Anarctic Explorers: Race to the End of the Earth

Snow and ice and sled dogs and penguins and Anarctic explorers, oh my!

Firefly and I had a chance to preview the National Geographic Museum’s newest exhibit.  I had been invited to the blogger preview and decided to bring Firefly as my assistant blogger, to get a kid’s point of view on the exhibit. (More on that in a minute.)

The exhibit, called Race to the End of the Earth,  chronicles the journeys of two teams in 1911, who both set out to be the first to reach the South Pole.  One team was a group of Norwegian men, led by Ronald Amundsen .  The second team was a group of British men, led by Robert Falcon Scott.  Both chose different equipment and slightly different modes of transportation to get there. Both endured bitter cold, hunger, frostbite. There were tragic losses of both animals and men.

Under-ice workshop. Here a sled is being made. This was recreated from a photo from the actual exhibition. Firefly had fun comparing the photo to the re-created scene. Most of the tools were in exactly the same place.

The way they went about setting up shelter and caring for themselves in this harsh environment is what makes their story so fascinating.

The exhibit recreates the living quarters of each group and thus gives a great picture of what their lives were like.  The exhibit also contains some information and equipment from modern-day explorers, who now use pre-fabbed igloos as shelter.

Race to the End of the Earth is very interactive, and for this reason, it is great for kids, even those of young elementary age.  The only caution I would offer are two places where violence towards animals is described in writing:  ponies being killed by whales and dogs being killed to be used as food for other dogs. If you have a child who might be upset at these descriptions, they are easy enough to skip, unless you have a child who reads each and every piece of the exhibit.  Firefly was more focused on the interactive parts and did not notice these descriptions.

Aside from that, animals are a major part of the exhibit, which ultimately makes it a great destination for kids.  A group of penguins greets visitors at the beginning.   A sled dog peers down a hole in the ice. A seal is suspended up high, as if swimming in the ocean.  These are just a few examples.

Firefly is seven and he was quite fascinated by the whole thing.  Here’s his take on it:

I learned a lot about the explorers.  It was very interesting and great for kids.  My favorite parts were seeing the place under the ice where one team lived and worked with wood and made a sled.

I also really liked the story books.  I read about the sled dogs and the explorers.  I found out I would not want to live in Antarctica.  It would be very hard to live there.

iPad-esque story books are placed in front of several exhibits. The user selects which chapter(s) to read and turns the pages. The main text is read in a voice similar to one of the explorers. Photo captions must be read by the user.

Modern day explorers' living quarters: a pre-fab igloo.

Another example of the many interactive components of the exhibit.

Firefly took this quiz at the end, which determines whether or not one would enjoy being an arctic explorer.  His score indicated that he would not.  And he was just fine with that.

Race to the End of the Earth is on exhibit at the National Georgraphic Museum in Washington, D.C. from now until August 21st, 2011.  Tickets at Adults: $8.  Children:  $6.  School, youth and scout groups free with group reservation and purchase of chaperone tickets, which are discounted to $6.

Ample parking directly across the street. 

Other resources for educators:

While there, take a moment to explore the gardens and outdoor photo exhibit of the museum (free; admission to museum is not required).

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2 Responses to Anarctic Explorers: Race to the End of the Earth

  1. Ashley says:

    Wow… that sounds great we will have to come downtown and check it out:)

  2. Looks like an awesome exhibit! Sad that it’s too far for us to see it!

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