Trip to the South Australian Museum

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November 23rd, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

On Friday, I finally visited the South Australian Museum. I went through all the exhibits, and some of them reminded me of the fact that the museum was Australian, not American. These little differences that I noticed just made the trip more enjoyable.

One of the first exhibits I visited was the Mawson exhibit. The gallery focused on the accomplishments of Sir Douglas Mawson, a geologist, explorer, and academic. In particular, the museum highlighted his participation in the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) from 1929-1931. A tour guide pointed out a model of the hut where Mawson and his team lived.

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Going more in depth than the exhibit, a tour guide explained how Mawson was forced to cut his sled in half in order to make it back to base after he lost the last member of his team. The guide also provided an additional detail; when Mawson finally made it back to camp and took off his gear, the layer of skin on the soles of his feet also peeled off with his socks. I couldn’t imagine how gruesome and painful that would have been.

The last thing I saw in that exhibit was a large block of ice from Antarctica. I was really amused by how fascinated everyone was by the ice. Granted, it was from another continent, but to me it was just ice. However, I suppose that most Australians have never seen snow in person, let alone huge blocks of ice, so this must have been a novel thing for them.

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Another unique exhibit I went through displayed fossils and minerals, including some opalized dinosaur bones. According to a passing local, opalized animal fossils are only found in Australia. That fact made me very appreciative of the gallery, since I knew I would not be able to see anything like it back home. The exhibit showcased a opalized skeleton of a plesiosaur, which happened to be the finest known opalized skeleton on Earth. Another major piece was the opalized backbone of an ichthyosaur.

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After the fossil and minerals display, I wandered through a few more exhibits including the showcase on Australian animals. Although the variety of wildlife was interesting, the coolest part of this area was hearing a story from a local regarding a bird called a brolga. The legend is that the richest and most powerful man in the world went to a show and fell in love with a girl who was dancing. However, the girl was so busy dancing that she didn’t notice the rich man, and he became mad that she didn’t return his love. To punish her, he turned the girl into a graceful brolga, pictured below.

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Finally, one of the last exhibits I visited was the Pacific cultures gallery. This showcase included a lot of artifacts from Papua New Guinea. Some of these included native weapons and decorated skulls. According to a tour guide, the exhibit had only opened recently, as it was previously covered by a black cloth. The reason was that native tribesmen were initially very uncomfortable with the idea of outsiders seeing their dead ancestors. However, the museum caretakers were able to work out some agreement with the natives from the Pacific cultures, allowing the decorated skulls to be put on display. Hearing about these complications with the exhibit made me more appreciative of the opportunity I had to see some of these tribal artifacts. I chose not to take any photos, due to the sensitive nature of the display.

All in all, the museum was extremely interesting, and it was refreshing to explore exhibits that I would not have seen in any museum back in the States. I had a lot of fun finally doing a typical tourist activity before I fly home on Monday night.

My next to last post will cover a final set of Australian language, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

Michelle

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