The bitter end

Micrognome’s attention was caught by the sign about a race to the end of the earth. For a moment he thought that they were promoting our conference on Wilderness and Expedition Medicine. Closer inspection revealed that it was a special exhibit on the epic struggle to be first to reach the South Pole. Its fatal outcome for Robert Falcon Scott is a graphic reminder of the risks of exploration in these extreme conditions. The Race to the End of the Earth is currently open at the American Museum of Natural History and is supported by a range of on-line resources:

 Micrognome caught this whole family spellbound by the magnificent wall of life in the biodiversity gallery.

Letting the Micrognome loose in the American Museum of Natural History was like sending a five year old into a sweetie shop with a $50 note. It is a visually spectacular display of the natural sciences spanning astrophysics to zoology.

Additional images from the visit can be seen here.The Micognome’s travels in pursuit of life, liberty and germs (the nearest he knows to happiness) took him to see Ms Liberty on the way to Ellis Island. The haunting display of monochrome portraits of migrants who passed through the Immigration Center in its heyday has an interesting effect on the visitors whose muffled voices echo against the glazed tiles of the cavernous registry hall.

 Supposedly built to welcome newcomers, its separate hospital and quarantine wing was noticably more forbidding. The hospital was built to safely house migrants with contagious diseases such as measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. Staffed by the US Public Health Service, it acted as a functional barrier against the arrival of new diseases by ship intil the 1950s, when it finally decommissioned. Interesting then to note that even in the early years of the 20th century, the fear of contagion was not enough to prevent planners from cutting short the best architectural plans for preserving quarantine. The physically separated quarantine wards in the architect’s drawing only appear in the built version cheek-by-jowl with the main hospital corridors and ward block.

Moving forward into the 21st century, the Micrognome sought out Ground Zero; the epicentre of events that changed our view of the world on 11th September, 2001. The twin towers of the former World Trade Center have been replaced by twin cranes, a symbol of this country’s ability to reinvent and rebuild. The flags fly in the breeze (video clip) and there are planes overhead again. The 9th anniversary is almost upon us.  On the steps leading to nearby office blocks, visitors stop and sit in respectful contemplation. Posters plaster the insides of subway trains appealing for people who were there to claim their right to health care for a range of lasting after-effects. Security screening for those entering popular tourist attractions matches and in some cases exceeds what we now expect as a routine inconvenience during air travel. A new patois of security-speak has flourished among the flourishing breed of publicly-funded, privately badged security operatives with whom one does not like to argue. Freedom is a strange beast, with more than its share of illigitimate children.

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