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Natural History Museum Exhibition Takes Visitors 11,000 Metres Down
An employee poses next to a male sperm whale skeleton at The Deep exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth.
LONDON.- The Deep plunges visitors into the abyss, revealing a deep sea environment less explored than the surface of the moon. With bizarre creatures that have adapted to their harsh world in wonderful ways, visitors to the exhibition will discover the extraordinary yet fragile biodiversity that exists in the deep oceans and learn how Museum scientists are helping to preserve this important ecosystem.

When visitors enter The Deep they descend into the inky depths and embark on an immersive voyage where strange animals are suspended, jewel like, in the darkened gallery and deep sea giants loom out of the gloom. Combining astonishing imagery, real specimens on display to Museum visitors for the first time and life-size interactive installations, a highlight of the exhibition is a life-size recreation of a whale fall.

Alex Gaffikin, exhibition developer at the Natural History Museum, explains ‘At the centre of the exhibition is a real sperm whale skeleton, which has never been on display before. It tells the fascinating story of the weird and wonderful creatures that can live on a whale carcass for up to 50 years.’

Crushing pressure, icy cold, pitch black – The deep sea is the planet’s final frontier. It is the biggest and yet least explored environment on Earth. Remote, pitch black, with freezing cold temperatures and pressure up to 1,000 times greater than on land, find out about this harsh and alien habitat, which scientists believe could be as rich in biodiversity as rainforests or coral reefs.

Deep sea exploration – The Natural History Museum has a long history of deep sea research, starting with the HMS Challenger expedition in the 1870s and continuing to the present day with the effect of climate change on the deep sea in Antarctica. See some of the 130-year-old specimens collected on Challenger and climb aboard a life-size submersible to experience how modern Museum scientists explore the depths.

Myths and monsters – For centuries sailors have tried to explain the mysteries of the deep with stories of mermaids, sea devils and giant octopuses. Some, like Scandinavian legends of the Kraken, probably come from misidentification, but our fascination continues today in films and computer games.

Whale fall community – The centre piece of the exhibition is a recreation of a whale fall community using a sperm skeleton and stunning projections and footage of deep sea creatures that live on whale carcasses. Be transported to the ocean floor and discover how a carcass can become a rich ecosystem.

Adapting to the deep – If you lived down here, you’d look weird, too. Bioluminescence, gaping mouths, stretchy stomachs and seeming invisibility are just some of the adaptations that help deep sea creatures survive. With more than 50 real deep sea creatures preserved and on display, delicate glass Blaschka models and an imagined battle of a giant squid and sperm whale, this is the closest most of us will get to exploring the deep.

International Year of Biodiversity 2010 – The Deep is part of the worldwide celebrations of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, and while the habitat is remote, it is still under threat. Find out how you can get involved in Museum projects to understand and protect marine environments.

Natural History Museum | Alex Gaffikin | HMS Challenger Expedition |




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