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  • Day13

    Feb 4 - The Antarctic Exhibit

    February 3, 2020 in Germany ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    No wakeup call this morning!! Rats, I was awake at 6:06 a.m. I was the first of our group down for breakfast - I ate in the lovely solarium where we dined last night.

    We have to be on the bus by 9:30 a.m. I got a load of washing in before we left - there are free laundry facilities here. More hotels need that feature.

    Our stop for this morning was the Antarctic Centre. Christchurch is one of five gateway cities for Antarctic expeditions . Lindsay was our guide.

    Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,200,000 square kilometres (5,500,000 square miles), it is the fifth-largest continent and nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km (1.2 mi; 6,200 ft) in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.

    Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Most of Antarctica is a polar desert, with annual precipitation of 200 mm (7.9 in) along the coast and far less inland; there has been no rain there for almost 2 million years, yet 80% of the world freshwater reserves are stored there. The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), though the average for the third quarter (the coldest part of the year) is −63 °C (−81 °F). Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at research stations scattered across the continent. Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, protista, and certain animals, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades. Vegetation, where it occurs, is tundra. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists from many nations.

    Our first activity was a ride in a Hägglund, a tracked all-terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle that’s been built to conquer the rough terrain on the ice. These vehicles were originally developed by Hägglunds in 1974 for the Swedish Army. We bumped and swayed over an obstacle course designed to simulate Antarctic conditions - steep hills, boulders, crevasses, and corduroy roads. Great fun, but definitely not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.

    Inside the building, we suited up in parkas and booties for a session in the Blizzard Room. Now, for a Canadian girl, standing in -8 deg C with a windchill factor of -18 deg C isn't exactly a new experience. Can't say I've stood around in those temps in shorts before, though. The point of it all was to show the effect that the ferocious winds in the Antarctic have on the temperatures. Lindsay must have no nerve endings in his arms because he stood there with us in short sleeves.

    Our next stop was to see a 4-D movie which is a 3-D movie with special effects like shaking chairs, water spray and fake snow. The photography in the movie of the Antarctic was fabulous.

    Our next stop was to see the little blue penguins. The are birds at this facility are ones that have been injured by getting caught in fishing nets or attacked by animals or even by humans. They are generally nocturnal creatures, so they were pretty placid.

    We are all now much more knowledgeable about this huge continent that serves to keep our planet rotating properly on its axis.

    For all you animals lovers that are following along, there was a Husky Dog exhibit outside. The story of exploration in Antarctica is the story of the husky. When the bitter cold and brutal conditions proved unsuitable for horses, explorers looked for a tough, intelligent and hardworking travelling companion. Huskies stepped up to the job and provided the main form of transport, pulling sleds for teams right up until 1994.
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