Jurassic Coast Cultural Olympiad festival in Lyme Regis

  • 5 May 2012
  • From the section Dorset
Image caption The event aims to put geology and climate change into a new perspective

A life-sized model of a Jurassic period sea lizard and a "time machine" have been unveiled in Lyme Regis, Dorset.

They feature in the Jurassic Coast Earth Festival - part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad at nearby Weymouth.

The specially-commissioned arts project aims to inspire people to learn about geology and history.

It incorporates the town's annual fossil festival which pulls together top palaeontologists and earth scientists from around the world.

Sir Ghillean Prance, Earth Festival patron, said: "So much of the history of biology is hidden in the deposits along the coast and the festival will help to educate many people and show the importance of our coast."

Skull discovered

Running over the May Bank Holiday, the festival has transformed the town's Marine Parade temporarily into 'Lyme Regis International Airport'.

A departure lounge has been erected for "Jurassic Airlines", an authentic Boeing 737 cabin which gives passengers a 12-minute virtual flight along the Jurassic coastline and seas 185 million years ago.

Image caption Passengers travel at an average time of 309,000 years per second

Visitors will also be able to walk inside Horace, a 35ft-long puppet pliosaur, to watch an eight-minute film about the dinosaur's life under the seas.

It was inspired by the pliosaur skull that was found in cliffs in Weymouth Bay a few years ago and is now at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

The town became famous for fossils in 1811, when local fossil hunter Mary Anning - aged just 12 - and her older brother Joseph unearthed the 2m (6.5ft) long skull of an ichthyosaur.

The annual fossil festival on the seafront will house scientists from the Natural History Museum and the British Antarctic Survey running a programme of fossil hunting walks, activities and talks.

Spanning 95 miles of coastline between Exmouth and Swanage, the Jurassic Coast is England's only natural World Heritage Site.

The Jurassic Coast Earth Festival has been funded through donors including Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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