Our Founder, Michael Hanlon

It is with the heaviest heart that we tell you that Michael Hanlon, founder and CEO of Jurassica, died on the 9th of February. Michael’s funeral was held on 27th February 2016 in Camberwell, London.

One of the UK’s top science writers, Michael had a distinguished career as a science journalist, including being Science Editor of the Daily Mail for a decade. He produced a string of books popularising science, including most recently “Playing by the Rules”, due out next month, “Eternity: Our Next Billion Years”, and “the Science of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, which he was commissioned to write to accompany the film.

Michael grew up an only child in Dorset, and spent his youth hunting for dinosaur fossils along the Jurassic Coast, where dinosaurs were first discovered, and ended up studying geology at university. He had a dream of setting up a major dinosaur attraction in a disused quarry in Portland, and left full time journalism a few years ago to dedicate his time to turning the dream into reality, founding the Jurassica project. The BBC asked him to accompany David Attenborough on his last wildlife filming trip in Africa, and Michael got the famous naturalist so enthused about the Jurassica project, that he agreed to become its Patron – a rare honour. Renzo Piano gave Michael a personal tour of the Shard – Europe’s tallest office building – and by the time they had come back down, the world famous architect was so enthused by the vision, he had offered to do the designs for the Jurassica project pro-bono.


Michael died of a massive heart attack just as he left a Jurassica board meeting. He leaves behind his son Zachary, his wife Elena, from whom he was separated, and his partner Alison. He leaves too an incredible vision for how to bring to everyone the wonder of the Jurassic Coast and the lost world of Jurassica.

Jurassica project presses forward to planning

The chair of the Jurassica board of trustees, Tracey Brown, today announced the unanimous decision to press forward with the Jurassica project, following the sudden death of its visionary founder, Michael Hanlon, four weeks ago.

Jurassica is an ambitious project to bring to life a past that has vanished. The lost world – the environment, the tropical and sub-tropical seas, creatures that are no longer alive – will be recreated in a former quarry on Portland, on the Jurassic Coast. Its world-class fossil collections will be conserved and displayed there, and will be studied to push forward understanding of our deep past.

In confirming that the project will progress, Tracey Brown said: “The board is going to move forward to secure planning permission, which we aim to achieve in 2017. That will take Jurassica to the next phase.

Over the next 18 months, our world-leading project team will be developing our plans and we will be fundraising heavily in support of this. To demonstrate commitment, every trustee has made an immediate personal donation.”

Sir David Attenborough, Patron of Jurassica, said “Michael Hanlon had a thrilling vision for Jurassica – ways of using new techniques to bring to life the ancient sea monsters whose bones are still being discovered on this part of the English Coast. It will transform our vision of the prehistoric world. It must happen”.

About Jurassica

Jurassica, a registered UK charity, is a project to build the world’s most spectacular prehistoric visitor attraction, on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Jurassica will showcase and bring to life more than 200 million years of prehistory and tell the story of Deep Time, our planet, and of the life that has evolved upon it, using a mixture of classic specimen displays, immersive environments and innovative cutting-edge virtual reality to bring the vulnerable heritage of the Jurassic Coast to life.

Jurassica’s main purpose is the advancement of education for the public benefit through the establishment of an educational and scientific resource of global significance.

Jurassica will bring to a huge audience Britain’s extraordinary scientific heritage and the unique role played by the County of Dorset in the birth of modern science and the understanding of evolution.

It will be both an attraction that entertains, and a serious museum turned ‘inside out’ to show, practically, how modern research and preparation techniques are revealing the finds that promise to reshape our future thinking about the past.

Jurassica will cost £80m to build and is projected to open in 2021, attracting 600,000 visitors per year.  A feasibility study was completed earlier this year with the help of a grant from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership as part of the UK government’s Local Growth Deal.  You can find further information about the project on our website and social media channels, you can sign up for a newsletter, or get in touch with us directly.

The Site

The site for Jurassica is Broadcroft Quarry on the Isle of Portland. Within this is Yeoland’s Pit which is 100m across and 35m deep. The bulk of Jurassica will be located within this pit and will be mostly below ground level.

The total area allocated for Jurassica will be around 80 acres; this is to include parking and site infrastructure, as well as a large area of open land that will be sensitively managed on an ecological basis and to which the public will retain access.

Neither a theme park nor a conventional museum, the vision instead is to build a subterranean geological spectacle using cutting-edge visual technology and scientific expertise, all housed in a world-class architectural space.

Its iconic architecture and extraordinary location will make it an unmissable international tourist destination in its own right and serve to enhance the existing related destinations in Southern England.

Sir David Attenborough, Jurassica’s Patron, with a 1:100 model of the “Jurassic Cove”

Sir David Attenborough and Jurassica model