Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Godzilla, Bruce team for movie, fossil museum

Hollywood bites on centre's proposal

  • Print
BILL REDEKOP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 
Bruce the mosasaur has fossil museum executive director Peter Cantelon in a perilous position.

Enlarge Image

BILL REDEKOP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bruce the mosasaur has fossil museum executive director Peter Cantelon in a perilous position.

MORDEN -- Bruce is envious.

Bruce is the most ferocious marine reptile of all time, a 15-metre mosasaur, essentially a killing machine whose fossils were found near here and whose exhibit has become the face of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden.

But every decade or so, some dude named Godzilla shows up and hogs the spotlight. A new Godzilla movie opened today.

"Godzilla is a marine reptile," explained Peter Cantelon, executive director of the fossil discovery centre, which houses the largest collection of marine-reptile fossils in the country. "He rises out of the sea in every single Godzilla myth and returns to the sea."

Cantelon pointed out the marine-reptile connection to Warner Bros., and the potential for cross-promotion. Never mind Godzilla is fictional and Bruce is a real marine reptile that ruled the Western Interior Seaway that immersed Manitoba 80 million years ago.

The movie studio liked the idea and sent 500 posters, 10 double movie passes and other promotional material. The tickets are being given away on local radio spots, and the posters are handed out with paid admissions.

"It's building a bit of a buzz and gives us $1,000 of free advertising," Cantelon said.

Such is life for the CFDC in the basement of the Morden Recreation Centre. It has a world-class fossil collection but just an $8,000 promotions budget. Despite its collection -- and more amazing fossils are being discovered all the time -- it struggles in relative obscurity.

The fossil discoveries were the result of open-pit mining for bentonite, started in the 1940s. Bentonite, made from volcanic ash that landed in the interior seaway, is used in everything from lubricants to toothpaste. Volunteers started to get out to mining sites in the 1960s to explore for fossils. The first fossil centre opened in 1972.

There have been talks for decades about moving the discovery centre to the next level. It attracted 16,000 visitors last year. The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta., attracts 300,000 visitors a year. Not that the Morden centre could be another Tyrrell, but it could match or surpass the T. Rex Discovery Centre in East End, Sask.

New, amazing displays keep going up at the discovery centre, the result of fossil digs no more than a 30-minute drive from Morden. One new exhibit is fossils found of an Archelon, a giant sea turtle the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Another new exhibit is a Xiphactinus. You might not remember the name or know how to say it, but you've seen it before. It looks like a fish out of your nightmares. This one was an 18-footer found trying to bite a mosasaur.

Many mosasaur fossil skeletons have been found here. Bruce is just the largest. They were once the dominant predator, ruling over even sharks. The first mosasaur fossils were found in the late 1700s near the Maas River in the Netherlands, hence the name.

"We find loads of shark teeth. It's one of our most common finds," said Cantelon. "And we find giant squids. We find squid pins. It's the cartilage and the only part of the squid that fossilizes. We found one mosasaur with a squid pin right in its throat. We think it choked on the squid pin."

Getting a new building is a long-standing issue for the centre, but it's a Catch 22: It can't justify a new building unless it draws more visitors, but it can't draw more visitors without a new building. "Our goal is growing our admissions, growing our revenue so we can get to a point where we know we can sustain a larger facility," Cantelon said.

It's a bit like moving out of your parents' house. In the CFDC's current location, the City of Morden pays for everything: heat, lighting and water and provides free rent, plus an operating grant this year of $112,500. Yet the discovery centre has no street visibility.

It is searching for a patron. (The Province of Alberta is the Tyrrell's patron.) The Morden Area Foundation has set up a separate fund for donations to the CFDC. The centre would spend the interest.

It is also trying to become one of the province's signature museums. There are six in the province now. That status means more than $50,000 a year to spend on promotion. Signature funding would allow the CFDC to promote itself nationally..

Meantime, Cantelon said he hopes the Godzilla movie steers some people his way. While Godzilla vs. Bruce doesn't quite sound menacing enough for a movie sequel, such as Godzilla vs. King Kong, or Godzilla vs. The Thing, Cantelon has no doubt who's tougher.

"Bruce is pound for pound as ferocious, if not more ferocious, than Godzilla," he said.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Fire destroys one St. Norbert home, damages another

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google