I’m back! It’s been ages since I’ve written, and I’ve got a couple of cool things to share so I better get started.
A couple of weeks ago, Andrew and I went down to Christchurch to visit a friend who’s moving far, far away. Anyone who’s ever flown into Christchurch knows that there is a big International Antarctica Centre just outside the airport. This makes a lot of sense since New Zealand, specifically Christchurch, is one of the gateways to this great continent. (The other gateways would be in Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.) When I worked in retail, I spoke with a handful of customers either coming or going from that cold rock of ice.
The International Antarctica Centre was pretty neat. First things first, we were just in time for the penguin feeding. The ran a rescue center and helped injured penguins by offering them a sanctuary. The woman feeding the penguins was obviously very familiar with the penguins, calling them each by name. While penguins are usually monogamous, it sounds like these penguins thought they were on some sort of reality TV show, as there was a quite a bit of cheating and swinging going on.
After watching the penguins for a bit, we decided to check out an Antarctic storm. After hearing about all the snow and ice and cold back home in Chicago and New Hampshire, we figured the last thing we could do was to remind ourselves how awful and terrible it was and how lucky we were to be missing it. They had us don boots and large coats, we expected the worst. After a short stay in the room as it hovered around zero, we were starting to relax in the sub freezing temperatures. My friend and I took turns on the ice slide, and Andrew reacquainted himself with that fluffy white stuff those New Englanders like to call snow. Then the lights dimmed, the fans started to rotate… and the temperature dropped. From hovering around freezing, to a windchill of a whopping -1 degree Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius, we were shaking in our boots. While it was a bit cold, considering we knew that once the fans were switched off it would be a nice mid-70’s F (24 C) outside, so it wasn’t too bad. And then there was the fact that it was actually -8 degrees F (-22 C) yesterday in Chicago with wind chills as low as -32 degrees Fahrenheit (-35 degrees Celsius). You’ll have to excuse me if the Antarctica storm simulator didn’t impress as much as they anticipated it would. We Chicagoans and New Englanders can handle this! After a minute or two, the fans creaked to halt, the temperature rose and we left the simulator, happy to wander around in our T-shirts the rest of the afternoon.
The Antarctica Centre had an exhibit on the US Military planes used to transit to Antarctica, the first explorers to reach Antarctica, to uncover the mysteries of Antarctica and to forge paths and map Antarctica, as well as a lot about wildlife and the current living conditions of researches on the continent. Basically, it’s really cold, and really hard to get there, and to get around. I’m surprised astronauts aren’t more inclined to spend time on the rock, as it is rather isolated, dangerous and cold, just like space. Of course, there are no penguins or whales in space. So maybe astronauts are just penguin haters?
Needless to say, we had a bit of fun exploring this cool exhibit! One day, I do want to visit Antarctica (despite John Olivers objections )