12.08.2008 70 °F
Well this is my last official day (Tuesday) in New Zealand. I am in Christchurch right now and I just got back from the International Antarctic Center. This attraction has been a leading visitor attraction here in New Zealand. This attraction cost more than $8 million dollars and it is located in the heart of the International Antarctic Center. The Antarctic campus is home to the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic Programs, offices, warehousing, the Antarctic Passenger Departure Terminal.
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest, and highest continent on earth. It is a cold desert twice the size of Australia, sixty times bigger than New Zealand. The lowest temperature was recorded at -128F the average temperature is -31F. The first attraction I went to was the Four Season Room with a 7 minute sound and light show that has the four seasons of Antarctica.
Scott Base is New Zealand’s modern Antarctic station. New Zealand has carried out an annual science program at Scott Base since 1957. They are currently studying the impact of human activities, ecosystems, and climate change.
The next attraction I went into was The Snow and Ice Experience. Before going into the polar room we had to put on boots and a nice warm coat. Once again I got to play dress up. The polar room has real snow and ice. It even has an ice slide. You know I had to go down in at least once…..okay maybe I went down it 4 times. It was way fun.
The polar room got down to at least 18 degrees Farienheight. The wind speed got to 18.4 mph and the wind chill was 1.6 farienhieght. The storm actually blows in this room every 30 minutes.
Antarctica is a desert. It is actually drier than the Sahara! I had no idea it was that dry. The snowfalls produce less than 5 centimeters of water a year. The thickness of the ice cap away from the coast is 1.5 – 3 miles. If it was to melt the world’s oceans would rise by 150 – 180 feet. Only 2% of the continent that is ice-free has some of the most ancient of rocks over 400 million years old. In the dry valleys of rock the ground is permanently frozen half a kilometer deep. It actually hasn’t rained or snowed in those valleys for over 2 million years.
Now onto the Blue Eyed Penguins. I want to take one of these home with me…but once again I think customs will have an issue with it. The little blue penguin is the smallest and most nocturnal of the 18 species of penguins in the world. They are found on the shores of South Australia and New Zealand. At night they come ashore to socialize and then return to sea before dawn. The male penguins attract females by displaying themselves in front of their burrows singing the ‘penguin love call’. Once a pair of penguins has bonded they return to the same nesting site each year. Chicks are born blind and almost naked. At 8 weeks the chicks are ready to leave to go to sea.
I am actually taller than the biggest penguin!
I thought this sign was good.
I did not have time to go on the Antarctic Hagglund Ride which is an all-terrain vehicle. I really learned a lot about Antarctica during my visit today. It was very interesting.
Tonight I am going out with all the great people I met for dinner and some drinks. Tomorrow I am going to do a bit more exploring here in Christchurch before I leave to come back home.
I am going to really miss New Zealand.