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The Earth Hall on Science Uncovered night last month. Bustling with cosmic and creative activity, cutting edge technology and prehistoric wonders. More pictures below.


Tonight, Friday 26 October, is a very special night for 10 lucky science and natural history fans, as they will be spending an exclusive evening sleeping over at the Museum.


At 28 September's Science Uncovered evening we ran a discovery trail called Stamped on Science and 5 attendees who completed the trail were drawn from almost 200 entries and won themselves, and a guest, an amazing overnight experience in our hallowed Central Hall, and tonight is the big night.



One of the many Stamped on Science-ers collecting a stamp on the night.

After they've enjoyed all we have on offer as part of our monthly Friday Lates with MasterCard, the 10 attendees will begin their unforgettable experience.


Museum scientists Dr Adrian Glover and Dr Victoria Herridge will guide them on exclusive behind-the-scenes tours and bring out specimens not normally on display to the public while they talk about their research.


After a night's sleep alongside the giant sequoia, in the upper Central Hall gallery, the lucky 10 will enjoy a continental breakfast under our iconic Diplodocus skeleton, Dippy. They'll then be taken on a tour of our Zoology Spirit Building and get early access to our ever-popular Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 exhibition.


Sounds like a lot of fun for those lucky 5 winners and their guests, who were just a fraction of the 9,077 visitors we had through the South Kensington doors (another 554 attended Tring) for our third annual Science Uncovered festival last month.


More than 500 scientists, staff, volunteers and visiting experts helped make the event possible and we're sure everyone who attended will agree it was a wonderful evening.


Have a look at some of our favourite pictures and see for yourself. Select the images to enlarge them.


At the Space Station comets were re-created using (mostly) household ingredients: dry ice, gravel (for the carbonaceous materials), worcester sauce (for the organic materials) and Mr Muscle (for the ammonia).


The skulls and other remains of our ancient ancestors at the Human Origins Station were a talking point for lots of visitors who chatted to Museum experts on the subject of where we came from.


Making your own cave art was a popular activity and resulted in a colourful display of familiar images and more contemporary hands-on contributions.


A state-of-the-art digital specimen table uncovered layers of a mummified cat (pictured) and Martian meteorites with the swipe of a finger.


Discovering the magic of minerals and their structures


The incredible palaeontological specimens at the Extinction Station station were a hit.


Scientists enjoyed the chance to chat about their research and show off their specimens, including here at the Ocean Stations (above and below).


Sea silk, one of the strange underwater specimens on show at the Oceans Station.


The Antarctica Science Station gave people a taste of the cold conditions scientists, researchers and explorers experience at the South Pole.


Many of the younger visitors could be found experimenting at being a vet and treating some very cuddly (toy) creatures at the Vets Station.


Behind-the-scenes tours gave visitors the chance to step into the role of scientist in our labs.


The tour of the Museum's library proved popular for its special access to historic artwork and texts.


Our roaming animal handlers let those brave enough hold real live animals.


The Food Station was as colourful and tasty as we would expect.


The Sopabox Art sessions attracted curious listeners, especially the discussion about breeding a mouse with the DNA of Elvis.


Science Fight Club in full sway.


The night was made all the merrier by the specially-concocted Science Uncovered cocktail, the Pollinator.


And who found out what this hairy brain-like mystery speciman was?

On the evening of Friday 26 October, our first-ever, pop-up festival is setting up camp here for the week. Visitors arriving over the coming October half-term holiday period, 27 October to 2 November, will certainly be surprised when they come across some unusual displays and theatrical shows around the Museum...


Campsite characters will arrive at the Museum on Friday evening in Joni the campervan.

Sarah Punshon, our Darwin Centre Arts Events Programme curator, who's been planning this special event for over 3 months, tells us about the final preparations underway for The Campsite:


'I'm very excited about the unique performances and activities we've got in store for families this half-term – I can't wait to see visitors' faces when they come across The Campsite at the Museum!


'Vintage campervans, caravans and tents, each home to a playful performance or interactive installation inspired by Museum science, will be pitching up in and around the Darwin Centre this Friday evening, ready for Saturday's official opening. The Campsite is a unique mobile venue of theatre, art, music and film, created by young theatre company Field Trip, in collaboration with the Museum.


'The shows and activities are going to be a lot of fun and a welcome alternative for families if the usual popular places like the Dinosaurs gallery and the Central Hall get really busy.


Spot the roaming Lost Camper and point her or him in the right direction...

'We will have a few pop-up tents and attractions in unexpected places of the Museum - look out for our roaming Lost Campers, two "research scientists" who might need help finding their base camp - but most of the the action takes place in the Orange Zone around the Darwin Centre atrium area and outside on the Courtyard.


Become human specimen displays at The Campsite! Left, exhibition technician Ryan poses in one of the large specimen cases specially created; right, Museum joinery workshop manager Paul demonstrates the use of the giant pin, which incidentally should go through the thorax, Paul. Select images to enlarge them.

'As I write, the Museum joinery workshop team are putting the finishing touches to three human-sized display cases. These have been created specially for the Specimen Preparation Area activity in the Darwin Centre atrium, where visitors can be prepared for display by our energetic 'preparators' and dressed up as specimens to pose in the cases. So if you want to find out what it's like to be a Mammal or a Bird exhibit, now's your chance! But if you'd rather be an Insect, then there's always the option of being pinned into a giant drawer.


'Also in the atrium, there's an Audio Adventure to go on in a real polar tent. Two at a time, visitors can enter the tent, put on the headphones and follow the instructions they hear. You might find yourselves pretending to be a scientist visiting the Antarctic or diving under thick ice to collect samples, recording data, and meeting a penguin!


Children demonstrate two of the retro activities at The Campsite, Left: The Catalogue, where you can archive your own stories on vintage equipment; right, trying out the Audio Adventure.

'Outside on the Darwin Centre Courtyard, I'd recommend taking a seat in Lionel, the cinema in a campervan. Here you can choose from a menu of short science-inspired films. Or nearby, there's The Catalogue activity where our Archivist will be collecting stories about nature. Record your own story on cassette, type it up on a vintage typewriter, or draw a picture of it. The Archivist will carefully file it away – and perhaps later, someone else may need to use it, for research purposes...


'In the middle of the Courtyard there will be camping games to enjoy. And in a tent underneath the trees you can watch performances of an award-winning musical comedy about Charles Darwin, and listen to specially-commissioned songs about the weird and wonderful world of insects.


'For the last few weeks, a lot of my time has been spent match-making: putting artists and scientists together for interesting conversations, in the hope that something special will result. I feel confident we've succeeded.'


Inside every tent, caravan and campervan there'll be something special to discover. This tiny caravan above, currently being made by designer James Lewis, will hold a giant story about a blue whale.

The Campsite is the second in this year's programme of Darwin Centre art-and-play events. Whilst planning this one, Sarah and her team are already starting conversations with exciting artists about the third event – watch this space for more information.


The Campsite event is free to attend and runs from 27 October to 2 November.


Find out more about The Campsite online


Just a short while ago, at the awards ceremony held here at the Museum, the grand title winners of the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were announced by hosts Philippa Forrester and Yann Arthus-Bertrand at a gathering of 280 guests. As acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Yann describes, the annual awards ceremony has become 'rather like the Oscars of the world of photography... an event that puts the spotlight on wildlife, showing us how beautiful and strong it can be, but also how fragile.' Both grand title winners won their individual category awards, of which there are 18 varying from single images to stories and portfolios.

nicklen-image.jpgBubble-jetting emperors (above) has made Canada’s Paul Nicklen the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Frozen-fingered, Paul took his shot of frenzied, surging Emperor penguins while immersed in Antarctica’s remote Ross Sea. The image won the Underwater Worlds category award. Select images to enlarge them.


The shimmering blues and bubbles framing the chaotic upward surge of a mass of Emperor penguins in Paul Nicklen’s astonishing underwater shot captivated the judges completely. The sheer energy and life force of Bubble-jetting emperors made Paul the deserving overall 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He waited submerged in the icy waters of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, to capture this scene on camera, climbing into the only likely exit hole to catch the blast of birds whooshing up to the surface to feed their chicks. No stranger to photographing polar regions, Paul is passionate about the creatures that inhabit such isolated and endangered environments.


Competition judge and acclaimed underwater photographer David Doubilet, said: ‘I love this image because it shows perfectly organised, infinite chaos. My eyes linger over it trying to absorb everything that’s going on here.’

hearn-kite-1000.jpgFlight paths by British teenager Owen Hearn earned him the title of 2012 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Owen’s topical and symbolic image of a perfectly poised red kite and ghostly airplane was taken in Bedfordshire. It captures two very different subjects at the right moment in exactly the right place. The image won the 11-14 Years category award.


In contrast, the airborne stillness of British teenager Owen Hearn’s Flight paths shows a poised and resplendent red kite mirroring a distant plane in the skies near his grandparents' farm in Bedfordshire. The judges loved the mastery and metaphor in the image and Owen has become the 2012 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Owen’s grandparents’ farm is on the site that was nearly chosen as London’s third airport back in the late 1960s. Opposition to the runway was fierce but successful and as a result wildlife is now thriving in this region. The red kite is a particular success story: at one point facing extinction, their numbers have now increased dramatically. Owen says: ‘I sent in this image as I think it’s unique.’

These 2 exceptional images and the other 98 winners taken by the 77 winning photographers can now be viewed in the online gallery on our website. And from this Friday, 19 October, you can see them all close-up as large back-lit installations in the spectacular exhibition here at the Museum.

liina-1000.jpgAnother young talent, Finnish 9-year-old Liina Heikkinen hard at work on her bird photographs - one of which, Squabbling jays, is runner-up in the 10 Years and Under category award this year.


And for those of you who, like me, often want to know more about the people behind the pictures, here is a great shot (above) of young Finnish photographer, Liina Heikkinen, on the job. Look out for her brilliant image of Squabbling jays which is runner-up in the 10 Years and Under category award, and one of my favourites of all the winners so far.


View all the winning images in the online gallery on our Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website


Book tickets for the exhibition opening on Friday, 19 October

Read the news story about the winners' announcement