Antarctic Centre, Sunday 11/27/16
After breakfast in the hotel dining room, we boarded our coach for the International Antarctic Centre, another happening we were looking forward to. This is not a museum, as such -- more like getting people as close as possible to the awesome sights and sounds of the Antarctic without actually setting foot on the continent. They bill themselves as the coolest adventure in Christchurch!
This Centre is also the real deal -- home to the New Zealand, US, and Italian Antarctic programs, comprising administration offices, warehousing, an American/New Zealand clothing store, a post office and travel agency, the Antarctic Passenger Terminal and, of course, the Visitor Center.
Before seeing live penguins, we attended an "Antarctic Revealed" educational talk, something Road Scholar is really good at organizing. We've learned so much on this trip already.
Heavy jackets and booties were offered to those who chose to spend five, yes five, minutes in the cold room. OK, we were game to give it a try. It was cold, yup, and then the wind machine was turned on, which turned cold into something so freezing and biting that we left the room a little before the five minutes were up.
The frozen continent holds the record for the coldest temperatures on the planet, is classified as a desert and is the windiest place on the planet. Surrounded by the stormiest ocean in the world, Antarctica is the most remote and environmentally hostile of all places on Earth. Impossible to imagine being here in winter. The sign board above kept changing as colder temps and higher winds were introduced. Brrr!
What an experience!
Little Blue Penguins! They really are small compared to other species, the smallest penguins in the world. Endemic to Australia, NZ, and Chile, (not the Antarctic), we watched them here at Penguin Encounter in a fairly natural environment. These are a few of the guys, above. Most (if not all) are rescue penguins. Their heads and backs are blue, hence the name.
Strange-looking creatures, aren't they?
But kinda cuddly-looking, too. No, we don't get close enough to touch.
Here a lady penguin emerges from her burrow. The guys are on the right of the photo.
Several more gals emerged from their burrows while we watched, some went for a dip in the pool, while the majority kinda stood around. These are not breeding penguins.
In this icy white backdrop, Jimmy stands out in his black! Oh, and if you've ever been to a Disney park and saw "The Bug's Life show," you'll appreciate the special effects offered at the Centre's 4D voyage movie, which was last on the venue. Lots of shrieks and laughs! Very enjoyable. Everyone is giving a "thumbs up" after the show! Jimmy and I are third and fourth on the right, front.
Well, that's it for Christchurch. Next is our Noon/ish flight to Invercargill, just a short hop to the bottom of NZ's South Island. Again, a very good packed lunch was provided (and consumed!) beforehand.
We love these small Air Zealand turbo props. And the verdant landscapes on the South Island. Cloudy weather prevented us from seeing much before this point, and it looked like rain was falling. We've been very lucky so far to avoid stormy or wet weather. Invercargill and Te Anau are upcoming!