International Antarctic Centre - Christchurch

Posted June 29, 2018

I decided to check it out on a cold, wet and miserable Sunday, and certainly brightened up my day!

My first experience was a ride on the Hagglund. These are articulated vehicles that are used to get around the Antarctic. They drove us to a track which had various obstacles to tackle. The scariest part was climbing a very steep 7-metre incline and whizzing around a sharp corner at an incredibly unstable feeling angle. Nothing to worry though as our driver was incredibly experienced and really knowledgeable. The whole experience lasted about 15 minutes and I came to the instant conclusion that perhaps a career down in the Antarctic wouldn’t be for me!

My next experience was to watch the cute and curious little blue Penguins being fed. This was particularly special as we got so close to them. These adorable Penguins are only found in New Zealand and Australia. Each Penguin has been rescued which is why they live in captivity. One Penguin had been found with burnt feet, someone had not extinguished a fire properly on a beach. One Penguin was blind in one eye and had slight brain damage from being hit by a boat. Another Penguin was scared of water. Thankfully they were all found and delivered to the loving care of the staff at the Antarctic Centre. My most poignant thought was all these little creatures were here as a direct act of a human being. Why are people so inconsiderate of their natural surroundings and when will we ever learn! The Penguin feeding did draw a big crowd, so my advice would be to hang around and wait for the crowds to disperse. You can then spend quiet time observing these fascinating little-feathered friends.

On leaving the Penguins, I found myself preparing for my Antarctic storm experience! The centre simulates and Antarctic storm and invites you to attend. I put on my Antarctic coat, worn by people who work down there and stood waiting with many other people. The room was freezing, but soon to become a lot colder! The wind machine was cranked up, the noise was terrifying and the chill factor plummeted to -50! This was my second reminder that I really don’t think I could live and work down at the Antarctic. Although it was only in a simulation I felt scared and very lonely. The power of nature at its best. I was really quite thankful when the storm passed, and we exited the room.

Next, there were mountains of information all about life in modern-day Antarctica and Scott Base. Exhibitions, a flight simulation, videos, you name it, it’s all there.

Another great interactive experience is the 4D theatre. This was really good fun, we watched a short version of Happy Feet and also boarded a cruise boat to Antarctica. The 4D aspect involves your seat moving, things tickling at your ankles, water spraying in your face. We laughed and we screamed. It was a fun experience, everyone left smiling.

There is certainly a lot to get through at this great tourist attraction. One of the great things is you can leave, head out to one of the local cafes get lunch and then go back. Once you had paid your entrance fee you can come and go as many times in the day as you would like.

Real New Zealand Tours can highly recommend this attraction, especially if you are waiting for a flight later on in the day. Just a 2-minute drive from Christchurch International Airport it’s a perfect way to while away the hours.

The International Antarctic Centre is open every day of the year.

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