Sometimes travel shows you unexpected wonders. I took a tour of art museums and gardens in the area of Los Angeles, California, in 2013. The tour took me to see Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Right next to it is the La Brea Tar Pit Museum. The tour surely mentioned it, but I didn't notice. Consequently I stumbled upon it.
|View across tar pit at La Brea Tar Pit Museum|
I had a several periods of loving paleontology in my childhood. La Brea has been a resource and wonder in greater Los Angeles for as long as people have lived there. From Native Americas to Spanish settlers to Anglos, everyone gathered and used the tar--to caulk canoes, waterproof roofs, and much more. At the beginning of the 20th century, scientists recognized that the bones in the tar were of extinct animals, not just cows and wolves. I read all about it in my 1950s kids' science books and the Weekly Reader. A pool of tar that looked like water and when the animals--Pleistocene mammals like mammoths and American camels--came down to drink, they got stuck. And then the saber-tooth cats and dire wolves, attracted to the distress calls, would arrive, and they too would get caught in the tar, to die there and be preserved. It was a treasure-trove of well-preserved bones. My books had colored illustrations with mammoths trying to fight off great cats, as they all sank in the pool. So dramatic and strange.
Finding myself next to the real Tar Pits instantly reawoke my childhood wonder.
And, it looked so innocuous.
|Tar lies below the water, La Brea|
Los Angeles has a very dry climate, the water would be particularly attractive.
And if I didn't know better, would even the visible tar look dangerous?
|park lawn by La Brea Tar Pits|
|Another angle on the pond over the tar. |
The mammoth in the far right of the picture at the top of this blog
is just out of sight to the left.
Sen, O. 2018. THe five natural asphalt lakes of hte world. World Atlas link (Accessed 1/5/2021).
Udurawane, V. 2016. Trapped in tar: the Ice Age Mammals of Rancho La Brea. Earth Archives. link (Accessed 1/5/2021).
See also Wikipedia articles.