The time traveller

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Adrian Malloch

Before we asked him to write about Mangahouanga Stream—a spot heaving with fossils, including the odd dinosaur—Hayden Donnell had had only arms-length experience with things prehistoric. Dino books, when he was a kid. A trip to the Natural History Museum in New York. And a brush with the T-Rex presiding over the atrium of Auckland Museum (his kids brought home Omicron as a souvenir).

So it was jarring to hear there was a stream in northern Hawke’s Bay where fossils just stuck up out of the water. Even more astonishing to actually get there and to see how the finds have become a fact of life for Pete Shaw, who manages the trust that oversees the area.

“He’s like, ‘Well, this is incredibly common, this is just indeterminate bone,’” says Donnell. “Or, ‘This is a fish from 70 million years ago. Don’t worry about it, move on.’”

Donnell assumed the fossils Shaw pulls out of the stream would be in some sort of deep freeze, carefully packed away. Instead, they were stacked up all around the trust’s hut. (Here, Donnell is helping photographer Adrian Malloch light some of the most spectacular.) Shaw’s most treasured find—a set of mosasaur teeth—gets relatively special treatment. “He does keep those ones in a chilly bin up in his flat. With, like, tea towels and stuff around them. It’s not Te Papa but he keeps them safe.”