Today started off with a trip around the Christchurch Antarctic Centre. Highlights included watching feeding time for the resident blue penguins, the storm room where I experienced a simulated Antarctic storm and brushing up on Antarctic facts, with the many displays and videos on show. The centre does a great job of promoting awareness of the continent and the importance of continuous scientific research being carried out there.
Following lunch the other members of the AHT team and I headed into town to visit 'The Heart of The Great Alone' photo exhibition. This displayed the works of Herbert Ponting (the photographer for Scotts 1910-1913 Terra Nova expedition) alongside photographs taken on Shackletons 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition. These photographs tell an amazing tale of life in the heroic age and put a face to the names I have read about in numerous books. The clothing was basic compared to today’s standards as was the accommodation and means of transport. One thing that remains consistent though is the magnificence of the landscape and appreciation of amazing natural beauty. Some artefacts accompanied the exhibition. Including the Union Jack presented to Scott by Queen Alexandra, and subsequently planted at the pole some 35 days after Amundsen and the Norwegian party beat him to it. The flag was in amazing condition (no doubt owing to a dedicated conservation team) considering its age and rich history.
The Museum was our next stop. Here the curator of Antarctic and Canterbury social history Natalie Cadenhead gave us a behind the scenes look at some of the Antarctic artefacts up close. This included some of the Terra Nova party’s skis, cutlery, dog shoes (that were not very effective) as well as the very first Antarctic Polar Medal ever awarded (which was given to captain Scott). Much of the artifacts are being conserved so that they can soon go on display.
This was a great opportunity to get thinking about the work to be done on the ice. I am now well and truly ready to hit the ice and make this dream a reality. Fingers crossed this time tomorrow I will be pinching myself at New Zealand’s Scott base!