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The Descent of the Dinosaurs

Updated: May 17, 2022

It’s 66 million years ago and the dinosaurs have managed to survive on earth for 165 million years. The climate of the world is warm and lush forests inhabit large areas, full of a massive variety of ferns, insects, trees and critters. Violent dinosaurs, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, share their home with the large and peaceful Titanosaurs. Some hunt in the underground like the Pectinodon, whilst the Edmontosaurus wanders the ancient coastlines and swamps. 66 million years ago, probably a normal Tuesday afternoon, life is in many ways the same way as it has always had been, but now a miniature detail in the starry sky has changed.

This miniature detail, for many weeks, starts to grow bigger and bigger until one day it begins to look like a small replica of the moon. Suddenly, the dot fades from sight and for a few more hours the old life, which previously inhabited the earth, holds on. In the morning light one day, however, the small moon appears again, brighter and bigger. Now, nearly as large as the sun, it is headed for the coast near the Yucatan Peninsula. The asteroid takes seconds to pass through the atmosphere and crosses at almost 60 times the speed of sound.

The asteroid, larger than Mount Everest, reaches the shallow ocean, smashing the bedrock beneath it. An energy equivalent to billions of nuclear weapons is released within seconds as the asteroid vaporises into 60 times its original mass. A massive sphere of white light expands over the Gulf of Mexico as the bedrock melts into hot plasma at tens of thousands of degrees celsius. Everything within a radius of 1500km is immediately burned as a wave of heat expands rapidly throughout the surrounding areas. The energy created by the asteroid’s impact produces a hole 25km deep and 100 km wide within the earth’s crust. The massive ocean, which was once crowded with billions of species, is pushed back as if a kid has jumped into a puddle, leaving the rock beneath naked. As the damaged crust bounces back from the impact, a mountain with a height of 10km stretches into the sky.

Material from the asteroid is blasted into space as the violent strikes are felt all around the world within minutes, and even a magnitude 11 earthquake, possibly the largest earthquake any living being has experienced, judders throughout South America. In India, the impact might even provoke volcanic eruptions which last 30,000 years and cover half of the subcontinent in a blanket of hot lava. Even on the other side of the earth, the ground moves impressively by several meters. A shock wave which destroys vegetation, animals and soil expands through southern America.

As the mountain formed by the earth’s crust begins to disappear, a ring of tsunamis 1 km high travel in all directions, crashing into coasts of the continents surrounding the impact. This leads to the flooding of thousands of kilometres of coastline. Hours later, many of the waves still tower over South America, some as high as 100m.

Remember the debris of the asteroid which was blasted into space? Well, it now begins orbiting the earth at massive speeds. Some hit the moon and some even hit Mars, but most returned to earth. During their journey down to earth, they become extremely hot (hundreds of degrees celsius), warming up the atmosphere to insane temperatures astonishingly quickly. Animals bury themselves or escape into caves to avoid being burned by the incredible heat and raining debris. Wildfires begin burning around the globe, covering earth in an apocalyptic hell for months.

The day of the impact is almost done, but wait, don’t sigh with relief yet as perhaps the worst is yet to come! A giant plume constructed of vaporised material reaches the atmosphere, spreading throughout the entire globe. The planet sinks into a toxic darkness, illuminated only by the fires and lava which infest the scenery. Photosynthesis is unable to take place under these circumstances, killing 90% of plankton found in the ocean which, by following the food through the food chain, will ultimately kill the massive reptiles and ammonites which once dominated the seas. For many months and years to come, the planet will remain a hostile and deadly place, with at least 75% of species vanishing from the earth.

Eventually, survivors will emerge. Descendants of the majestic and feathered dinosaurs as well as the intelligent and fierce mammals will soon become the dominant animals on earth. But after 165 million years of dinosaur continuity, the world and the lives of all its inhabitants change from one day to another. If such an extinction, such an event, had never taken place, who knows what could’ve happened or what life on Earth would be like today.

Blanca H, Year 9

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