Titanic Loss To Paleontology

After publishing his memoir, Charles Sternberg went on to find not only the 1910 Senckenberg mummy but still more hadrosaur specimens after that, including another particularly fine one with skin impressions. The British Museum of Natural History purchased many of these hadrosaur specimens, along with a large collection of other fossils from Alberta. All these were shipped across the Atlantic in 1916, in the midst of World War I. The Canadian transport vessel Mount Temple, carrying the 22 boxes loaded with fossil bones, was targeted by a German raider ship painted to resemble a tramp freighter, so that it could sneak up on merchant ships and then destroy them. Fitted with camouflaged deck guns and torpedo tubes, the SMS Moewe was heavily armed. After a brief attack the Mount Temple was sunk with her fossil cargo. The vessel lies today in more than 14,000 feet of water, in the general region of the wreck of the Titanic. The Mount Temple is the only known sunken ship to carry major dinosaur fossils. In his later memoirs Sternberg was very bitter about this loss of the irreplaceable treasures his hard work had produced.

The manifest of fossils aboard the Mount Temple does not clearly list what was shipped, and while the figure of "two hadrosaurs" is often quoted as the primary loss, Alberta paleontology technician Darren Tanke has researched the matter and concluded that as many as four hadrosaur specimens were lost, although probably none of them were complete. There does not appear to have been "two mummies," as is commonly reported.

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