I had a large time (I am catching up the local slang, ain’t I?) during my previous visit at the Museum of Natural Sciences and spending so much time outdoors yesterday (I cannot believe that but my skin gained a little reddish shade – even on my forearms, a part of my body I considered to be burn-resistant), I decided that I may try to “hide” some place today. Going to the museum and trying to catch up with my unfinished business there seemed as a nice option.
The museum opened at noon on Sunday and I arrived only 15 minutes later. The first concern was to get a ticket for the 3D movie about the Great White shark. Having done so and encouraged by a dolphin model hanging from the ceiling, I devoted well over an hour to the ground floor exhibit: Coastal North Carolina. I cannot remember any other time when I would read all the signboards so carefully. The exhibit consisted of displays of coastal marshlands, vast ocean, island coast and deep see bottom. The wildlife in each of the habitats was depicted through a very lively scene (and a signboard offering equally vivid description of it), well worked-out into the tiniest details: from fine background (such as sky with silhouettes of flying birds), to stuffed birds “in action” and/or very real-looking mock-ups of variety of other species (from fish to octopus and decaying shark body), true sand, realist replicas of foliage and imitation of water, including waves breaking at the shore. The marshland display even included an aquarium with a dozen of fish species and a funny hermit crab always on the move. Moreover, in the walls, there was a couple of small water tanks and one large tank, all of them with tropical fish species.
Without any doubt, the dominant features were enormous whale skeletons of Blue Whale (the largest organism ever, moreover with super oily skeleton), Right Whale (in its callosities, they have whale lice!), Sperm Whale (an animal with largest brain) and True’s Beaked Whale (one of only a few skeletons on display worldwide). Though from a landlocked country, I did know whales were supposed to be huge. However, you only appreciate their size once you stand underneath its mouth where you could fit four times and still probably would have plenty of room. Going upstairs, I observed the large skeletons from above – they did not loose any of their impressiveness. At the second floor, I participated in the museum visitor survey. The intern asking me happened to be from Romania. After a month of hardly any contact with anyone from Europe, it felt almost as great as if she had been Czech, too! Once done with the survey, we chatted for some time until the movie time came.
It was almost half an hour long and I do not regret buying the ticket. There were some close-up shots on the great shark bodies. My most favorite was the one of the dorsal fin dissecting the water surface. The documentary’s purpose undoubtedly was to defend sharks and call for their protection. I am supportive of this attitude but completely omitting their predatory purpose on the Earth (that is carnivores at the very top of the marine food chain) made the film too biased. No blood was probably desirable because of kids going to the museum, however, a fish disappearing in the shark’s mouth could barely be worse than a surrealistic depiction of a dead shark body with a couple of hagfish feeding through it back in the Coastal North Carolina exhibit or a wounded dinosaur in the top-most floor.
Being done with the movie, I remembered all the labs available at Nature Research Center and I went to check them. The mistake was that I started with the Micro World Investigate Lab (“Why do I go there when it is basically my daily bread this summer and the ten semester before?”) – I stayed until it closed. Of course, so did the remaining labs and I again failed to see them all. The lab offered so many activities that I did not even manage to go through them all. But I did demonstration of ELISA peanut allergy test, did a liquid chromatography experiment and bit of microscopic observation. As for ELISA, I was perfectly sure there were no antibodies involved, so I asked the worker what chemicals were used. Well, barely any – water, soap and some phenolic compound whose name I forgot. The top two activities for me were the water salinity measurement with a hand refractometer and pipetting of dyed water into a pattern of fish. The pipetting art was so much more creative than working with actual samples!
Upon leaving the lab, I was left with only an hour left but two and a half floors to explore. The attitude therefore was no more signboard reading but getting a general idea of the museum’s collection. I rushed through terrestrial habitats exhibition – from savanna, to forest and waterfall to mountains. Part of the exhibit were some more live fish, a huge turtle and the only living plants in the museum, the carnivorous plants. I had a tour through exhibit called Nature’s Explorers, which was the only section complying with my conservative definition of a museum – i.e. old and Do not touch stuff.
The third and fourth floor received the least attention of mine – both due to little time left and much less interest of mine in areas such as geology and dinosaurs. However, this does not mean they did any worse job on those two floors. I also discovered there an Arthropod ZOO (some of the huge insect was rather scary and I learned that the mysterious sounds in forest along the trail are most likely composition of katydids) and Living Conservatory, which I felt particularly sorry for missing. Thankfully, I could still peek in and see a live sloth and butterflies flying freely there.
While the second floor connection between the Nature Exploration Center and Nature Research Center is “only” a tunnel, the third floor offers a bridge. Here, you can get outside for a moment while still being educated. Because it is the Bridge across Time. With fossil painting on the sides and time scale with footprints on the floor, it was a nice walk.
Done at the museum, I had a short walk down the streets I have not checked yet as well as those where I returned for some buildings deserved a picture. The plan was that if I have enough time, I would go to the Subway. I knew about one close to the museum but it was closed – ehm, it never was opened on Sunday. “Is it really the capital city?” While the only somewhat lively places were a few restaurants, for some reason, the bus station was extra busy at that time of the day. Given the appearance of some of the people there, I was not sure I wanted to wait there alone for half an hour. So, I set to walk down one of the main streets. I discovered a City Market building which was a great photography object and another (opened!) Subway restaurant. I hid there, enjoyed my Black Forest Ham sandwich and survived most of the time until the bus was supposed to come. It did. Only few minutes later but it was enough to stress me I missed it and would have to wait for another hour.
With the fish pipetting done earlier today, I remembered the fish survivors of Mrs. C and decided to stop in the lab, make sure they are still alive and feed them. Once there, I stayed for some time and worked on my presentation a bit. As a reward for little Sunday work, in honor of my half-way and in attempt to avoid any cooking today, I stopped for a cone of ice-cream, It was a whale-size but the wolf helped me some.