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On to the Antarctic: Do you have what it takes?

By Christina Sanoudou

At the Hellenic Cosmos culture and science center on Pireos Street in southern Athens, adventurers of all ages can see whether they would be able to survive the harsh conditions of the Antarctic, as well as acquaint themselves with a fascinating new world.

The interactive exhibition, titled “Ice Station Antarctica,” is on loan from the Natural History Museum in London. It was designed by the British Antarctic Survey within the context of events marking International Polar Year (2007-08) and is the most comprehensive exhibition of its kind ever to be shown in Europe. After its debut in London, “Ice Station Antarctica” traveled to Japan and Turkey, while it will remain in Athens until the end of February.

The exhibit consists of interactive models, photographs, fossils, maps, scientific equipment, and specialized clothing and other gear. Organizers also pose a series of different challenges, allowing visitors a small taste of the real polar experience. These include layering on complicated snowsuits at a simulated base camp in temperatures of -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) – rather high for the South Pole, given that the lowest recorded temperature stood at -89.2C (-128.6F) – as well as responding to scripted emergency situations. Visitors learn about penguins and what they eat, as well as survival tactics at a simulated open-air campsite. They also have the opportunity to drive a snowmobile and get a sense of what it feels like to live in total darkness for six months over the course of a polar winter.

Climate change, the depletion of the ozone layer and the wildlife and geology of the region are some of the areas being explored by researchers working in the Antarctic today. A total of 18 countries have permanent research stations in the area, which host up to 10,000 scientists in the summer months.

The South Pole experience is topped off with a screening of a production by the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas, in partnership with the University of New Hampshire and digital projection experts Evans & Sutherland Corporation, titled “Ice Worlds.” Using satellite imagery and geographical data, the film highlights the importance of local ecosystems and explores the fine balancing act that allows for life in the coldest and most isolated place on Earth.

The “Ice Station Antarctica” exhibition is open Mondays & Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1.30 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets should be purchased in advance and cost 6 euros per person or 18 euros for a family of four (two adults and two children). They can be purchased at Hellenic Cosmos or at Public stores.

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Hellenic Cosmos, 254 Pireos, Tavros, tel 212.254.0000

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