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December 31, 2008

Wrapping Up ’08 in Christchurch

An unexpected free day in Christchurch, and an opportunity to re-visit the Canterbury Museum. I peruse its various areas, but like a heat-seeking (or in this case, ice-seeking) missile, I’m drawn back to the Antarctic gallery.

Artifacts from the heroic age of polar exploration.

The displays and dioramas here are decidedly old school, but in a uniquely attractive way. Perhaps it’s the lighting, or maybe classic exhibition cases are retro-cool. In many instances, I find the artifacts compositionally well-arranged. This is one of them. The items include a large bottle of Methuselah champagne to celebrate Richard E. Byrd’s return after the first flight over the South Pole, a .410 gauge shotgun used by zoologist Alton A. Lindsey to collect birds in 1933 (the signage adds that “penguins were never shot but caught and pithed with a large needle”), and three models of aircraft flown in Antarctica over the decades (Byrd’s plane, the Floyd Bennett, is the smallest of the three).

Looking like a Chuck Taylor high-top on treads, this Ferguson tractor is the first motor vehicle ever to reach the South Pole. The journey was led by Sir Edmund Hillary (of Mount Everest fame) for New Zealand’s section of the 1958 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It was the first overland journey to the Pole since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912, and was followed shortly by Vivian Fuchs’ arrival in the hulking orange Sno-Cat shown in the December 28 post.

This Antarctic motor-tractor is among the earliest vehicles ever used in Antarctica, and also the most troublesome. Built in London for Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, constant breakdowns required the team to haul the tractor, instead of the other way around. The exhibit’s explanatory text describes the plywood-bodied machine as “the embodiment of mechanical perversity.”

New Year's Eve in Cathedral Square, Christchurch.

There are a lot more polar curiosities at the Canterbury to share, but I’ll leave it at that for today. It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m headed to Cathedral Square for the Times Square-like extravaganza.

Happy New Year from Christchurch!


Filed under: Antarctic History and Exploration,New Zealand — mbartalos @ 11:25 am

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