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September 09, 2009

World’s most hostile continent featured in Smithsonian exhibit at Burke

Wondrous Cold: An Antarctic Journey, October 3 - November 29

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest, driest and most remote continent on the Earth. Despite these hardships, dozens of countries maintain research stations there to study its geological past, its spectacular glaciers and abundant coastal wildlife, and our global environment. A new exhibit at the Burke Museum of Natural History of Culture offers a glimpse at the life of researchers on this majestic continent through large format photographs, displays of camp equipment, and presentations of recent research findings from the University of Washington.

Wondrous Cold: An Antarctic Journey opens at the Burke Museum on October 3 and remains on view through November 29, 2009. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Wondrous Cold features the photography of Joan Myers, who spent October 2002 through January 2003 in Antarctica. Real Antarctic camp equipment, fossils, and research findings from scientists at the University of Washington will accompany Myer's photography at the Burke.

Actual camp gear, such as a skidoo, tent, and cold-weather clothing, will show what it takes to survive and work in extreme Antarctic conditions. Learn about paleontological and geological research being conducted in Antarctica by University of Washington scientists. See real Antarctic fossils, such as a giant prehistoric amphibian, being studied by the Burke's curator of vertebrate paleontology, Dr. Christian Sidor, and parts of an Antarctic dinosaur named Cryolophosaurus. Recent UW research on Antarctic climate change will also be highlighted with a display of lab equipment used to analyze ice cores.

Fifty of Joan Myers' color and black-and-white photographs place the work of UW's Antarctic researchers into a greater context. Myers' photographs juxtapose large panoramas of Antarctica's austere beauty and inhuman scale with wildlife, people, and the abandoned huts of early explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton. Explore how scientists conduct research in climatology, glaciology, biology and astronomy at the American scientific research station McMurdo Station, and learn about the support staff that keeps the station functioning. From the South Pole to the top of Mt. Erebus, to McMurdo Station, Myers photographed in below freezing temperatures, with wind chills as low as -84 degrees Fahrenheit. Wondrous Cold transports museum visitors to places where extreme conditions prevent most people from ever visiting.

Related events

Exhibit Opening Day: Wondrous Cold: An Antarctic Journey
Sat., Oct. 3, 10 am – 4 pm

Spend the day hearing firsthand about Antarctica from those who have conducted research there. Lecture topics include fossil collecting, sound recording, Antarctica's role in global climate change, and the geological history of the continent. Click here for a full schedule of presentations.

Ice Age Archaeology
Sun., Oct. 18, 10 am – 4 pm

Bring the whole family to the Burke Museum for a day of hands-on activities and exhibits about what life was like during the coldest time our state has ever known. Burke archaeologists will be on hand to give you the inside scoop on human life 12,000 years ago. See and touch fossils of giant animals who shared the earth with people during a time when our environment was radically different. Attend talks by UW professors on megafauna extinctions and fact vs. fiction in Hollywood's depiction of the Ice Age.

Dinosaurs on Ice: Jurassic Dinosaurs from Antarctica
Thu., Nov. 12, 7 pm

Dr. William Hammer of Augustana College, Illinois, made his first trip in search of fossil vertebrates in the Central Transantarctic Mountains as a graduate student in 1977. Since then he has led six expeditions to Antarctica. In a lecture at the Burke Museum, he will discuss Jurassic dinosaurs, scavenging theropods, a new sauropodomorph, a "beaver-like" tritylodont, a pterosaur or flying reptile, as well as other Jurassic finds from his over 30 years of research into the secrets of Antarctica.

Wondrous Cold: An Antarctic Journey features photographs by Joan Myers. The exhibition is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and made possible through the generous support of Quark Expeditions. Additional support for the exhibit and its related programs has been provided by the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Community Grant Program, funded by MetLife Foundation, and donors to the Burke Museum Annual Fund. Media sponsorship for Opening Day has been provided by 94.9 KUOW.

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274

Emperor penguin chicks at Atka Bay. On view in Wondrous Cold: An Antarctic Journey, Oct. 3 – Nov. 29.
Emperor penguin chicks at Atka Bay. On view in Wondrous Cold: An Antarctic Journey, Oct. 3 – Nov. 29.
Photo by Joan Myers