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Friday, February 20, 2009

Te Papa's Treasures - Gallivanting around the Nth Island(Pt 5)

All good things begin with food (well…many of them anyway!). And so it was, that we began our first morning in Wellington with a visit to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
The boys were FAMISHED after a hard night’s sleep.
The Maitre d’hotel greeted us warmly and enthusiastically told us about the “Kids eat free” deal that the hotel embraced. He brushed over the ‘eyebrow-raising’ cost of an adult-sized breakfast, and quickly added, “But you kids GET TO EAT ANYTHING AT ALL that you like…for FREE!” Good sales pitch – target the kids! K and I were so grateful that he didn’t notice the wild gleam that came on in our boys’ eyes – we knew they were thinking, “Woohooo! We get to eat whatever we like, and as much as we like!”.
I guess the Maitre d’ hadn’t met kids like ours before. …and perhaps he'll never want to again!
I’m not sure how many changes of breakfast sittings we managed to sit through. But we certainly were very much the focus of our neighbouring diners’ attention. It wasn’t that the boys were outwardly greedy or ill mannered. They had impeccable manners. It’s just that they took the Maitre d’hotel at his word, and they ate…..and they ate….and they ate…with ill-concealed enjoyment! From memory, I remember some large bowls of cocoa pops being consumed (several each!), plates of bacon, eggs, crumpets, pineapple, apple, banana, dried fruit, peaches, croissants, sweet pastries, hash browns, fresh orange, apple, and pineapple juices, more cereal, toast….and so on. And that was just the boys! You get the picture.
The older couple beside us (at the first sitting) just looked stunned. It’s funny how people try not to stare, but you know they just can’t resist it. The foreign couple on the other side of us were openly astounded. In fact, they lasted a couple of sittings because the wife kept watching the boys demolishing their breakfast, and couldn’t be persuaded to go even though her husband had been ready to leave for sometime! And we did notice that the coffee refills came around less frequently and the Maitre d’ seemed less and less inclined to smile, the longer we lingered. By the way, in case you’re wondering, we do actually feed our children.
We weren’t brave enough to return to the restaurant the next morning to see if the hotel had reneged on their “Kids eat free” deal…..

Wellington was memorable for many other things too – fabulous Italian food (oh, there’s that food thing again), Te Papa (NZ’s national museum), a ride up the tram to the Botanical Gardens, a tour of Parliament buildings, a trip to the Weta animation studios, and spectacular views everywhere.

We loved Te Papa and could have spent a lot longer than the full day we had there.
Museums these days are so much fun! Not at all like the ones we had to endure on school trips when I was a kid (“Look only, don’t touch”!!).

We rode on simulators and had the most wonderful time with all the ‘hands on’ exhibits.

And the boys (all 3 of them) thoroughly enjoyed the technology everywhere, especially the interactive wall which was a cross between Wii and Touchscreen technology.

Perhaps one of our favourite exhibitions though, was the Colossal Squid Exhibition.
In 2007, a NZ fishing vessel (which was coincidentally being filmed for a documentary about fishing in Antarctic waters) caught a Colossal Squid in the Ross Sea. A Colossal Squid (CS) is not the same as a Giant Squid! The Giant Squid can be longer, but is less massive. The CS caught in this instance weighed in at over 1000 lbs (twice as heavy as the largest Giant Squid ever found), and was about 10m long. It is the largest invertebrate ever found. Also, Giant Squidies have suckers with teeth on their tentacles, whereas the Colossal Squid has these amazingly vicious hooks which can rotate a full 360degrees, on the end of its tentacles! Truly nasty stuff. Especially for a Toothfish.
Toothfish caught on longlines often show signs of squid damage. Adult toothfish can grow up to 2m long, so the CS is obviously a good hunter. The CS uses its giant fins to propel it when it is hunting. It then shoots out its 2m long tentacles to catch its prey. Those nasty rotating hooks at the ends of its tentacle clubs hook into the fish and escape is pretty difficult. The tentacles will then draw the prey within reach of Squidy’s arms which will envelope the fish and move the unfortunate fish towards the Squid’s beak. Like the octopus, all squid have a beak, which is used to chop up its prey before the food travels down the oesophagus. I was fascinated to learn that the food has to be sliced into small chunks because the CS’s oesophagus is narrow and passes through the middle of the squid’s doughnut shaped brain…..now it is about this moment that I am glad that I (and my boys with their voracious appetites) are not squids! If the squid takes too big a chomp on its food, then it can blow its brain out!!!! Ugh. I am just contemplating that last delicious (but embarrassingly indelicate) mouthful of sushi I had not so long ago…..it could’ve proved to be the unhealthiest sushi, if I’d been a squid!! And think how long it would take my boys to get through their breakfasts….! But I digress…..
Vision is also very important for CS’s. The CS has the largest eyes of any animal in the world!
Its eyes are the size of a soccer ball and equipped with built-in headlights – all very necessary for a successful life way down at the dark depths of the Southern Ocean. Herein lies another distinction between the CS and the GS. CS’s have eyes which are placed forward so that this gives them stereoscopic vision. On the other hand, GS’s have eyes on the sides of their head so that it can see forward and behind to detect predators. It doesn’t need to judge distances like the CS, and hence does not need the binocular vision.
There haven’t been many CS’s caught (8 in total to date, with 6 found in the stomachs of sperm whales) because they usually live at depths which are not easily plumbed. This CS was estimated to have been at a depth of about 1500m below the surface! Can you imagine the G-forces present at such a depth?! It would’ve been quite a ride up for ol’ Squidy….she must’ve really wanted that meal! And yet, she hung onto her prey (a huge Toothfish) and was hauled up alongside the fishing boat.
Video footage was broadcast around the world and this raised considerable public interest in the Colossal Squid specimen. Scientists from around the globe were summoned to decide what was to be done with such a unique find.
Te Papa now has the world’s only complete Colossal Squid specimen.
The documentaries on this were totally fascinating. We thoroughly enjoyed the 3-D animation that was made of the whole thing. And viewing the enormous specimen in its specially designed tank, was fascinating in a morbid sort of a way. There was so much to be learnt…especially since we personally knew zilch about Colossal Squids until this point! The good thing about blogging, is that you can share all your new found knowledge (whether or not people want to know!).

The last very important piece of information that we discovered, was that if squid rings were to be made from Te Papa’s Colossal Squid, the squid rings would be the size of tractor tyres!
Perhaps I should leave it there.
Now, did you want to know about Blue Whale hearts??!
(please, please let me share all my newfound knowledge!!)
Te Papa has a life sized model of a blue whale’s heart. Adult blue whales can reach lengths of 100ft or more. In fact, the longest whale measured in at over 110 ft (33m). That is apparently the length of NINE family-sized cars.

But wait. There’s more to go with ENORMOUS!

Because the Blue Whale can weigh as much as 24 full grown elephants (150 tons), their heart is the size of a big pony (or a Volkswagon Beetle car). A child can crawl through an artery. And our L certainly enjoyed crawling through Te Papa’s blue whale heart. In fact, he stayed in there for so long at one stage (listening to the various tapings one could listen to eg. of a whale’s heartbeat, their underwater singing etc) that I thought he might have turned into a blood clot,
never to emerge.
Even given L’s substantial breakfast earlier in the day, he would’ve not added too much to the weight of the whale’s heart. A blue whale’s heart can weigh up to 640kgs (1410 lbs), and pump 190 gallons of blood. In fact, the lungs of a blue whale can hold more air than a bedroom. Mind you, a dinosaur could fit in a blue whale’s mouth too (but how he would’ve gotten there would be matter of conjecture)! But perhaps the scariest part of it all, given my predilection over how much my own two cherubs can eat, is that after birth, baby blue calves can gain a phenomenal 200lbs per day!!!!
Doesn’t that just make you want to cross your legs?!

I think that’s enough learnedness for one posting….!

1 comment:

Kezwick said...

What a fantastic day...my boys would love all the exhibits on the blue whale too x

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