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Thar be Dragons here!

16 May 2010

Thar be Dragons here!

A quaint phrase often found on charts of explorers used in the olden days of sailing and the discovery of lands beyond the shores of Europe. It meant an unexplored area or one that was known to be inexplicably treacherous.

Dragons?

Dragons are curious because they are found in many cultures and before the cultures had contact with each other. China, Native Americans in the North America, Europeans are examples. They were all incredibly huge mystical animals with long sinuous tails — unlike any animal known. All of these cultures had them rooted in their ancient mythologies. Why did they arrive and is there a common reason?

I favor the idea that these peoples came across the fossilized bones of dinosaurs. These fossils are not rare, though not common, and could have been easily observed in various geological formations throughout the world — certainly in China, North America and Europe. Think of it … they saw the bones of incredibly huge animals with long sinewy tails? A short leap to think of them as dragons, is it not?

Dragon? Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) at the Chicago Field Museum — photo by Joe May

Let’s take a brief look at our ancestors. They were smart. They survived in harsh times experiencing war, raiding, disease and weather — all without modern conveniences. They were also observant and perhaps much more than most of us today. Since they did not have the benefit of our knowledge or machines to measure they used what they had — observation and willing minds that would connect facts into explanation, another form of exploration in my view.

Dragons exist today, both in art and imagination. Examples are: the dragon in Shrek, the dragonlets of Harry Potter fame, my high school’s mascot. Oakland’s Aviation Museum (OAV) also has a dragon — a mural really — on the fuselage of a Denney Kitfox. The Kitfox is a homebuilt affair with folding wings and bush capability. The Kitfox in the OAV is artful with a dynamic representation of a dragon against a colorful background color of sky blue occupying the entire area of the fuselage. This aircraft must have been something to see while touring the sky 🙂

Denney Kitfox in the Oakland Aviation Museum called “Taildragon” — photo by Joe May

I will publish posts on my visit to the Oakland Aviation Museum in the near future.

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