Deeply Dippy: How Britons flock to see the dinosaur on tour

One of the largest creatures ever to stalk the Natural History Museum, Dippy the diplodocus is now drawing crowds around the country. But what if anyone finds out his terrible secret?

Name: Dippy the dinosaur.

Age: 152m years.

Appearance: Improbable. Long neck and tail; relatively small head; measures 85ft (26 metres) in length.

It’s big! Even for a dinosaur. Indeed. Dippy is a diplodocus, a lizard-like dinosaur that roamed around the American midwest at the end of the Jurassic period. Diplodocuses are among the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth.

What happened to them – was it an asteroid strike? Actually, diplodocuses disappeared before the arrival of the asteroid, having been supplanted by more successful dinosaur species.

Why are diplodocuses in the news? Let me guess – we are going to clone one, Jurassic Park style? Nothing so exciting, I’m afraid. Just one diplodocus is in the news – the much-loved Dippy, who until last year held pride of place in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum in London.

Ah yes, I remember. He has been replaced by the much less alluring skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling, Hope.

Hope what? Hope – that’s the name of the blue whale that replaced Dippy. She is meant to symbolise the continuing struggle to protect the environment and threatened species.

She’ll never be as popular as Dippy. That is almost certainly true. Dippy was the face of the museum for almost 40 years, and is now on a three-year tour of British museums that is drawing crowds wherever he goes. He has been on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery over the summer, and drew an extra 140,000 visitors. He is off the Belfast next.

The museum must regret dropping him. There was an outcry when Dippy was dumped, with a #SaveDippy hashtag on social media and a 32,000-strong petition demanding the museum have a rethink. But he had to go.

Hope triumphed over experience. Indeed. But there is one thing about Dippy that is sometimes overlooked.

What’s that? He’s not real. He is a plaster cast of a fossilised skeleton found in Wyoming in 1898.

You mean Dippy is a fake?! Not exactly. He’s a replica. The original is in Pennsylvania.

What happens to Dippy after the tour? Does a large cupboard in South Kensington beckon? Far from it. The plan is to recast him in bronze and put him in the newly landscaped garden outside the museum.

He’ll be a proper celebrity then! Well, he has already had several film appearances, including in Paddington, Night at the Museum 3 and the 1975 Disney film One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing, when he was stolen by Chinese spies on the back of a very large truck.

Do say: “Aw, isn’t he amazing?”

Don’t say: “I hope all the people who flocked to see him realised they were looking at a fraud.”

The GuardianTramp

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