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Dinosaurs by torch light

It was bound to be a success of course. Torch-lit tour of the Dinosaurs gallery, sleeping in Central Hall next to Dippy (our famous diplodocus skeleton), a bugs’ talk and the new Sony PlayStation game to try out. A child’s dream, come true.


The first Dino Snores in association with Sony PlayStation was a sell-out, pretty much as soon as it was announced before Christmas, and attracted lots of media attention. On Saturday 16 January, about 200 over-excited kids descended on the Museum to experience a real Night at the Museum, and find out exactly what goes on when the dinosaurs should be getting their shut-eye.


dino-snores-boy-costume.jpgLIke the boy pictured left, who really got into the dino spirit, Mack Pegram, aged 9, was one of the lucky children there, he loved it:


"It was very very very very very very very very fun! And brilliant because there were lots of fun activities to do and I liked sleeping in the Central Hall because you can look up and see the diplodocus. My favourite activity was the Bugs Bite Back because they talked about loads of cool bugs that were poisonous and venomous. I definitely would like to go again."


And did Dippy, the 26-metre-long diplodocus skeleton, twitch at all as the children slept alongside, I wondered?


Event organiser, Terry Lester, filled me in on the spooky stuff: "Three of us, Matt, Beth and me stayed awake the whole night and kept an eye on Central Hall while everyone was sleeping. At around 3.30am I was looking towards Dinosaur Way and saw a shadowy figure run from the Dinosaur gallery entrance across into Human Biology. We knew it wasn’t anyone from Central Hall, so Matt and I grabbed our torches and in our socks (shoes were removed beforehand so as not to wake the sleeping hoards) and dashed to investigate. Slightly spooked we searched the darkened galleries, but to no avail. Not a soul to be seen (well, not a living one anyhow). We checked with the Control Room and as agreed, they had not been patrolling the ground floor of the Waterhouse building. Figment of a sleep-deprived mind or something more other-worldly?"


Ooooh, weird...


The whole occasion was filled with memorable highlights, as Terry describes:

dino-snores-central-hall.jpg"Seeing the kids entering the museum with such evident excitement (parents sporting resigned looks on their faces), hearing the cheers during the welcome talk, the friendly rivalry between the groups, the screams (of excitement, not terror) from the Dinosaur Gallery during the torch lit trails and the clapping as the lights went out in Central Hall at bedtime were just a few of them.


"Erica McAlister and TV host Nick Baker, who did a talk about bugs - had never met before doing their show, Revenge of the Mini Beasts, but you’d never have thought it seeing them in action, they looked like they’d been working together for years. Couldn’t quite see which one was the side-kick, but I think Erica came off marginally as the one in charge."


"The kids' favourites were the stories about the aggressiveness of killer bees, scorpions and caterpillars," recalls Erica, "specimens of which Nick happened to have hidden in his sleeping bag!"


The next Dino Snores is on 13 February and there are more to come. Adults, don't despair, you can get in free accompanied by 5-6 children, but stay close, because dinsoaurs and bugs are about...


Read the news story about the first Dino Snores. See what Erica McAlister who presented the bugs show has to say in her blog post.


The Ice Rink steams off

Posted by Rose Jan 20, 2010
Snow on snow - an extra bit of magic this year

One of my favourite recollections of the Ice Rink this year was our snowy return to work in the first week of January and seeing our outdoor Ice Rink piled up with snow. The ice marshals were working furiously to, well, remove the ice and snow, on top of the ice and snow. Seemed ironic somehow.

But at the weekend, on 17 January, the Ice Rink closed, as it usually does in mid January. No more will we see skaters gliding by on our way in and out of the Museum. Bye bye festive season.


So what happens to the Ice Rink ice (all 150,000 litres of it)? Well it gets steamed.


ice-rink-dismantle2-500.jpgThe event's project manager, Sherri-Louise Rowe, explained the process: "The glycol - a syrupy kind of concoction used in anti-freeze - that usually goes through the chillers to freeze the ice on the rink, is redirected through the boiler truck, heating the pipes and therefore melting the ice. The melted ice then flows away in the drains under the gardens."


And lots of steam is produced as a result.

Three days after the meltdown, all you can see in this recent picture (left) is a little patch of stubborn ice.


The chillers were turned off yesterday. Today the pipe work under the rink was packed up.


Dismantling continues and the interior of the cafe bar is almost stripped. The outside chalets and catering huts have been taken down.


This year's Ice Rink was a really successful one and we had about 110,000 skaters who visited. It was made especially magical thanks to the exciting snow storms we experienced over the Christmas holidays.


Now it's time to replenish the Museum's front lawns for spring and to welcome the next outdoor exhibition.


The year of the species

Posted by Rose Jan 8, 2010
Bee happy this year. Bombus distinguendus © D Goulson

Get fit. Give up cigarettes and alcohol. No chocolate. Move... Resolutions, resolutions. How about sparing a thought for a species every day?

To celebrate the fact that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity we're bringing you news each day of a different species that our Museum scientists feel important to draw to your attention.

So 365 days, 365 species.


From the tiniest algae and bacteria to powerful plants and mighty whales, each species is written about by a Museum scientist. A different species' fact-file will be published on our website and announced on the homepage each day. Some will features video clips too.


On New Year's Day we launched our Species of the Day online. We paid homage to the much-loved great yellow bumblebee whose survival here is under threat because of habitat changes and the loss of deep flowers. You can find out more about great yellow bumblebees and their conservation on the Bombus distinguendus species fact-file.


Our bumblebee expert Paul Williams explains, ‘Species of the day is a great opportunity for people to find out aboutsea-urchin-490.jpg what we can do to help valuable species that are facing challenges from man-made environmental change’.


But it's not just endangered species that will be featured. Some scientists have chosen species which are part of their research or that have particularly interesting or unusual behaviour, or because of their value to science or economic impact.


Read the Species of the Day news story and have a look at what we have featured online already on Species of the Day. Today’s little wonder is the strong-muscled sea urchin, Eucidaris metularis (shown right). Did you know that sea urchins have been around for the last 150 million years?

Watch out, there are some really bizarre and quirky organisms coming your way.


Species of the Day is part of our involvement in the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity in the UK. It also highlights the work of the Museum’s many scientists who work here behind the scenes.