Out & About
Sureka and Ravishaan get padded up
Ice to be here
Brrr! Sureka Fernando and her 13-year-old nephew Ravishaan discover a world of snowmobiles, polar storms and penguin vomit as they take the new Ice Station Antarctica challenge at the Natural History Museum...
Could you live in sub-zero temperatures for months at a time? Dive into icy water with only giant sea creatures for company? Or cope in a snow storm with no emergency services to help you out?
Welcome to Ice Station Antarctica, a new installation at the Natural History Museum challenging children and adults to experience life as a scientist researching Antarctica - the coldest, windiest and most remote place on Earth.
The snowmobile challenge!
Under the guidance of the Ice Station Commander, you can become an ice cadet for the day, braving a variety of challenges from riding a snowmobile to surviving in freezing temperatures. Will you be tough enough?
I took my 13-year-old nephew, Ravishaan, to check it out.
"It's fun and interesting," was his verdict after our guided tour. "The best part was riding the snowmobile.
"I learnt that Antarctica is one of the best places in the world to find meteorites," he enthused.
"I'd love to be out there riding a snowmobile and discovering fragments of the moon and other planets - and I'd feel privileged to be one of the few people in the world that gets to make exciting new discoveries about the universe."
But my guinea pig wasn't so enamoured of some of the other Antarctic challenges.
"The worst thing was experiencing life in the Penguin colony," he grimaced. "It smelt revolting and made me want to gag.
"I discovered that scientists lie in penguin vomit for hours so they can observe their behaviour undetected. It's definitely not something I would ever want to do!"
Designed for families, the installation also gives would-be ice cadets a taste of camping in hostile conditions and allows them to see the dramatic effects of a polar storm.
They can even step into the boots of a real-life ice cadet by trying on some heavy duty protective clothing.
"I was surprised at how long it took to put on all the gear that you have to wear," observed my trainer-shod nephew. "The boots were so heavy they were hard to walk in, but when I took the challenge to survive in freezing conditions, I could see how vital they were."
Challenges over, aspiring scientists can find out which area of research they would qualify for - and Ravishaan was relieved to discover he would be better suited to collecting meteorites than lying in penguin vomit.
It's a thumbs-up from Ravishaan. Mostly
He said: "The exhibition showed me how tough you need to be as a scientist researching Antarctica. I didn't realise how much research is carried on out there on everything from climate change to wildlife and space weather.
"But I also think there should have been more physical challenges rather than computer-based ones, " he continued.
"And it would have been good to have more information about how global warming is affecting Antarctica, particularly as the installation is aimed at young people and they need to learn about it so that they can help the planet."
Ice Station Antarctica is at the Natural History Museum until 20 April 2008. Use the link in the right-hand column for more information, or call 020 7942 5000
last updated: 17/07/07