It’s been a hot holidays. The kind of heat you would do anything to get away from. The kind of heat that makes you literally stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open saying “Oh my God what hell hath we wrought”.
The kind of heat that makes you wish you could be transported somewhere literally made of ice, where the sun is a fleeting orb that hovers briefly above the horizon before slinking back down to leave you to it. Where the wind is brisk and chilled. To make it worse, those kind people who usually look after your kids five days a week have unceremoniously left it all up to you for a couple of months, and now you’ve got to entertain them.
The Arctic is what you’re looking for. A precious, delicate place. One of the most remote wildernesses we have on this earth. It is so far removed from us – not just geographically, but from our experience, that it may as well be an alien landscape. It is literally defined as “The place where the trees don’t grow, and the ice never melts, and in winter the sun doesn’t even shine”.
And therein lies a problem. We know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”. And few things in this world are more out of sight than the Arctic. So it is easy to ignore the impact that our lifestyles can have, and hard for our kids to get their heads around how anything that they do could affect a polar bear living a million miles away.
But because it is such a fragile eco-system, it is all the more susceptible to human impact. Not just climate change, but marine pollution, overfishing, and oil extraction. We are ravaging the place and because it’s so far away, it’s hard to care.
So. The Canadian Government, through the Canadian Museum of Nature, and educational organisation Science North, have brought the "Arctic Voices" exhibition to the Australian Maritime Museum, right on the sunny shores of Sydney's Darling Harbour.
The whole idea is to open kids up to this world, and it’s wonderful. It brings the land of the Arctic close to home, with science they can literally throw themselves into. They can jump like a snow hare, and measure up to a polar bear. They can even burrow into a den and think about what it’s like to hibernate (Hint – it’s heaven).
It’s science at its best – they can watch researchers jumping into frigid waters, to try and track beluga whales by literally grabbing them with their bare hands.
It challenges kids to question their perspective: Where do you feel trapped, in a city, or a tent? Is the Arctic powerful or vulnerable? Can it be both? What does that say about the rest of the world? And perhaps most importantly, how do our actions affect something as far away as the Arctic? And what can I do about it?
These are really important questions for kids to face. And it’s worth the trip for that alone. It’s empowering to show them that their actions have consequences and they can actually change the world for the better.
It’s not just penguins and polar bears - there are people living too. This is a great glimpse into their lives and cultures too. How they navigate, how they sing, what they eat.
Once you’re done with the Arctic Voices exhibition, there is plenty more to explore in the museum. There is a 3D movie theatre showing a film called Wonders of the Arctic, or a documentary about great white sharks.
The giant rescue helicopter was a big hit, as was seeing a real, moving, working engine. An unmissable exhibition is a collection of precious works of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people, showcasing the vessels the Eora First People built in different parts of the land.
There are kids' workshops where they can indulge in arts and crafts, and dress-up sessions. With tours available especially for toddlers, it really is the perfect family day out. There is even a live theatre show, twice a day, which I might have to go back for.
And the ships you can get on outside! The HMB endeavour, the Vampire, and an actual submarine, HMAS Onslow. My kids had a great time clambering all over what they thought was a pirate ship.
As you step back out in to the blazing sun, nothings beats some ice creams at Yots café under some colourful umbrellas on the harbourfront.
The perfect end to a great day of fun and curiosity. What could be better than that?
Have you been to this exhibition? Or do you have another tip for a family outing we need to try? Share with us below.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Australian Maritime Museum.
Journey to an icy wilderness this summer at the Maritime Museum with the new family exhibition Arctic Voices, 3D film Wonders of the Arctic and cool school holiday activities. Pounce, hop and crawl through frosty animal life, come face-to-face with a polar bear and travel with scientists to catch and tag whales. Book a Big Ticket today to see and do it all.