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192 Posts authored by: Rose
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Today, our Scott's Last Expedition exhibiton opened to the public after a week of media coverage and VIP events in the exhbiition gallery, to mark the centenary of Captain Scott reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912.

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Museum mineralogist David Smith and exhibition interpretor Elin Simonsson introduce HRH The Princess Royal to some of the scientific exhibits in Scott's Last Expedition at the VIP launch event on 19 January. The exhibition opened to the public today on 20 January.

Among the VIPs who attended the exhibition's launch party were HRH The Princess Royal (above) who opened the exhibition as its official patron, and Sir David Attenborough (below being greeted by Museum director Dr Mike Dixon).

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The VIP guests were still packing out the shop at the end of the evening when the party was officially over, so engrossed were they in our Polar-themed books and merchandise on display.

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So what of the exhibition itself? My first impressions on entering the gallery are of the stark contrast of warm-brown domesticity inside the Antarctic base camp wooden hut - the central focus of the exhibition - against the frozen-white surroundings of the unforgiving Antarctic landscape. And how these elements are so beautifully brought to life in the photographs and films of the expedition's photographer, Herbert Ponting.

 

Browse our Scott exhibition highlights slideshow to see what's in store

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Above and below: The main exhibition gallery space is designed as a life-size, walk-through representation of the Antarctic hut where Scott's shore party of 25 men lived and worked for the 3 years of the expedition. At its centre is an animated table showing how the hut's own central table was used by the crew members during the years at Cape Evans. Select images to enlarge them.

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One of the remarkable things our exhibition really demonstrates is the wealth and quality of visual and scientific records that Scott's Terra Nova team has given us. But then Scott's aim wasn't just to be the first to reach the South Pole on this expedition. He had planned an ambitious scientific programme, and to that end 12 scientists accompanied his expert exploration team, along with the first ever professional photographer to go on an Antarctic expedition, Herbert George Ponting. As a result, the expedition brought back a huge collection of specimens, 40,000 of which are in the Museum's collection, and a rich photographic and cinematic Antarctic archive. Some of the most iconic and treasured of these feature in the exhibition.

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Left: Officer Evans dressed for outside, as photographed by Ponting. Right: Herbert Ponting's cinematograph camera, a hand-cranked British Prestwich 35mm cine camera. Ponting was one of the first photographers to capture short video sequences on the ice.

Alongside treasures like the Cape Crozier emperor penguin egg and extracts from Ponting's fascinating film the Great White Silence, you'll frequently be surprised by homelier objects such as Huntley & Palmer expedition biscuits, a gramophone, extracts from Scott's and others' diaries and letters, Pontings cine camera, and of course many items of essential sledging clothing.

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Inside the exhibition's hut area, visit Scott's cubicle where, in his prolific writings, he penned much of his famous diary entries and expedition observations.

At the end of the exhibition journey, sit a-while in the cinema space and watch films that explore Scott's scientific legacy to Antarctic research, and find out what's being done today to preserve the Cape Evans hut.

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In Antarctica today, Captain Robert Falcon Scott's only grandson, Falcon Scott (above), is helping conserve the Antarctic base camp with a specialist conservation team and you can read about Falcon's visit to the Cape Evans hut in the Antarctic conservation blog.

 

Find out about Scott's Last Expedition and book tickets online

 

Read our news article about the opening of the exhibition

 

Discover what life was like in Scott's base camp with Museum spokesperson Louise Emerson in the BBC Online audio slideshow


Explore Antarctica online

Finally, see how elegant the Museum's Central Hall looked last night for HRH The Princess Royal's opening of Scott's Last Expedition...
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It's been a long wait, but the wall and graphic panels and display cases for our much-anticipated Scott's Last Expedition exhibition have arrived from Sydney, where the Australian National Maritime Museum's version of the exhibtion ran until October last year. After a long journey, all parts of the exhibtion are finally together here in the Museum, busily being prepared before they are moved into their new home in Dinosaur Way’s Jerwood Gallery. (And following its stay with us, the exhibition travels on to Christchurch in New Zealand.)

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Behind-the-scenes exhibition photos show some of the wall panels and work in progress as the installation of Scott's last Expedition nears completion. Select images to enlarge

About 200 items including original objects, specimens collected on the Terra Nova expedition, and artefacts ranging from books and clothes to food and scientific tools used by Captain Scott and his team, will be positioned in the exhibition gallery starting today. These are the things that will really bring to life the expedition’s many stories and the team’s everyday activities, alongside the incredible archive imagery and film footage.

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But as I saw yesterday and in these behind-the-scenes gallery photographs (above and below), the exhibition space is now really taking shape. All the wall-mounted images and information panels are in place and set the scene for the epic journey that awaits visitors from 20 January when the exhibition opens. You’ll notice the timber surrounds that take their inspiration from the Cape Evans hut, which was the base for Scott's expedition during its time in Antarctica. Our life-sized, walk-in representation of the hut with its central ‘animated’ table will be finished on Friday.

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Colours in the exhibition space have been chosen to reflect the history and legacy of the Terra Nova expedition: from purples for Edwardian England to white for leaving the hut and snow; black for the team’s return journey and blue for the contemporary part of the narrative.

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Antarctica is of course the dramatic backdrop to this exhibition which covers the Terra Nova expedition from many different perspectives. From the exhibition’s starting point - 1913’s tragic news of the death of the Polar Party - to the final cinema area showing films which explore the lasting impact of the expedition, visitors will get a real sense of the awesome landscape, enormous scale and harsh conditions of the continent.

 

Watch this space and our website for more news of the exhibition’s progress. Next week, on 17 January, TV and media crews arrive to get their first glimpse of the finished exhibition.

 

Find out more about the Scott’s Last Expedition exhibition and buy tickets online

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We may decorate our homes at Christmas with holly wreaths and robins on cards - visiting a relative recently, I counted at least 10 robins on Christmas cards - but I believe their bursts of bright red are also there to lure us outdoors at a time when we often want to stay indoors. They are the perfect symbols of nature's festive cheer.
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Wildlife Garden holly. The red holly berries are easy to spot in winter and they're only on the female trees. Although toxic to humans, they are an important food source for birds, lasting longer than many other fruits even after frost.

Children's wishes for a white Christmas this year may be sadly unanswered, but the mild weather does mean that on your winter walks you might actually spot some unusual things. And you can also help us in our Great holly hunt by telling us what holly you find locally and where on our online urban tree survey map.

 

Last week, which was decidedly colder around parts of the country, the Museum's film unit went to record Museum wildlife expert Fred Rumsey on a very wintry walk through the woods near our Tring Museum in Hertfordshire.

 

Watch our lovely festive video and find out what you could discover on a winter walk near you and who the mystery nibbler is...

 

 

Although many birds migrate over the winter there are still lots of garden birds out and about, including cheeky robins. In the Museum's Wildlife Garden in South Kensington, Caroline Ware, the garden's manager tells me:

 

'There are 7 moorhens pottering around and feeding in the Wildlife Garden which is very unusual for this time of the year and bluebell leaves are already  appearing in the some of the woodland areas. We've had lots of bird  species visiting the bird feeder including bluetits, great tits, coal  tits and greenfinches, as well as robins. On the ground there are feeding dunnocks, and squirrels and mice are rushing around, and even invading our garden shed.'

 

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Territorial Strut by Ross Hodinutt. This award-winning image in the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition captures the robin's renowned perkiness beautifully. Ross snapped it in his Devon  garden in the unusually cold spell last December.

On our Wildlife in winter page you'll find ideas for seasonal surveys to take part in, species to spot, and wildlife watching tips.

 

Read the Great holly hunt news story to find out some fascinting facts about this festive shrub, there's even a tea you can make from it...

 

Browse our Festive Season pages for suggested seasonal activites at the Museum if you're visiting. The Ice Rink and Veolia Environnements Wildlife Photographer  of the Year exhibition are not to be missed.

 

Holly trees (Ilex species). The most well-known species in Britain is the common or European holly, Ilex aquifolium, one of only three native European species.

 

Robins (Erithacus rubecula) are one of the few birds to sing all year round. They do so to defend their territory and attract a mate. Their spring song - more powerful and upbeat than their melancholy autumn song - begins from mid-December.

 

Happy Christmas and New Year to you all.


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Feeling festive yet?

Posted by Rose Dec 9, 2011

Feast your eyes on these cuties that greet our Museum shop visitors. Our seasonal selection of soft toys are as cuddly as they come, from penguins to arctic foxes and reindeer to polar bears.

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New festive gift shop recommendations this year are the big radio-controlled inflatable clownfish and shark air swimmers, and the little wind-up dinosaurs. Of course no home should be without either a cow poo photo frame or rhino-poo-in-a-box banana tree kit, and there's more to choose from in the Museum's range of green gifts. Browse our online shop for Christmas gift ideas or the four Museum shops on your visit.

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'Hello. I'm more cuddly than you...' 'Yeah but I'm a dinosaurrrr' Click the images to enlarge.

Our Festive season pages are swirling with suggestions for entertainment and activities over the Christmas period and the outdoors Ice Rink is open late over the holidays, except for Christmas Day.

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The next special festive event is our Winter Wonderland Night Safari with MasterCard on Monday evening, 12 December. This seasonal Central Hall tour promises to reveal some intriguing specimens, including real mammoth hair, a polar bear fossil discovered in London, and Dinosaurs by torchlight (above), as well as a look at the botany of Christmas.

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Following that is the kids' favourite sleepover, Dino Claus on 17 December, which also includes a Dinosaurs torchlit tour. And if you can't make the Santa-led sleepover in December, there are more Dino Snores coming up next year year - tickets a terrrific Christmas gift for little dinosaur lovers?

 

There are lots of other events, talks and activities to enjoy over the festive period, whatever age you are and the unmissable Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition, with beautiful, wintry award-winning photos available in the exhibition shop or as prints online. (Note the last day to order in time for Christmas delivery to the mainland UK is 19 December and 15 December for prints.)

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The Museum is only closed for 3 days over the festive break, on 24 to 26 December inclusive. So come and visit during your days off work. And if you can't make it, remember you can always shop online or find ideas of wildlife in winter to explore near you.

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The search is now on for the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 as the new competition opens today.

 

As ever, this popular and prestigious competition looks for outstanding wildlife photography from both talented amateurs and established professionals, young and old. Images must faithfully represent the natural world while showing technical and artistic creativity over the 18 categories.

 

This year we've got a few category award changes - so look out for these before you enter the competition. We also have a more diverse range of competition judge, 13 and counting as I write this.

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Pelican perspective, winner of 2011's Eric Hosking special award embodies the technical genius and artistic integrity this category is all about. From his kitchen table, photographer Bence Mate planned how he would achieve this image of Dalmation pelicans at water-level. He constructed his own catamaran-style floating photo system and used a fish-eye lens to achieve the remarkable shot taken on Greece's Lake Kerkini. Now 27 years old, Bence steps out of the Eric Hosking Portfolio award age group leaving the frame clear for others.

The Eric Hosking award becomes The Eric Hosking Portfolio Award this year and this special award looks set to be more hotly contested than ever before. This category is open to photographers between 18 to 26 years old, who must submit a portfolio of images that they think represents their best work. Bence Mate's 6 images won this special award in 2011 - he was of course 2010's overall winner too - but now at the grand old age of 27, Bence moves out of this category to make room for new contenders.

 

The Eric Hosking Portfolio award, named after this great photographer whose distinguished career spanned over 60 years, is particularly special because it bridges the gap between the young and the adult photographers in the competition. It's an award that celebrates a body of work which heralds a longevity in a developing photographic career, as well as seeking images that fuse technical innovation with artistic integrity. Bence's Pelican perspective (above) is probably the single image in his winning Eric Hosking portfolio that truly embodies the latter.

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Sandra Bartocha tells how she captured her beautiful snowdrops at sunset: 'I could hear great crested grebes calling. I took an in-camera double exposure image, with one sharp exposure and then one much softer one, so the scene would appear as dreamy as it felt.'

Another award worth a mention is In Praise of Plants and Fungi which for the 2012 competition becomes the more atmospheric-sounding Botanical Realms, exemplified in the 2011 winning image, Harbinger of spring by Sandra Bartocha (above).

 

Female photographers are still somewhat under-represented in the wildlife photographer of the year competition, so it's good to see Sandra's work at the forefront of this category award. And girl power is creeping in too among the young ones. For some reason I imagined this ferocious bug was photographed by a boy. But no, it's the work of a 10-year old Malaysian girl, Hui Yu Kim who's into macro-photography. She liked the look of this Alien looking tropical rainforest beetle (below).

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Hui Yu's Alien won the 10 Years and Under 2011 award. Hui is keen on macro-photography and chose the most colourful animal to take a portrait of. 'It had a strange look, like an alien, but it wasn't angry. It sat still on the branch all the time,' she says. 'I  want people to know that all creatures, even small ones, count. So don't destroy the forest,' she adds.

And if your work is more focused on documenting the relationship between people and the environment, whether constructive or destructive, then consider submitting your images in the new special award category The World in Our Hands.

 

Find out about the competition on the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year website Closing date for the compeition is 23 February 2012.

 

See the 2011 competition winners in the exhibition at the Natural History Museum here - book tickets in advance online.

 

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The story of the origin of our species Homo sapiens (and sometimes I need to remind myself it means 'wise man') is a convoluted one which continues to intrigue us more and more in the light of recent findings. So this year's Annual Science Lecture by our very own wise man, Museum palaeoanthropologist and human origins expert Professor Chris Stringer, is sure to be a popular one and is bound to shed light on some of our human evolutionary conundrums.

 

Chris's presentation will bring together elements covered in his recently published book on the subject of our origins, and beyond. I asked him for a taster of what we can expect on Wednesday evening and to introduce one of the rare specimens he will show at the lecture. He says:

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Rhodesian Man 'one of the most beautiful fossil human relics' will join Chris Stringer who presents the Annual Science Lecture on The Origin of Our Species, Wednesday evening, 30 November.

'It took me two years to write my book The Origin of our Species. Most of it in my “spare time” and I sometimes regretted the time it was taking, and the impact this had on my research work and my personal life. But I changed my mind on Christmas Eve last year, when the science journal Nature published a paper on a new kind of human from Siberia, the Denisovans, identified from distinctive DNA in fragmentary fossils from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. By then I had finished the chapter on the DNA evidence, but because I had another month of writing ahead of me, I was able to incorporate a discussion of the Denisovans and their possible interbreeding with modern humans in the final parts of my book.

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'Another example of ongoing research in the book concerns the famous fossil skull from Broken Hill in Zambia (‘Rhodesian Man’ pictured above), which is one of the most beautiful fossil human relics and a real treasure of the Museum's collections.

 

'This skull representing one of our possible African ancestors, is generally thought to be about 500,000 years old, but in the last chapter of the book I discuss my research with a group of collaborators that suggests the fossil could be much younger than previously believed, with intriguing implications for our evolution. The skull will make a very rare public appearance alongside me, while I give my lecture!'

 

After the lecture there is a chance to ask Professor Chris Stringer questions and he will sign copies of his new book, The Origin of Our Species (left).

 

Find out about the Annual Science Lecture

Book tickets online

 

Explore our human origins' research online

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'We have not explored this planet!' announced Professor Lee Berger excitedly earlier this week at the handover presentation here (pictured below) of the replicas of two 1.98 million-year-old early human fossil skeletons for our research.

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The remarkable fossils belong to the ancient human-like species, Australopithecus sediba, which could be the ancestor to the first humans. The two replica casts, one an adult female and the other a young adolescent male skeleton, have been donated by the University of the Witwatersrand and the Government of the Republic of South Africa. The cast of the male skull - the female skull is still missing - went on public display in the Museum this week.

 

Prof Berger (below left) is lead palaeoanthropological researcher with the University of Witwatersrand's Institute for Human Evolution in Johannesburg. In his presentation he told us how Google Earth had inadvertently led his team to new archaeological locations and the subsequent discovery of 600 caves and fossil sites around Johannesburg, including Malapa.

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Left: Prof Lee Berger demonstrates the human-like hand of the female specimens found. Right: 3D model created by paleo-artist John Gurche of the young male skull (Gurche's model recently won a palaeontology award). The male skeleton has been named Karabo (meaning 'the answer') by the local Malapa people.

Prof Berger spoke of the historic moment on 15 August 2008 when, after 17 years of digging, his nine-year-old son spotted the tip of a clavicle in the rock that turned out later to belong to one of the most complete early human skeletons ever found. 'When he pointed it out, I almost didn't want to look, for fear it would be just another antelope fossil!' Apparently as many as 250,000 antelope fossils are discovered for every one hominid fossil.

 

You can read more about the replica casts arriving here in our news story and the media. BBC News online described it as 'currently the hottest topic in palaeoanthropology'.

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Scientists and journalists gather around to view the Malapa Cave Sediba fossils donated to the Museum at the recent  presentation in the Attenborough Studio.

During Prof Berger's discussion with our own human origins expert Prof Chris Stringer it became clear that the finds at Malapa are set to reveal a lot more in the future, not only because of the light they shed on the evolution of modern humans (Homo sapiens), but because of their potentially mummified nature (the protein keratin may exist) and the way they can be so accurately dated. It is likely that they will unearth more in Malapa, and when asked what he would like to find next, Prof Berger replied, 'our female's skull... and a complete foot.'

 

You can see the Australopithecus sediba replica skull cast now on special display in Dinosaur Way at the Museum. It is one of several sets of casts that will in the next few weeks be handed over to public institutions and universities in the UK and Europe.

 

Find out more about Chris Stringer's work and human evolution online

 

Above model reconstruction image of Karabo © Courtesy of National Geographic, August 2011 issue /Reconstruction by John Gurche/ Photo by Brett Stirton

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The clocks have gone back and it's getting dark impossibly early. Yup, the short and coated days of winter are upon us. But here at the Museum, the onset of dreary winter is kept firmly at bay by our magical outdoor Ice Rink which opened today, 4 November, on the front lawn for the season.

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Opening event: Children from Docklands' Cyril Jackson primary school with The Snowman from the Sadler's Wells show adaptation recreate the famous character's gliding pose on the ice (it's the actual stage costume).

At dusk it becomes even more dazzling out there when the 76,000 Christmas lights twinkle out from the lofty plane trees framing the rink, pictured below.

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76,000 lights provide the twinkling canopy for the Ice Rink that opened on 4 November for its winter season on the Museum front lawn.

This year's Ice Rink is even more bedazzling with the addition of an olde worlde Sweet Shop (every parent's nightmare) by the main 950-square-metre skating rink and the sparkling vintage carousel returns again for rides. There is also the adjoining children's rink for little skaters and even more penguin skate aids and skating marshals than last year to help learners small and large.

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Kids rush! The Sweet Shop, new to this year's Ice Rink, overflows with sticky delights and below, the vintage carousel returns with its sparkly horse rides and there are more penguin skate aids for learners.

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The Ice Rink isn't just about skating, however. It's a wonderful place to socialise and soak up the ambience of this historical seasonal setting, or just watch the action from the viewing platform of the Café Bar. The bar serves a festive choice of hot and cold drinks including gluhwein and delicious hot chocolate, with the promise an extensive food menu and music nights.

 

At the launch party on Thursday 3 November, guests and excited children from the Docklands' Cyril Jackson primary school (above) were greeted by The Snowman character from the current Sadler's Wells stage adaptation of Raymond Briggs' classic.

 

Later on at the evening event, various celebrities showed off their skating skills including Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies and top alpine ski racer Chemmy Alcott - both initiating incredibly brave young family members to the rink.

 

The Ice Rink and Café Bar stays open until 22.00 weekdays and weekends and you can book tickets online, prices start from £8.


Read more about the Ice Rink in the latest news story

 

Find out all about the Ice Rink on the website

Enjoy some of the photos from the launch party below. Select images to enlarge.
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A lucky schoolgirl gliding on ice with The Snowman

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Chemmy Alcott, current British no. 1 alpine ski racer, with family and The Snowman

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Sharron Davies, Olympic swimmer, with one of her kids - who was seen dashing over the ice later on

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Tupele Dorgu, Coronation Street's Kelly Crabtree

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The Only Way is Essex star Lydia Rose Bright with little sister, and below hugging The Snowman

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Laura Hamilton, who finished 2nd place in Dancing on Ice 2011

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TV presenter Lizzie Cundy and Hayley Tamaddon, actress and winner of Dancing on Ice 2010

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Antony Costa of boy band Blue

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Ben Adams of A1 with friend

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Stars get together for final photos

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The sun shone on the first day the Ice Rink opened to the public on 4 November

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Today, 1 November 2011, we pay our respects to Captain Scott's Terra Nova sledging team who set out to conquer the South Pole exactly 100 years ago on 1 November 1911 from their base camp on Antarctica's Ross Island.

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Bleak times: Scott's Terra Nova expedition and pony-led sledges at the Great Ice Barrier a month after they left on 1 November 1911. Image from David Wilson's book, The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott. © Richard Kossow

On 1 November 1911, Captain Scott and his pony-led team left base camp in Antarctica's Ross Island for the South Pole. Scott was accompanied by support parties, innovative motor sledges (abandoned later on during the trip due to mechanical failure in the cold) and ponies for their ultimate journey south to conquer the Pole. The dog team had left Cape Evans a few days earlier. The day before, 31 October 1911, Scott wrote in his diary:

 

'The sun is shining and the wind dropping. Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off to-morrow. So here end the entries in this diary with the first chapter of our History. The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.'

 

On 1 November 1911, the day he actually set off, Scott recalled:

 

'This morning we got away in detachments – Michael, Nobby, Chinaman were first to get away about 11 A.M. The little devil Christopher was harnessed with the usual difficulty and started in kicking mood, Oates holding on for all he was worth. Bones ambled off gently with Crean, and I led Snippets in his wake. Ten minutes after Evans and Snatcher passed at the usual full speed. The wind blew very strong at the Razor Back and the sky was threatening – the ponies hate the wind.'

 

Many of Scott's early diary entries centred around the plight and personalities of the ponies, which he showed immense concern for throughout the journey, until they met their end.

 

In our 21st-century world of global communications and exclusive adventure holidays, it's hard to imagine what it would have felt like to embark on such remote expeditions into the unknown, and this is why Scott's diaries and photographs are all the more remarkable and poignant.

 

But as contemporary Antarctic explorer Felicity Aston says:

 

'Scott wasn’t on a suicide mission when he set out for the Pole. He had spent years making careful plans and preparations to mitigate the risks and give him and his men the best possible chance of success and survival. When they set out, they had every intention of returning. I think anyone setting out on an expedition that involves a degree of risk – even today – would feel exactly the same as Scott and his team.'

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Explorer Felicity Aston sets off on 1 November 2011 on her expedition to the South Pole to become the first woman to cross Antarctica alone. Below, preparing in Iceland last year. © Felicity Aston

Today, British explorer Felicity Aston, pictured above, is embarking on her 1,700km, 65-day journey to become the first woman in the world to cross Antarctica alone.

 

Last week, we asked her for some thoughts on her solo Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition and how things have changed since Scott's time.

 

'I don’t think satellite communications have affected our passion for exploration, they are simply a tool that allows us to push further and harder than ever before. Perhaps the biggest difference today is our ability to communicate the experience as it happens. Using social media and satellite technology I can share my adventure in real time with a worldwide audience – a century ago the public had to wait years.'

 

 

'Polar travel is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Success or failure has more to do with what is going on in your head than the size of your muscles. On this trip I will be completely by myself for 70 days which just adds to the mental pressure of the challenge so I think keeping myself motivated and focused for that length of time on my own will be the hardest part.

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'I feel equal amounts of nerves and excitement about my expedition. In my mind I am already in Antarctica and so there is a certain amount of frustration that even though I leave the UK in a few days, it will actually be three weeks before I start on my journey.Then there is the anxiety about whether I have thought of everything, whether I am prepared. But most of all I am looking forward to the calm that comes when I begin skiing – the expedition routine is strangely relaxing after all the hectic months of preparation!

 

'When I read about the adventures of others I always wonder if I would be capable of doing the same. Over the last ten years each of my expeditions has pushed me a little further mentally or physically but I still don’t feel that I have reached my limit. I would like to know where my personal limits are – perhaps I’ll find them on this journey.

 

'Strange as it may sound I am actually really looking forward to the experience of being alone in Antarctica. It is a fantastically magical place and to have it completely to myself will be an incredible privilege.'

 

We wish Felicity every success. Keep up to date with the Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic expedition on Felicity Aston's expedition blog.

 

Watch out for more Scott updates as we get ready for the opening of Scott's Last Expedition here at the Museum on 20 January 2012.

 

Find out about The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott

 

Explore the legacy of the ‘heroic era of Antarctic exploration’ that remains in Antarctica, including pre-fabricated huts used as base camps and the possessions the explorers left behind in them.

 

In our Antarctic Conservation blog discover what it’s like to work in Antarctica and follow the experiences of conservators working to preserve the artefacts left behind by the great explorers such as Scott.

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Planet Dinosaur may have finished its first airing on BBC One, but don't fret, you can follow up the jaw-dropping excitement here as the Planet Dinosaur Season tour stomps into the Museum for the school half-term holidays from 24 to 30 October. (I still can't get over that bizarre Hatzegopteryx flying monster with a flat-iron-thingy on its head in the final episode!)

 

For starters, next week we are showing episode one and its Spinosaurus star (below) on the multi-screens in the Attenborough Studio twice daily. You can drop in to a Planet Dinosaur film screening morning or afternoon, Monday 24 October to Sunday 30 October.

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Planet Dinosaur's Spinosaurus (meaning thorn lizard) giant. At 17 metres, possibly the biggest killer ever to walk the earth, this beast dominated the first episode of Planet Dinosaur. Using CGI and cutting-edge graphics, narrated by John Hurt, the 6-episode BBC series looked at the new dinosaur discoveries over the last two decades.

If you fancy building a Spinosaurus yourself, then join our Build a Dinosaur events running each day over half-term week, from Monday 24 October to Sunday 30 October.

 

Piecing together realistic spinosaur bones onto a frame - including the spine, vertebra, head, jaw, skull and so on - each Build a Dinosaur group will be given an instruction guide and DVD to help work out what goes where, and get the chance to be palaeontologists at work. You have about 25 minutes to build your dinosaur, and there are other fun things to do and explore in the gallery, including the BBC's new online game.

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At the Buid a Dinosaur daily activities we're running at half-term, children over 7 and adults can join groups in the Marine Invertebrates gallery to make a large-scale, 3-metre Spinosaurus dinosaur skeleton model.  Tickets are free, but advance booking is required.

There are several dino build sessions each day, but you need to book your free Build a Dinosaur activities in advance online.

 

Discover more about Spinosaurus in the online Dino Directory

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Interestingly, not many actual Spinosaurus bones have been found, so the British-found Baryonyx fossil remains were used, along with other more stylised dinosaur body parts, as templates for the skeleton you get to build.

 

Baryonyx is intriguing because it's the most complete spinosaur skeleton ever found and so has been really important to recent research on these fish-eating dinosaurs. And Baryonyx was the first-known dinosaur to like eating fish.

 

Learn more about the Baryonyx discoveries in our new video online

 

Right: Cleaning Baryonyx in the Dinosaurs gallery during the summer refurbishment

You can see a life-size skeleton cast of Baryonyx in the Dinosaurs gallery towards the end of the gallery and some fossil bones from the dig where it was found. I highly recommend this section of the newly-refurbished gallery, which was closed for modernisation and cleaning in the summer.

 

As well as the shining skeletons, revitalised exhibits, and more atmospheric T.rex pit, the refurbished Dinosaurs gallery boasts new graphics and many updated visual displays. (Tip, if you go early in the morning, there's more chance to avoid any potential holiday queues.)

 

Visitors to the Central Hall will also be able to see another of our famous dinosaurs in a new light on their half-term visit.

 

The 300 or more bones of our iconic Diplodocus skeleton in the Central Hall - known affectionately as Dippy - are being lit up in different colours as part of our I Love Dippy appeal to renovate the Central Hall. With a text or kiosk donation you can choose from a range of colours and even get Dippy to roar.

 

Below: One of the Central Hall Light up Dippy shows you may witness over half-term if you're in the Museum.

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There are lots more free family activities planned over half-term, including puppet shows, gallery characters, the Animal Vision show, and even the sheep are staying on in the Wildlife Garden for the week. Enjoy.


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Tonight, at a star studded awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum, London, the overall winners of the prestigious Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 competition were revealed. The awards ceremony hosts were wildlife expert and Chair of the Judges, Mark Carwardine, and eco lifestyle campaigner and advocate for organic living, Jo Wood.

 

 

The coveted title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year was presented to Daniel Beltrá from Spain for Still life in oil, a haunting image of 8 brown pelicans rescued from an oil spill, from his 6-image story for the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award.
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Still life in oil by Daniel Beltra, 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Daniel took his winning image at a temporary bird-rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. It’s the final frame in his incredible story of 6 photographs entered in the Wildlife Photojournalist category. Select all images to enlarge them.

 

Describing his winning image, Daniel says:

 

‘Crude oil trickles off the feathers of the rescued brown pelicans, turning the white lining sheets into a sticky, stinking mess. The pelicans are going through the first stage of cleaning. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers.'

 

The sheer simplicity of this powerful image makes it really beautiful and shocking at the same time, ’ said the Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine. He and the international jury of photography experts pored over tens of 1000s of entries earlier in the year to make their winning selection.

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The price of oil by Daniel Beltra. The 6-frame winner of the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award 2011. Flying over BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 made Daniel grasp the immensity of the problem. Photographing from a plane, Daniel 'was blown away by the insane colours' of oil gushing to the surface. He captured flashes of fluorescent orange as the boat propellers churned up the dispersant and left paths of clean water through the patches of black oil. Oiled brown pelicans awaiting a second bout of cleaning were for Daniel, 'an icon of the disaster'.

 

The Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award category was introduced in the 2010 competition and is given to a group of 6 photographs that tell a memorable story, whether about animal behaviour or environmental issues (both positive or negative).

 

 

Daniel Beltra reflects on his photographic work and interest: ‘It is in nature’s beauty and complexity that I find my inspiration. While in college in Madrid, I studied biology and forestry and developed a passion for the environment. Over the past two decades, I have honed my focus to concentrate on the need for conservation through photography.

 

 

Photographing from the air has allowed me to showcase the stark reality of the state of our environment. This perspective reveals a broader context to the beauty and destruction I witness, as well as a delicate sense of scale.’

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Mateusz Piesiak from Poland was named 2011 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Pester power above, in the 11–14 Years category. The 14-year-old Mateusz spent so long watching this pester power at work as he crawled along the wet sand off Long Island, New York, he didn’t notice the tide coming in until a big wave washed over him. ‘I managed to hold my camera up high,’ he says. ‘I was cold and wet, but I had my shot.’

 

Judge Mark Carwardine described the 2011 Young Wildlife Photographer's winning image, Pester power, as ‘Pin sharp, gorgeous subdued light, interesting behaviour, oodles of atmosphere, and beautiful composition. This would make any professional proud – and is doubly impressive for someone so young.’


Read more about the wildilife photography winners and the competition in the latest news story

 

See the true beauty and power of these images and the other commended and award-winning photographs at the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition when it opens on Friday 21 October.
Book exhibition tickets online now.

 

In the meantime feast your eyes on all the 2011 exhibtion photographs on the website's online gallery.

 

 

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Today lots of eager nature photographers and wildlife lovers will be excited to get a glimpse of the 67 commended wildlife images that have been selected by the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 competition judges.

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Paul Goldstein's Taking flight was photographed in the mists of Lake Nakuru, Kenya. It's one of the highly commended images in the Behaviour of Birds category among the 2011 entries.

Competition in the category awards is always fierce and not every image can be a winner or runner-up. But the judges like to acknowledge those that have been contenders with either a specially or highly commended recognition. And each year in the run-up to the winners announcement and the exhibition opening, we get the chance to preview these commended choices early. This year's commended selection includes these images from three British photographers.

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Territorial strut by Ross Hoddinott records a robin in the unusually cold spell last December in southern Britain. A highly commended image in the Animal Portraits category you'll be able to alight on at the exhibition.

Along with the as-yet-to-be-revealed winners, we think these images are among the best photos on the planet, and they've been handpicked from about 41,000 entries from 95 countries.

 

There are lots of bird images among the entries this year, I'm told. Maybe that's because birds are something that most people can photograph and get close to at home. Also I suspect because they are creatures that will never cease to beguile us with their mastery of flight and multitudinous feathery finery.

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Extreme foraging by Ron McCombe, another highly commended selection in the Behaviour of Birds category. It was taken on the snowy Scottish borders as a red grouse grappled with bitter East winds, recalled Ron.

Come and enjoy these photographs close up among the 108 images to feature in the exhibition when it opens from Friday 21 October in the Natural History Museum's Waterhouse gallery.

 

Read more about the commended images and this year's wildlife competition in the news story


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In under 8 hours, from 16.00 today Friday 23 September 2011, Science Uncovered officially opens.

 

For those who aren't in the know, this is our big science festival welcoming 8,000+ visitors to the Museum to celebrate European Researchers' Night with over 300 over cities across Europe.

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The Museum welcomes 1000s of visitors in to Science Uncovered tonight, 23 September 2011, from 16.00 to 23.00.  After dark, out on the Wildlife Garden evening tours you may even spot a bat... Select all images to enlarge

Many of the pre-bookable events are already sold out now. But for those who are planning to just arrive and see what's on, there may be the chance of a few unbooked tours and plenty of activities you can just drop in and join or visit during the evening.

 

These include 18 science stations spread out across the whole Museum including the Central Hall and adjoining galleries, the Earth galleries and the Darwin Centre.

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Highlights for families in the Darwin Centre: Entomology Station, more interesting insects to identify at the Natural History Roadshow and the Animal Vision show.

The event starts with the late afternoon activities that are more family-oriented, including the Animal Vision Show and Secrets of Spider Dating talk, 16.00 and 17.00 respectively in the Attenborough Studio.

 

While you're over in the Darwin Centre, you could join A Walk on the Wildside tour and step out into the Museum's lovely Wildlife Garden for an afternoon tour - later on these will include bat walks - admire the London Design Festival installations on your way - and head straight to the Natural History Roadshow to meet our identificaion team and see some interesting specimens.

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Science Station highlights near the Central Hall: Left: Scelidosaurus specimen at the Palaeontology Station an example of this oldest British dinosaur species in Fossil Way. Right: Section of the Thames Greenwich whale in Mammals Gallery.

Most of the evening's more adult activities and tours will start from 18.00 including the Meet the Greenwich Whale Station in the  Mammals galllery, where a section of the Thames Greenwich whale skeleton will be on show (above).

 

You can enter the Museum after 18.00 at both the main Cromwell Road entrance or the Exhbition Road entrance - head to the Welcome points at  either entrance to locate your tours or the activities, research and displays you're interested in. If all the tours or bookable events are full, seek out a nearby science station or drop-in activity.

 

From Central Hall into the Museum along Fossil Way - Marine Invertebrates gallery -  you'll find the Zoology Station where we're very

excited to be displaying a Tasmanian Tiger cub and our research into this species and are offering the chance to name an unnamed deep-sea worm...

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Upper Central Hall galleries include the Giant Sequoia where you should look out for some ancient remains....

If you're in the Central Hall area, you can migrate into the upper gallery for The Vault tour or visit the science station by the Giant Sequoia and be fascinated by the ancient human occupation of Britain with its intriguing early remains.

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Check out the Red Zone's Earth and Space Stations for meteoric, starry revelations...

Over in the Red Zone's Earth galleries, look out for the Earth Station with real meteories (above) and the Space Station featuring asteriod research. Or jon in the Science Fight Club sessions to see who wins some tough science debate rounds. In the Flett Theatre we also have the pleasure of hosting our prestigious Losing Our Principles? debate with David de Rothschild in the hot seat.

 

Bars are open to all visitors In the the main areas of the Museum, that is the Central Hall, Earth galleries and the Darwin Centre..

 

As discussion is one of the most important aspects, there are a myriad of opportunities to chat with scientists across the Museum. And particularly at The Science Bar in the Museum's Restaurant, where you can choose a tasty science topic from the menu and chat with scientists at tables over a drink.

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In the Central Hall's Social Media Bar take advantage of free Wi-Fi and there are 2 computers to log on to our online Science Uncovered community.


The Social Media Bar in Central Hall is open to all visitors and also offers hot food. It will be the last bar open till 22.30. Maybe I'll see you there with some of my colleagues...

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered and download a map


Right: Look out for two London Design Festival installations at the Darwin Centre. Osmosis: Regeneration image by Susan Smart
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Following the amazing success of last year's event, we're gearing up for our second Science Uncovered festival on Friday 23 September.

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The Museum's Science Uncovered event celebrates European Researchers' Night in London, and we join over 300 other cities across Europe in our festivities.

 

This year looks set to be on a much grander and more impressive scale than in 2010. We're opening a lot more of the Museum on the night. The dazzling array of shows, discussion opportunities, behind-the-scenes tours and fun activities such as Crime Scene Live and Science Fight Club, will reveal just how varied and cutting-edge our scientific research is here.

 

To avoid disappointment through some activities being over-subscribed on the night, you can pre-book tickets in advance. The evening is free to attend and all the activiities are free. Even if you don't pre-book, there are lots of things to drop-in on and enjoy during the evening and some family activities that start in the late afternoon.

 

I asked Stephen Roberts, the Museum's Nature Live team manager, who's masterminding this science extravaganza to tell us more:

 

'This year's Science Uncovered is a mind-boggling realisation! There are hundreds of different opportunities for visitors to spend time with some of the world's greatest scientists who are coming out, for one night only, in the stunning setting of the Museum at night, and over a drink too.

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A star attraction at the Zoology Science Station in Fossil Way is sure to be the Tasmanian tiger cub specimen held in our collections. The above is a mounted adult specimen of the now extinct Tasmanian tiger.

'Two hundred of our own scientists are joined by over 100 other researchers from around London whose expertise ranges from mammoths to Mars, phytoplankton to philosophy and surgery to spiders. There is, quite literally, something for everybody.

 

'As well as the amazing objects coming out of the collections for the first time, like the now extinct Tasmanian tiger (pictured above) an unprecedented 92 tours will take visitors to some of our favourite places and spaces in and around the Museum.

 

'The word unmissable is bandied about in the media, but if ever there were a time to use it for something happening at the Museum, this is it!'

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Meteorites like Tamdakht above, which fell in Morocco 2008, are helping our scientists reveal the secrets of our solar system. The meteorite is on show at Science Uncovered's Space Station in the Museum's Red Zone.

Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum says: 'We’re looking forward to welcoming even more people to this year’s event [about 7,000 visitors came in 2010], and inspiring them to take a fresh look at a subject they thought they already knew.'

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So with five bars open and over 150 activites to join, it should be a great night out.

 

Have a look at our website to find out what's on. And if you're nearer Hertfordshire than London, our Tring Museum is also joining us on the night with its own celebrations.

 

See what's on at Science Uncovered at the Natual History Museum, London

 

Find out what's on at Science Uncovered at the Tring Museum

 

Book online for Science Uncovered ticketed events

 

You can also join our Science Uncovered community online now to see what scientists are preparing to discuss on the night and for more news and views.

 

Right: One of the Museum tours at Science Uncovered takes visitors into our Conservation Unit, pictured here, where you'll see how we mend everything from broken bones to casts and books.

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Yesterday, as we announced tickets going on sale for the forthcoming Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition, we revealed three new images that will star in the exhbition that opens on 21 October here at the Museum. I'm already bewitched by this one.

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Coyote on the tracks, by Martin Cooper (Canada). Many of us Londoners will be enjoying this breathtaking image close-up before stepping inside the 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibiton. It will feature in the exhibition's publicity posters.

These early-released images join the other 105 commended and winning 2011 photographs appearing in the new exhibition in the Museum's Waterhouse gallery. In the gallery, you'll be able to see them close-up, displayed as beautiful backlit installations, with descriptions and camera details.

 

The winning and commended images were hand-picked from about 41,000 entries, that poured in to the 2011 Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The competition office received images from 95 countries and welcomed Cambodia, Moldova, French-Polynesia, Brunei and Kyrgyzstan for the first time. The jury of photography industry experts spent three months coming to a final decision on the best photos.

 

I'm also told that the overall winner this year has now been chosen, but this information is of course shrouded in secrecy until October.

 

Martin Cooper, who snapped his coyote (above) one October dawn, recalled how the shot was taken at his favourite spot for photographing local widlife on a stretch of railway track in Burnaby, British Columbia. He was actually there waiting for a beaver, but grabbed the moment when he saw the coyote appearing from the undergrowth sniffing for the sign of rodents.

 

It's the spontaneity and the light in Martin's coyote photo that really grabs your attention, as much as the skilful photography and composition itself. And this is true of 13-year-old Ilkka Räsänen's Tern style, one of the other images revealed today (below).

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Tern style, by 13-year-old Ilkka Räsänen from Finland really impressed judges with its use of light. It's one of the highly commended images in the 11-14 year-old category of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year young competition, revealed today.

Making an impression, by the UK's awardwinning photographer Andy Rouse, is the other image we have a sneak peek at from the forthcoming exhibition. Andy's exuberant photo (below) captures Akarevuro, a young male mountain gorilla, who charged at Andy and his companions in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

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Making an impression, by Andy Rouse is highly commended in the 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition’s Behaviour: Mammals category. Look out for it in the exhibition.

 

Read the news story to find out more about the about the best wildlife photos sneak preview

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