and Lily were duly impressed by the view, as well as the precautions the explorers had taken to avoid dinosaurs getting to the camp or through the narrow gap.

As the sun went down they got settled in for the night. Despite his earlier concerns about other visitors to the island, Nick lit a small campfire. “After all,” he reasoned, “if they didn’t know we were here before, that helicopter definitely made it clear.”

John and Charlie excitedly were discussing all the dinosaurs that had been seen – the ones John had seen for the first time that day, and the ones Charlie had seen over the past month.

Lily then described a corner of the island they’d gone over which was different from the rest. “Most of this island is igneous rock from a big volcano, but some of it looks like it got lifted up and some sedimentary rock exposed – shale, sandstone, something like that.”

“Might be worth a look if you think you can get us close,” said Nick.

“Oh, you could probably walk there from here, but it might take a while. We’ll point it out in the chopper tomorrow.”

Eventually, though, it was time for the siblings to go to bed. As Charlie and John went in to get ready, Lily turned around to talk to Nick alone for a minute.

“By the way, were you guys trying to talk to us on the radio?” she asked.

“Huh? No, not today, Charlie didn’t know you were coming and I was with him looking at more dinosaurs.”

“Oh. That’s weird. We thought we heard someone talking on one of the air traffic frequencies on the way in, but it suddenly went silent when I tried to talk to them.”

“Huh. That is weird. You know I’ve had the feeling we’re not alone here, but that’s the strongest evidence I’ve actually had so far,” said Nick.

With that it was time to call it a night.

Dino Isle Chapter 5: Titanosaurus

The third morning dawned to more crashing noises.

A big sauropod was moving through a forest some distance to the right from the explorers’ camp. A dip in the terrain separated their campsite from the treed rim area the dinosaur had been munching on.

“Oh, wow. That thing’s huge!” said Nick.

“I wonder if it’s the same one we saw when we arrived?” asked Charlie.

“No way to tell. There must be many of them for them to have survived so long, but still I’m surprised something so large living on an island, even one this big.”

“There’s another weird thing,” said Charlie, “Brachiosaurus and most of its relatives were from the Jurassic period. They wouldn’t have been around by the time the asteroid hit, let alone another 65 million years after.”

“That is odd,” said Nick. “Were there any others like it around in the late Cretacious?”

“Well, there was Titanosaurus. I suppose it could be one of them,” Charlie suggested. “We actually don’t have a great idea what some of them looked like. They had big skeletons and bones, but they didn’t always all stay together.”

They watched as the sauropod slowly made its way down into the crater valley. Nearby there was another flash of motion.

“Oh, look, our friend the Suchomimus is back!” said Nick.

“He’s going after that Titanosaurus, but I don’t think it’s going to be his meal,” said Charlie.

Sure enough the Suchomimus was headed for the big leaf eater. The Titanosaurus, for its part, seemed mostly undisturbed. The Suchomimus opened its jaws as it approached, but the Titanosaurus had been preparing; right when the predator seemed to be getting close, the Titanosaurus’s tail was right there. The big tail had a lot of kinetic energy, and sent the predator flying.

Hey, why don’t you try picking on someone your own size? Might actually win then.” said Nick in a funny voice.

“Ha ha! Stop distracting me Nick! I’m trying to get a video of this!” said Charlie.

The Suchomimus had managed to shake itself off and stand back up. The brief conflict had disturbed the underbrush and knocked over a few small trees, and some smaller animals were scattering in all different directions. The Suchomimus at that moment had a brilliant idea, and lashed out with its claws.

“Ooh! Got something!” said Nick

“Yeah, he did! Oh look at him go. That’s so cool but so gross,” said Charlie.


The Suchomimus continued tearing into its prey. Meanwhile the Titanosaurus wandered off, seemingly undisturbed.

“Well that’s one hungry predator – it just ate that other dinosaur yesterday morning. I guess they go through a lot of energy hunting though. You know even though they look like Baryonyx, the Suchomimus were – I guess I mean ARE – more adapted to land prey than fish,” said Charlie.

“Well I did not know that before, and I guess nobody was sure before. But now we’ve got it on camera, so we know for sure now,” replied Nick.

“Yeah! Ok, how about some breakfast of our own? Maybe some toast from that bread we brought?” asked Charlie.

“Sure, we can do that easy enough on the camp stove,” said Nick. “It might be worthwhile to take it easy today and work on setting up camp better, cleaning things up, maybe seeing if we can cook some new food from the ingredients. Maybe even make a trip back down to the boat.”

“Ok, we can do that today I guess,” Charlie agreed. “I’d like to set up some more cameras.”

“Yeah, you should do that. And I guess we can even have them stream straight to the university; the Internet connection here is really, really good. I know that’s not connected to the dinosaurs but it’s still really weird to me. Why would that be?” wondered Nick.

That morning they did indeed spend setting the camp up. At mid-morning, they saw another confrontation: the Ceratosaurus they had seen fighting the Suchomimus was back with a friend, and they were chasing what was clearly a Triceratops.

“Oh. Triceratops. This is going to be tough,” said Charlie.

The new Ceratosaurus was a little bit smaller and stayed behind the larger one. The Triceratops reached the base of the gravel pile at the rim of the crater, saw it couldn’t go any further, and turned to fight. It made a bellow, stamped a forefoot, and shook its head. The larger Ceratosaurus also bellowed, stamped one of its feet, and squared off against the herbivore. The two charged; the Ceratosaurus managed to dodge the Triceratops’s horns, mostly, getting one gouge on its side, but the carnivore got a firm grip on the Triceratops’s frill. The Triceratops started moving wildly, but it was of no use.

The smaller Ceratosaurus had not disappeared. It had been sneaking to the side, and while the Triceratops was distracted, it ran in and bit the Triceratops by the tail. After a brief struggle, the fight was clearly over.

“Oh, man,” said Charlie. “That was intense. And look, the Ceratosaurus finally got a meal and shared it with its friend.”

“Yep. Let’s just remember to be careful. We’re not as tasty as that Triceratops, but I’m sure if they’re hungry enough they’d go after us,” reminded Nick.

“I know. Ok, break time, then make the trip down to the boat?” asked Charlie.

They reached the boat at about lunchtime, so they made their lunch there. “You know, we should consider fishing again. We caught a few meals on our way here,” suggested Nick.

“Not today though” said Charlie.

The Internet connection being so strong was still bothering Nick. Seeing as they had so much of the day left, they agreed to drive the boat around the island again. The connection was pretty strong all over the island, but the area farthest from their camp actually seemed to have the strongest signal. “I know it’s not a dinosaur problem, but it’s a mystery still that I’d like to learn more about,” said Nick. “I just don’t know why we’d have such good connection here. The satellites are distributed pretty evenly, but it’s not like there’s a good line of sight to ground stations even from low orbit here.”

That side of the island had sheer cliff faces the whole way down to the water. They also got some strange readings on some of the more esoteric sensors they’d brought with, but nothing conclusive.

“Do you think we’re alone here?” asked Charlie.

“What, you mean besides all the dinosaurs?” asked Nick. “Probably, but… maybe not. Maybe to be on the safe side we should be a bit more careful with our camp. If there are other people here there is no way of knowing what their intentions are.”

With that in mind they went back to their landing. There wasn’t really any way they could disguise the boat, but they did make very sure to lock it well. They brought some basic camouflaging supplies with them back up to the camp on the crater rim, and after a pizza dinner (using cheese they’d brought back from the boat) they set about setting some of it up.

They did notice some more small dinosaurs, like the Compsognathuses that had been the first dinosaurs they had seen close up, occasionally going through the opening they used. Even with them having gone through it several times it wasn’t big enough for most dinosaurs to get through.

Afterwards they set up video calls back home. It was early morning back in Chicagoland, but Charlie managed to talk to his sister before she went to school. She caught him up on all the trouble their dogs had got into since he’d been gone, and after they hung up Nick and Charlie sat in silence for a while before Charlie headed to bed. “I’ll stay up a while,” said Nick, “I think I’d like to make sure we’re not giving off too much light, and it’d be nice to see if there’s any other lights out there too. And if you want to find me I’ll still be out here.”

Charlie sniffled. He was feeling a bit emotional being reminded of home. “Nick, I miss home. I know this is a great adventure, and I’m very glad I get to be here and see real dinosaurs, and I’m very glad you’re here with me too, but I miss my brother and my sister and Mom and Dad and the dogs and my grandpa and grandma and- does that make sense? But I’m glad I’m here too.”

“It makes a lot of sense, buddy. It’s called homesickness, and it happens to everyone, and even though it’s true it happens to everyone I know it doesn’t really help to hear this. It’s good that you feel that way, you should let them know after you get back. And I’m also really glad I get to be here with you, this really is the experience of a lifetime. I’m glad we took this chance, and I’m glad we came prepared,” said Nick.

“Good-night buddy.”

“Goodnight Charlie.”

Dino Isle Chapter 4: The Fight

Early the next morning the two explorers were awakened by more loud dinosaur noises.

One dinosaur had been eating the remains of another. The carnivore, clearly a therapod, had three horns on its head. Coming out of the trees towards it was another carnivore that had a long, crocodile-like jaw, a short dorsal sail, walked on two legs and had two arms each with three claws.

Nick was already up. “Charlie, come out and take a look! I think we’re safe up here but this will be worth seeing!”

Charlie came out of his tent with a pair of binoculars and looked down. “Oh, wow. Is that a Suchomimus attacking a Ceratosaurus?”

The Ceratosaurus looked up from its breakfast. It made a loud noise and stamped its food, but the much larger Suchomimus wasn’t scared off and charged. The Ceratosaurus tried to bite the spinosaurid as it approached, but the Suchomimus managed to dodge and grab the Ceratosaurus’s neck in its jaw. The Ceratosaurus struggled, its tiny arms providing no benefit while the Suchomimus brought its own claws up to scratch at its rival. The Ceratosaurus finally managed to break free with a well-placed kick. Clearly out-matched, it stalked away. The Suchomimus turned and started eating away at the prey the Ceratosaurus had left behind.

“Wow,” said Nick.

“Wow,” replied Charlie, “that was…”


“So COOL! And I guess pretty terrifying too, but we’re all the way up here,” Charlie agreed.

“Well, let’s have some breakfast of our own, clean up and lock stuff up, then go down there. We can collect some samples. I doubt the Suchomimus is going to eat the whole thing… whatever that was, a Hadrosaur that wandered off maybe? And there’s definitely some blood and broken spines from the predators, we can probably get some DNA off of them. We’ll have to send it back to the lab for analysis, but we can pack it neatly now and store it in the freezer on the boat.”

“Yep, we should definitely do that! And we’ve got a cooler up here to use for now. I’ll grab the sample containers and some labels.”

“Anything else we should bring?” asked Nick.

“Well,” Charlie said, “After what we just saw it’d be good to have some kind of warning if something big and hungry is headed our way, and something we can do about it. So the rifles, I think, and a couple of the lookout drones?”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll get them prepped,” said Nick.

Making their way down to where the dinosaur battle had taken place took longer than they thought, but they managed to collect quite a few samples. Many were difficult to categorize, but they were confident of where at least one sample per each of the three dinosaurs involved came from.

“While we’re down here we might as well look around a little bit,” suggested Nick. “After all, we did pack some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.”

“Oh, yeah! I’m not hungry yet but that will be good when we are,” said Charlie.

Beyond the clearing they walked through the trees for a while. They followed paths that the dinosaurs and other animals had clearly made. “This is way easier than going cross-country through this would be,” mentioned Nick.

After a while they came to a break in the trees. Nick put his arm out to stop Charlie from continuing. “Oh. Wait up. I see trouble.”

There in the clearing were three large therapods with long, narrow jaws and arms that were longer than usual for therapods. They were gathered near a large pond.

“Oh, those?” asked Charlie, “Those might be dangerous if they get mad at us, but they look like Baryonyx. They’re probably here to fish. Ooh, I should get a video of this, we want more real videos of these and besides Baryonyx is one of my brother John’s favorite dinosaurs!”

Sure enough the three Baryonyxes were clearly gathering fish. They would crouch over the water, then slash out with their claws and grab fish. The explorers watched and film as each one caught a meal.

“Wow,” Charlie said, “This is pretty much what they always expected of them!”

The loud noise startled the trio of piscavores. They stood up, looking around to find the source for several seconds. Charlie and Nick sat still and quiet, and soon the Baryonyxes dashed off.

“Oh well,” said Charlie, “maybe we’ll see them again.”

“It’s a big island,” said Nick, “but small enough that we quite likely will.”

After that experience they sought out a clearer area and sat down for their own lunch. The clearing they found was quiet at first, but as they sat there quietly eating, animals slowly filtered back in.

“Isn’t it strange how most of them just disappear when they see us?” asked Charlie. “The raccoons, deer, and other animals back home almost ignore me!”

“That’s a good point,” said Nick, “but it’s got a pretty well known explanation I think. The animals back home are around humans all day, every day. Here, these animals have probably never seen humans anymore. In most environments, a new animal could be dangerous. So it’s usually safer to run away.”

They finished up their lunch, carefully cleaning up after themselves. They took some more pictures and notes about the smaller animals that had shown up.

“The birds here actually look a lot like the ones we saw on other Pacific islands. But… slightly different.” noticed Charlie.

“That’s because they could fly here,” replied Nick.

“Of course!” Charlie realized.

“But it’s interesting you mention the small differences. Let me tell you about the voyage of the HMS Beagle and the scientist they had on board. Now this guy thought he was going to learn about geology and fossils, but you probably know him from biology…”

They chatted more as they finished packing up. They spent the early afternoon looking around, but they decided to start heading back up to their campsite with quite a bit of the day left. “After all,” said Nick, “the slope is mostly loose gravel so we’re going to have a hard time climbing back up.”

“Maybe tomorrow we can tie some long lines and let them out as we go down,” suggested Charlie, “having something to grab and pull ourselves up with might make the climb easier.”

Without those lines their climb back up was indeed tough. It was interrupted when they were about halfway up by a loud crashing.

The Suchomimus they had seen earlier was clearly still hungry; it was clearly the same animal because of a scar on its side from the Ceratosaurus’s bite. The Suchomimus had clearly been stalking a pair of Ankylosauruses and was going in to get the smaller one.

The Suchomimus lunged in and tried to scratch, but the Ankylosaurus’s armor was protecting it for now. The second Ankylosaurus bellowed and tried to hit the Suchomimus with its tail; the blow landed but didn’t seem to faze the predator.

“That’s interesting,” Charlie said, clearly keeping his voice low to avoid attracting attention, “there has been some question about whether that tail-hammer was useful to fend off predators. Clearly it doesn’t bother that Suchomimus much.”

Meanwhile the Suchomimus had managed to get somewhere. It had driven away the larger Ankylosaurus and tipped the smaller one on its side. It scratched away, trying to get through the armor, while the Ankylosaurus struggled to get away or hit the Suchomimus with its tail. The Suchomimus kept scratching and biting until eventually it was successful.

“Well, that’s the circle of life I guess,” said Nick. “Let’s keep going. We’re safe enough up there. And we have some dino nuggets and barbecue sauce for a much more civilized dinner than that Suchomimus is having.”

“Dino nuggets? Yes please!”

Dino Isle Chapter 3: The Crater Valley

Up and up they climbed, occasionally seeing the Compsognathus-like dinosaurs ahead of them, occasionally seeing other small dinosaurs they didn’t quite recognize. “What’s that one?” Nick asked.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve heard of,” said Charlie. “But that’s no surprise, since not all dinosaurs would have been fossilized, or not all of the fossils will have survived this long. Especially the smaller ones with smaller bones.”

Climbing up took them a good part of the morning. Between the tree cover at first, the cliff face on one side, and the fog over the ocean on the other there wasn’t much to see. A few areas were too narrow to easily travel, but they used their climbing gear to make it safely each time.

Eventually they got quite high up, towards what appeared to be a notch in the top of the mountain. “That must be where these dinosaurs got out,” said Nick. “The cliff goes a bit higher up elsewhere, so they don’t really have any way down.”

“I hope it’s big enough for us to get through! Or that we can climb higher,” said Charlie.

When they got there, the opening was narrow but just wide enough that they could crawl through. “Ok, Charlie, stand back and let me take a look through first, just to make sure it’s safe.” Nick started by sticking a mirror through, which didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary.

“Oh, if we’re being cautious, how about we send out a drone first?” asked Charlie.

“Great idea. Let’s do it.”

They had brought along a camera-equipped quadcopter for just this purpose. It had already proven useful scouting the route ahead on the climb up, but they hadn’t used it much to preserve its batteries. They quickly but carefully set it up, and then slowly flew it through the opening.

“See anything?” asked Nick.

“There’s a bit of a downhill slope. I see a couple Compy’s running down it, but nothing big. There’s some loose gravel so we’ll have to be careful walking.”

“Great observations, buddy. I think we can go in. Now, do you want to go through first?” asked Nick.

“Sure! I can’t wait! I’ll be careful though.”

Charlie carefully stepped through the narrow gap. Nick had a harder time but managed to climb up it a little bit before stepping through. As the quad-copter had shown, they stepped out onto a gravel pile sloping inwards. They planted a marker flag near the entrance, then carefully walk-slid down the gravel till they got somewhere flat that was big enough for them to stand on. As they were taking in the views, Charlie cried out:

“Nick, Look! A heard of Hadrosaurs!”

“Yes, I see,” said Nick. “But we should watch out for the predators.”

Nick’s point was punctuated by noise coming from a group of those – one with a long, crocodile-like jaw and a sail on its back, one smaller one running on two legs, and one bigger one with short arms and big teeth.

“That’s OK,” Charlie replied, “We are too small to interest the big therapods, and we can scare off or tranquilize the little ones… like those Juravenators!”

Sure enough, a trio of small but mean-looking dinosaurs were stalking in the same general area as the herd of Hadrosaurus. They seemed much too small to take on such big herbivores, and sure enough shortly speaking one of them lunged into the brush and snapped up an animal too small to identify from their distance.

“I wasn’t expecting… are those feathers?” asked Nick.

“Yes, actually quite a few dinosaurs had feathers, or scales that were kind of halfway developed into feathers. The best preserved Juravenator fossil actually showed both scales and simple feathers.”

They spent a few more minutes surveying the area and taking some photos and videos, as well as making sure to send those back home over the satellite Internet connection – it would be a shame to lose the pictures before they could be backed up. Then they set about identifying and clearing a good place for a base camp. “Probably close but not quite at the top of the ridge, so we won’t be reached by anything down there,” suggested Nick.

They spent the rest of the day hauling up equipment to set up their new base camp. The windy narrow trail had to be widened in places and in others they used ropes to haul things up to other levels where there wouldn’t be room to carry, but eventually they had everything set up.

In the evening they built a small campfire. The cloud cover meant that regardless of the moon being out, not much could be made out of the dinosaurs below them.

“One thing I think we need to figure out first is… where did these dinosaurs come from?” wondered Nick.

“Well… you said earlier how this was like one huge volcano, even older than the dinosaurs. Maybe they just managed to survive here? They would have been protected from the asteroid hit, and if the volcano were still warm at the time maybe that would have helped them stave off the worst global cooling that would have followed,” suggested Charlie. “Then again, maybe we just time-traveled through a portal when we got here.”

“If we’d done that then I wouldn’t expect the satellite Internet to work here. It’s actually surprisingly good for such a remote island,” replied Nick.

“That’s true. Then again maybe they aren’t natural, maybe we stumbled on the work of some genetic engineering company,” Charlie said.

“That’s just movie science fiction stuff,” said Nick. “They would probably need actual dinosaurs to start with for some of these. You can’t just use short, fossil DNA strands and patch things up with genes from random animals and get dinosaurs. I guess for therapods you could start from birds, but what about those Hadrosaurs?”

Strange noises came from below – bellowing and whistling, crunching and roaring. “Hmm. Sounds like somebody’s having a late-night snack.” quipped Charlie.

With that ominous thought they triple-checked their perimeter warning systems before going to sleep.

Dino Isle Chapter 2: Arrival

The trip had been long. Planning had taken longer than they’d thought; Charlie wasn’t done with school yet, and had a lot to pack and prepare. Nick was more used to longer trips, but not so familiar with traveling long distances by boat; he had had to take some time to get to know watercraft in general and the boat they’d be taking specifically. Charlie’s brother John had been quite disappointed to be left out, but they’d worked out a deal with the paleontologist; once John finished up the schoolwork he was doing that semester, he would join the professor on a dig, as well as have a guaranteed spot helping any future expedition to Dino Isle.

The trip just to get to the Pacific would also end up being quite long – the boat the professor had bought was already located in a port near Chicago. This made loading it up and saying goodbye to their friends and family convenient, but once they set sail it meant a long, relatively slow cruise through the Great Lakes and out the Saint Lawrence seaway (the boat being too big to fit through the Chicago river); a long cruise down the East coast, stopping as needed to refuel and resupply; and a trip through the Panama canal, all before even reaching the Pacific. Once there, the trip was more direct but much more boring.

Nick and Charlie put this time to good use. The boat was spacious and watertight, but mechanically speaking it had seen better days. It was powered by two big diesel engines, with a smaller one powering a generator. This redundancy allowed them to work on the engines one at a time as needed, with Nick taking the opportunity to teach Charlie a bit. When Charlie would get frustrated, Nick would remind him:

“Remember, taking chances is what gets you into adventure,…” Nick would start;

“But being prepared is what gets you out! I know, Nick, I know!” Charlie would finish.

“I know you know, now let’s learn some more. Now, diesel engines don’t have spark plugs, because…”

They also drilled on various emergency and first aid type scenarios. This helped fill the time.

And they had a lot of time to fill; it was a long journey. Charlie often used the satellite Internet to stay in touch with his family to stave off homesickness; Nick also made sure to keep a good library of books and movies on hand, but both of these were somewhat hindered by how slow their older-style satellite Internet connection was. It was way better than nothing though.

But eventually they were there, the boat roaring towards the island, still miles off shore but close enough to see the unmistakable profile of Brachiosaurus leisurely munching on the treetops. “Wow! I can’t believe it! A real Brachiosaurus!” Charlie was excited, and Nick was too.

This area of the ocean was frequently cloudy or foggy and often avoided by other ships, so it was dark enough to make it tough to see anything at this point. This also explained why it wasn’t better known or explored; it didn’t show up often in satellite photos, and when it did it usually wouldn’t be very clear.

As they approached and circled the island, a major barrier became clear. While the island had a beach most of the way around (sandy on the leeward side, rocky on the windward), this was followed by steep cliffs. “That’s odd,” said Nick. “I’m no geologist, but to me it looks like the remains of an ancient volcano or two. The beach must have built up from rocks falling down the rim, and the dinosaurs must be living in the crater.”

“A volcano?” worried Charlie. “It’s not going to erupt, will it?”

“Probably not,” Nick reassured him. “After all, these dinosaurs have been here for dozens of millions of years, at least. No, I’d say it’s older than that, and if it were at all active they’d all have left. I wonder how they even got there in the first place?”

“Maybe we’ll find out when we get there. Or maybe it’ll just be a mystery.”

They approached a fairly clear beach area. For the initial landing, they took the boat’s dinghy to shore since the main boat was too big to get close to shore without finding some kind of natural harbor. As they approached their landing site another problem materialized.

“Huh. That’s weird. Charlie, did you see that tree move?”

“Nick! That’s no tree! That’s a saltwater crocodile! And look, there are more over there, too.”

Sure enough, their planned landing site had about half a dozen crocodiles of various sizes lounging around. Nick and Charlie changed course and headed a little farther down the beach.

“Ok, well spotted Charlie. Now we’re still going to have to make camp here, at least for a day or two while we plan our ascent. Can you think of anything we can do to make sure the crocs don’t come for us?” asked Nick.

“Well, there’s no one thing that is perfect to keep crocodilians away. We have some repellant in my pack, so we should spray that. I’ve heard of magnets helping too, but I don’t know if I trust that. If we had brought dogs with maybe they could scare them off, or at least wake us up in time to do something. But we packed along an electric fence kit, right? Why don’t we use that?”

“Great idea Charlie. Let’s head back to the boat and pick that up first. Any other ideas?”

“Yeah! We should not leave out any food for them to smell and want to get at. That’s true for camping pretty much anywhere, anyway. Maybe we can leave most of it on the big boat.” Charlie again had some good ideas.

“Ok, it’s a plan!”

Nick and Charlie spent the rest of the day setting up the electric fence and the generator for it, but once that was done they had a chance to relax and see a bit more of their surroundings. Since it was their first night in a long time off the boat, they decided to set up tents and stay on the island. Besides the welcome change in surroundings, the night was quiet.

In the morning, they saw the Brachiosaurus browsing up top again, although with their new location near the base of the cliff it was harder to see. They had an interesting surprise as they were preparing breakfast though.

“Nick! Look! I think it’s a group of Compsognathus!”

Sure enough, a group of small therapods had managed to slip past the gator fence into the campsite and were calmly browsing around, but were startled and fled at Charlie’s exclamation. “Wow. I guess it’s a good thing we packed the food away last night, or they would’ve gotten to it, right?” asked Nick.

“Yeah. Hey! If they made it down here there may be a path we can use to get up the cliffs easier than climbing!” said Charlie.

“Great idea! Let’s follow them and see if we can see where they go!”

The beach was mostly clear, but the Compies moved pretty quick for as small as they were. In a couple minutes, though, they ducked into some brush and small trees. Nick and Charlie pushed through, to see a narrow, winding path going generally upwards along the cliff, partly obscured by the few trees near the end of the beach.

“Well. That’s convenient.”

“Yep! Nick, let’s get back to the ship and pack up some packs. Maybe today we can get to the top!”

“Sounds good buddy. Let’s make sure to bring our climbing gear just in case it gets a bit too narrow.”

They had a path and they had a plan. Dino Isle lay before them.