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Ice-packed Antarctic Festival for 2008

Ice-packed Antarctic Festival for 2008

Vivid imagery of the last great wilderness, tales of courage, of pride for the pioneers of the continent and showcasing the research on the ice are to be the highlights of the 2008 Christchurch Antarctic Festival.

Celebrating Christchurch’s century-old connection to the wild continent, the Antarctic Festival seeks to pack in as much fun events and Antarctica-associated features from September 26 to October 3.

Work is underway to offer locals and visitors an exposure to the thrill, the beauty and the yearning that Antarctica has provided for Kiwis for decades. The mix is audio and visual as well as physical, especially with the Antarctic Centre and Christchurch International Airport being the hub of the Family Day on the September 27 week-end.

Hagglund pulling competitions, playing with huskies, sled rides and inspection of equipment used on the continent, including aircraft used as transport to and on Antarctica will feature at the Family Day. The aircraft and hangar tours are made possible with the partnership of Air New Zealand and its engineering section and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the US Air Force which is expected to showcase its C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter. Ice sculptures, treasure trails and ice sports demonstrations are added attractions.

Offering a wow factor and an interactive learning experience for the younger generations, the Festival is hoping to attract families out to the Antarctic Centre and the adjoining hangars and tarmac with discounted entrance fees for the two days. “It is our heritage and we need to celebrate this unique connection with the next generation,” says Jo Blair, Events Development Manager with the Christchurch City Council. The Council provides the core funding for the Festival.

Ms Blair is keen to make the Christchurch Antarctic Festival the foremost Antarctica-connected festival in the world. Only a handful of cities around the world can lay claim to such a festival, each having a history of being a departure point for explorers and expeditions to the continents in the past 100 years.

Apart from the fact that New Zealand has an outpost - Scott Base - on the ice there, quite a number of famous expeditions to Antarctica marked Christchurch as a point of departure, giving it very strong historic connections. And interestingly, Canterbury University is the only institution in the world to have a multi disciplinary course that goes to the ice, with research grants and sponsorship packages. On September 30, Gateway Antarctica, the University of Canterbury’s centre for Antarctic studies and research, will host Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth presented by Melissa Clarke-Reynolds, an Al Gore spokesperson.

“With associations like this, we are well placed to offer a range and variety and depth that very few can,” says Ms Blair, adding that the Festival is garnering laurels worldwide and within the polar expedition/research communities.

Last year, Christchurch marked 50 years of Kiwis in Antarctica with the Antarctic Festival, something that all Canterbarians can be proud of because of the direct role they have played in facilitating Antarctic missions, says Ms Blair.


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