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Press release

Disaster! Is nature out to get us?

A series of free Darwin Centre Live events at the Natural History Museum
Monday 6 to Sunday 12 December
Webcast live at

From Dante’s Peak to Deep Impact, Hollywood loves a good disaster. But is nature really out to get us? Are we suddenly in greater danger from natural catastrophes or do we just know more about them? Join Museum scientists and geological experts in a series of free Darwin Centre Live events investigating what can go wrong on planet Earth, what can be done to stop it and if we should even really try.

Plagues of Locusts
Monday 6 December, 14.30
Plagues of locusts on a biblical scale have been sweeping across Africa, devastating crops and causing misery and hunger. Join us to investigate the biology and behaviour of these voracious creatures and discover what’s caused the worst swarms seen for 20 years.

Tuesday 7 December, 14.30
When the volcanic island of Krakatoa exploded on 26 August 1883, the roar was heard over 4,500 kilometres away. Ash clouds turned day to night and 40-metre-high waves killed thousands. Join us to discover why the eruption was so violent and why it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

Wednesday 8 December, 14.30
The Black Death killed about 25 million Europeans during the middle of the fourteenth century but the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 killed 40 million people across the world within one year. As we travel further and become more urbanised the opportunities for viruses to spread has exploded and it’s only a matter of time before the next global epidemic occurs. Join us for an exploration of ancient and modern plagues and the candidates for the next pandemic, from Ebola, to chicken flu and SARS.

Destruction on a Global Scale
Friday 10 December, 14.30
Every now and then disasters happen on a truly devastating scale – massive volcanic eruptions send Earth into decades of nuclear winter and whole mountainsides drop into the sea creating fatal tidal waves thousands of kilometres away. Join Bill Maguire, from the Benfield-Greig Hazard Research Centre at UCL, to discover what we know about global events such as mega-tsunamis and super-volcanoes and find out if we can predict when and where the next one will happen.

Saturday 11 December, 12.00 and 14.30

Volcanoes are unpredictable, violently destructive and potentially lethal, yet humans continue to live, work and play in their shadows and life itself might not exist without them. Take a closer look at craters, geysers and lava lakes with our mineralogist Frances Wall.

Meteorite Impact!
Sunday 12 December, 12.00 and 14.30
If a meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs, could it do the same to us? Small meteorites strike the Earth all the time, but every few thousand years, something really big hits. Join our planetary scientist Matt Genge to discover what’s waiting out in space, discover more about past impacts and how likely we are to be struck again.

Darwin Centre Live in the GlaxoSmithKline Studio at the Natural History Museum is a free programme of informal events where visitors can talk to scientists, hear more about their work at the Museum and around the world and see the fascinating specimens they work with. For further information, please contact the Natural History Museum by calling 020 7942 5000 or visit

- Ends -

Monday 15 to Sunday 21 November
Admission: free
Venue: Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum,
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 5000 Monday–Friday,
020 7942 5011 Saturday and Sunday

For further information, please contact:

Jo Glyde or Chloe Kembery, Science Communication PR
Tel: 020 7942 5880/5881
Email: or
(not for publication) 

Issued November 2004