Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Avon River, which runs through Christchurch

NSF Polar Program

U.S. Antarctic Program

The National Zoo's Antarctica Expedition is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs.

All photographs depicting Weddell seals were taken under NMFS Permit No. 763-1485-00 issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.




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grapes with the apes

August 17, 2006

Map of Regina's progress from D.C. to New Zealand
Hello from Christchurch, New Zealand, my last stop before heading to Antarctica. It's winter here and Christchurch is lovely, but cold. I figure it's about halfway between D.C. and McMurdo temperature-wise. I'll be here for about ten days getting ready for The Ice.

Christchurch is, of course, full of the tracks of people who have ventured to Antarctica, and there is some interesting local history. The British explorer Captain Robert F. Scott stopped here before going south (literally and figuratively). New Zealand is emphatically Anglophile, and Scott is remembered fondly. There is a heroic statue of him in a prominent place in the center of town. In the school I went to here, there was a photo of Scott writing at a desk. The main school building was a private residence at the time, and Scott stayed with the family who lived there. I am going to visit the building to see whether the photo is still there, and will try to find out more about the story behind it.

The bronze bust of Roald Engelbreght Gravning Amundsen in Christchurch's Canterbury MuseumThere is a bronze bust of the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen Amundsen (head only) in the local museum, too. Most of the bronze has the dignified patina of age, but his nose—which is absolutely enormous—is a bright shining gold. I suspect visitors rub it for good luck. Given the outcome of the race to the South Pole, they may be on to something.

Christchurch is the gateway to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, and the Great White South is very much part of the local culture. There are "Antarctic attractions" like the rather fabulous Antarctic Centre near the airport. Canterbury University offers courses in Antarctic Studies including a field trip to McMurdo for students. And the country claims the area including McMurdo Sound as New Zealand territory—the Ross Dependency (including special Ross Dependency stamps to be used for postage from McMurdo Sound). A nice consequence of this avuncular attitude was that when I was last at Scott Base (the New Zealand base on Ross Island), Telecom New Zealand extended its national telephone deals to include McMurdo Sound. Talk about toll calls!

Regina Eisert
Christchurch, New Zealand