The curiosities at the University of Copenhagen Geology Museum are well worth a visit if you have a free couple of hours in the city.
I have to admit, I think Copenhagen is my favourite city. My husband spent last year living there and I got to know it quite well but I never managed to visit the museum in that time. It isn’t open regular hours, so check before you go.
The view of the Botanical Gardens at the University of Copenhagen from the window of the Geology Museum.
The museum isn’t huge but there are a number of small exhibits over two floors and you can look round in an hour or two. It is located in the stunning Botanical Gardens which are well worth a walk through and, if the weather is nice, there’s a small cafe where you can buy a coffee to sit on the grass and appreciate the surroundings. The gardens are completely free to visit.
At the entrance to the Geology Museum you are greeted by the sixth largest fragment of meteorite on Earth, Agpalilik. You can touch it and have your picture taken with it, if you like. It looks like a large rock. Hard to believe that it is actually made of iron and weighs a massive 20,000 kilograms. The fragment is from the Cape York meteorite, named after the place it was found in Greenland. It collided with earth around 10,000 years ago and you can learn more about the meteorite, its discovery and formation inside the museum.
There are four main exhibition spaces in the Geology Museum at the moment. The majority of the exhibition descriptions are written in Danish and that made for a fun game of ‘guess what this is’. It helped that I was there with a geologist who could answer some of my questions. That said, the people working in the museum were incredibly helpful and explained/translated some of the information that I was particularly interested in. They are student volunteers so if you do go, make sure you do chat to them.
The tour starts in the ‘Solar System’ exhibition which includes a slice of one of the largest meteorite fragments on the planet. You may have noticed a chunk missing from the meteorite in the picture above. It’s an impressive sight. One side hasn’t been treated but the other has been polished. You can even see my reflection.
You can see dark patches in the meteorite which are the rare earth mineral, troilite. There’s a fantastic online resource, written by Danish scientists, detailing more about the solar system exhibit, the story of the meteorite fragment discovery and the work of researchers at the University of Copenhagen here.
The Solar System exhibit features videos from current research scientists which are fantastic. The videos include a story of the discovery as told by Professor Vagn F. Buchwald who found the meteorite fragment. He also explains how they created the slice of the meteorite displayed in the museum. Cutting through solid iron isn’t easy. The videos also tell stories of the importance of studying diamond dust, formed from the explosions of dying stars, which is helping us to understand the early universe.
I really liked the way this exhibition integrated physical objects with the current scientific research and the scientists involved.
The Hubble Deep Field image on the ceiling gave me some ideas for when I redecorate my bedroom too.
Moving away from space the other exhibits included a geological history of Greenland in some fantastic exhibition cases. This part of the museum is all in Danish.
Upstairs is my second favourite exhibition in the museum, Flora Danica. The exhibition tells the story of the creation and printing of the complete volume of wild plants and fungi native to Denmark. The exhibition includes unpublished works too that have been kept hidden for 130 years in a store room. Flora Danica is a real art – science collaboration from the 18th Century. You can see the beautiful images online here on the Royal Library website.
The museum also houses the All things strange and beautiful exhibition. This contains some of the rather bizarre collections and letters of the 17th Century Danish physician, Ole Worm, who’s collection of oddities made one of the first museums in the world. He had a keen interest, as a physician, in new cures from nature. Beside the objects displayed are his own interpretations of what they are, and what they meant. These include letters to Pliny the Elder about stones which guarantee to ensure ‘prophetic dreams’. Some are amusing to read but they do remind you of how we have categorised and learnt about the world around us through observation, study and communication.
A horses jaw enclosed in an oak tree root, from the cabinet of curiosities
I especially enjoyed his scientific debunking of the ‘mouse that fell from the sky’ a common myth that Norway lemmings, which have rapidly fluctuating population, were spontaneously generated in the clouds. Ole Worm disproved this by dissection, demonstrating that the lemmings have sexual organs, but he did admit that the lemmings could be swept up to the sky by the brutal Scandinavian winds to then rain down from the clouds.
‘The mouse that fell from the sky’ the Norwegian Lemming
Lastly, but by no means least. It wouldn’t be a geology museum without a minerals collection. This one didn’t disappoint and it came complete with a display of fluorescent rocks.
The Geology Museum is part of the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum (which is actually made up of several museums). There’s a lot of redevelopment going on to create a large, connected, museum. The plans look fantastic and I hope I can revisit the museum when it is completed in 2017.
The museum costs:
Adults DKK 40
Children (age 3-16): DKK 25
Students at University of Copenhagen Free admission
You can also buy a season ticket DKK 140.- (adults) and DKK 75.- (children) – also valid at the Zoological Museum and to special exhibitions.
It is free for those that have purchased a Copenhagen Card.
Orkney is a place I have always wanted to visit, and if you don’t know where it is, it’s located off the North East tip of Scotland. It’s home to ancient stone circles, viking settlements and lots of excellent seafood and beer.
The science festival was great. There were public talks every day in venues around Kirkwall (the main city in Orkney). I met a few people that travel to Orkney each year especially for the science festival which usually runs in September.
I attended some great talks on diverse topics from brewing viking beer, the life of James Hutton and how a project about knitting can help us understand mathematics better (more about that here in Frontiers Magazine). My favourite talk though was given by Tom Stevenson from the Museum of Communication in Fife about the developments in communication during wartime and the role Orkney played in the world wars.
Which leads me swiftly on to some of the awesome science-y things you can visit in Orkney even if the science festival isn’t in town.
Orkney is home to the Orkney Wireless Museum this is a volunteer staffed treasure trove of anything related to wireless communication and sound. I didn’t get to spend enough time as I would have liked in here and I definitely want to return for a closer look and browse.
The museum is basically one room crammed from floor to ceiling with collections of radios, gramophones and transmitters. It’s free to visit but does take donations to help support the upkeep of the museum. They have a website with some further information about the museum and its history. Due to its reliance on volunteers you may find that the museum isn’t open when you expect it to be.. . (just a warning there). The museum is only open between April and September (like many attractions in Orkney). It is also open on a Saturday.
This is a wireless receiver from 1912. That’s over 100 years old (stating the obvious there).
As we were travelling to schools with our science show we got to visit some interesting places around the island. It’s a beautiful place and we were blessed with incredible weather. What I didn’t realise about Orkney is that it is actually a collection of islands (I thought it was just one island). Some of which are connected by bridges. These were originally constructed y by Italian prisoners of war who were held on Orkney during WW1. They were built not as bridges but by barriers to German U-boats.
The Italian prisoners of war also built this incredible Italian chapel which is well worth a drive to see. It’s really easy to get around Orkney by car. It can be really windy though!
These ‘bricks’ are all painted on.
In the area you can also see the remains of the scuttled German fleet from 1919 in Scapa Flow. These are all based around 30-40 minute drive from Kirkwall.
You can see more of my photos from Orkney by clicking on the photo below
There’s also some very interesting geology in Orkney but I think I will leave that for another trip.
This summer I spent a week in Cornwall and as always before we go on a trip I did some searching to see if there are any science-y things we could visit or see. The Eden Project is an obvious choice. It isn’t hidden, secret, or off the beaten track but for a day trip but it’s well worth a visit. You can take your dog too.
The Eden Project experience starts before you even walk through the doors of the entrance and everything (including the car parking arrangements) is carefully thought out and planned. The whole site is built on an old quarry. It’s more than just a visitor attraction too as it is a research site and social enterprise. They also host music and foody events.
Walking through the entrance you get an incredible view of the Eden Project biomes – two huge constructions that are home to the Mediterranean and Tropical zones (but more about them later).
If, over the summer holidays, you visited a service station on a motorway within driving distance to the Eden Project you will know that between July and September that it is home to DINOSAURS. There’s a dig pit, activities and talks. I wanted to see what the exhibition was all about so we joined the queue to see it. As, like everything at the Eden Project, the system is well thought out there are exhibition stands and information as you queue to see the crater of the Tyrant King. I learnt some things that I didn’t realise about dinosaurs in the queue.
T. rex had teeth the size of bananas
A Diplodocus with wind could fill a hot air balloon with one fart
Not all of our ‘favourite’ dinosaurs were roaming the earth at the same. There’s a bigger gap in time between the Stegosaurus and T. Rex than us and T. Rex
I liked the approach of putting the information and exhibition boards where people were waiting to see the main event, rather than afterwards when people want to rush off – rather than standing and waiting. *spoiler alert* if you don’t want to see what is in the lair, skip the next photo!
Next we visited the Mediterranean Biome which contains plants from Mediterranean climates. This section also has a herb garden, restaurant and plants that you can grow at home.
My favourite part of the Eden Project is in the Rainforest Biome though. It is HOT and HUMID. It’s also contains the largest rainforest in captivity, contains over 16,000 individual plants and a waterfall.
There’s a new canopy walkway where you can walk around the top of the biome. You can even visit the platform at the top of the canopy which is suspended from the roof. It’s an incredible experience but not one for those that don’t like heights. You might need to queue for this bit, but it is worth waiting in the heat to get a view of the canopy from above.
Don’t look down!
The trail to the suspended ceiling contains these information stands. I really liked this one about Mary Henrietta Kingsley.
Outside there are gardens, ferns and tips for growing your own food and veg. The shop is fantastic with lots of unusual gifts and products. I picked up a couple of books on growing your own veg. There’s also a plant shop where you can buy some of the plants in the Eden Project.
As with lots of big visitor attractions the Eden Project can get very, very busy. It was a raining when we visited. I expect on warmer days throughout the summer it might be a little quieter as everyone is at the beach! Plan to arrive early to beat the crowds and make the most of your time there. It’s massive. I’ve been twice and still not seen everything. The queues are made bearable by the use of interesting things to read and good planning!
The Eden project isn’t cheap at £23.50 for an adult ticket but you can get a £10 discount if you travel by public transport (more info on how to get there by bus, train and bike here) and 15% off if you buy your ticket online. You only need one ticket for a whole year too as it is valid for 12 months. This means you can experience the changes in the plants throughout the year! Check the website for other special discounts and voucher codes too.
Opening times can vary depending on the time of year check here for information but the Eden Project is usually open on every day of the year. There are special events that run throughout the year – see the website for more details.
A new hostel is opening at the Eden Project in October 2014. It looks great and is cheap at £12 for a bed!
Last week I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Natural History Museum in London with no-one else around. It’s one of my favourite places to visit in the UK and even better it is completely FREE.
If you do want to take a look around I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds. I would also recommend taking a look online and time your visit so you can attend one of the special sessions such as NATURE LIVE which run daily. At these short talks you can hear from the researchers and curators who work behind the exhibitions on display with the collections.
There is so much more to the museum than dinosaurs but it wouldn’t be right to feature a blog post without a picture of Dippy.
Speaking of collections, you wouldn’t believe it from the empty looking main hall in the photograph below but there are over 70 MILLION specimens held in the museum. 70 MILLION. Can you get your head round a number that big? I can’t. These range from giant squid to tiny specimens on microscopic slides.
I had a spare 30 minutes to take the ‘spirit tour’ at the museum which was fantastic but be warned it can be a bit gruesome (see the photo of the partially digested squid head found in a sperm whales stomach below – I would love to have one of those on my mantelpiece). I learnt a lot more about the museum from the trail and the guide was able to answer questions about the specimens and collections. The tours run daily and give a peek into some of the specimens in the museum. The giant squid was impressive but seeing some of the original specimens Darwin collected on the Beagle voyage was very special.
I also learnt that the museum uses flesh eating beetles to clean the bones of specimens and I saw a jar of sperm whale eyes. It would be a great visit for a Halloween trip.
Beyond the exhibitions that make you go WOW, OOH and EWW. The museum is also an active research institute partnering with universities around the globe to answer some of the big scientific questions from understanding complex ecosystems to investigating the fundamental geological processes that shape our planet and solar system. These questions are being answered through use of the museum collections, expertise and resources.
Darwin watching over the main hall.
The Earth Hall. Unfortunately the escalators weren’t working so I couldn’t travel through the Earth.
A partially digested head from a Sperm Whale’s stomach of course.
Disco rocks are found on the first floor of the museum.
This was my favourite exhibition in the museum which is the Images of Nature gallery. There are some beautiful drawings, paintings and visualisations of nature.
I was visiting the museum for Universities Week 2014 so there were lots of pop-up exhibitions going on including a volcano on the lawn.
A view of of the main hall from above
At the very top of the hall is a section of trunk from the giant sequoia tree. It’s HUGE and this tree was over 1300 years old when it was felled.
The museum is far to big to get round in one day. I’ve been a number of times and still haven’t seen most of the building. I’m glad I wandered up to the top of the hall to see this ceiling though.
I really enjoyed the ‘Treasures’ exhibition too and you can explore that online. It’s a small exhibition but each of the exhibits in this collection are of mind-blowingly huge significance. This includes a first edition book of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published in 1859 and the oldest UK lion skull since the extinction of wild cave lions. I didn’t even know these were a thing.
If you walk through the doors of the Natural History Museum I think it’s impossible to walk out again without saying ‘Wow, I never knew that’.
The museum is open every day from 10 am and is FREE!
I visited Bioparc Fuengirola on a trip to Spain in May 2014. I went with my family and it’s a great place to visit for a few hours. I think we spent about 3-4 hours there but you could do the whole thing in two hours or so! It’s easy for prams to get around and we saw lots of family groups with young kids and grandparents in tow.
I would recommend taking the lemur tour which runs hourly from the big Baobab tree and is on a first come, first served basis. You don’t get many chances in life to get close to lemurs!
The plant life, layout and design of the park is great. I like the way they have used bamboo and wood to create the enclosures. My dad made friends through the glass with this Fulvous Whistling Duck.
You can get close to many of the animals in the enclosures. I think the bird enclosure was my favourite. You can walk through and the birds are roaming throughout the space.
It’s in this area we also saw the famous baby Java mouse-deer also known as SUPER CUTE TEENY TINY DEER. Here’s a picture of one of the parents having a wee (I always manage to capture special moments with my camera). The newborn was hiding in the corner so I couldn’t get a photo.
I’ve written about zoo’s and attractions before on my previous blog. I don’t like seeing animals in captivity especially animals like chimps, orangutans, big cats and gorillas. I do know they do play a role in conservation and awareness but I am not sure where the line between exploitation and education is. I’m not an expert in this area and I would like to hear from anyone who can share information about how the bioparc operates and performs on their care of animals and feeds back into conservation efforts. Is there a rating system for zoos?
There is a striking information point in the middle of the park that shows images of animals housed in small concrete cafés in zoos (possibly Fuengirola zoo) and how zoos have moved on from that era. Still, seeing a tiger pacing up and down its enclosure still feels a bit sad to me.
The parc has many interesting species of ducks, birds, bats (fox bat!) and deer. Various snakes, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles (including a Pygmy one). Also, a Pygmy hippo which was hiding sleeping user a bridge so I didn’t take a photo. There was only one spider at the zoo, like most places they could make more of their creepy crawlie and bug section.
The parc has lots of trees so is mostly shaded which you will be thankful for if you visit in the summer heat! We used some of the big leaves to shelter from the rain (rain in SPAIN)!
The cafe at the parc is good and reasonably priced for a tourist attraction. I had a bioparc sandwich which had salad, mayo and chicken sandwiched between 3 slices of toast with a soft fried egg poking through.
The park is easily walkable (5mins) and is signposted from the train station in Fuengirola. The park is open every day other than Christmas but the opening times vary based on the season. See the website for full details.
Special night time park visits run in July and August.
It’s €17.90 for an adult ticket but there are concession and children’s rates available. You can also buy yearly passes to the zoo.
If you ever find yourself near Copenhagen then I would recommend you cancel your plans, hop on a ferry, and take a trip to the tiny, beautiful island of Ven to vist Tycho Brahe’s 16th Century Underground observatory. This island situated between Sweden and Denmark was the home of Tycho Brahe. A 16th century astronomer and jack of all trades (including alchemist and horoscope writer for the King of Denmark).
He built what is believed to be the very first research institute and brought together over a hundred researchers from across Europe during the lifespan of the observatory. He is credited with recording extremely accurate measurements of the stars and planets as he tried to make sense of the origin of the earth and the universe. This is all before the invention of the telescope.
The museum is situated in the grounds of his castle, Uraniborg (no longer standing) and features a reconstruction of his underground observatory, Stjärneborg. I got very excited. The observatory still has the original plinths for the instruments Tycho and his researchers used to measure the stars. These have been there since the 16th Century, that’s almost 500 YEARS. The instruments are reconstructed to scale and feature some 80s style lighting which makes it feel like a underground science discovery disco.
Climbing underground into the observatory you find yourself in an enclosed rocky space. The observatory features a slightly old school, but interesting, visual presentation about Tycho, his research assistants and discoveries. The shows run every 15 minutes and you need to book a time to visit the observatory at the main museum desk as there is only limited space.
The top of the reconstructed underground observatory.
One of the reconstructed measuring instruments on the original 16th Century plinth in the underground observatory of Tycho Brahe.
Another of the reconstructed measuring instruments on the original 16th Century plinth in the underground observatory of Tycho Brahe.
I felt like a real 16th Century scientist but with no castle. The presentation read short entries from Tycho’s diaries which, although might sound boring, were really fascinating to hear.
Tycho lived on the island of Ven as he was granted it by the King in 1574, which was nice of him. Clearly those were the days to have been a scientist. Although from this descriptor in the gardens many scientists in the 1500s had the same trust issues as scientists today when it comes to sharing their research findings.
The gardens in the museum are beautiful and contain information about medicinal plants that Tycho grew.
The reconstructed gardens of the Tycho Brahe Museum. You can just make out the underground observatory to the back of this picture.
The information in the museum is well worth a read and painted Tycho as a rather formidable character who governed the people of the island (there was quite a bit of falling out as he ruled over the island’s inhabitants, farmers and introduced that they had to work for him as well as farming).
Of most interest to me was the information in the Tycho Brahe museum about the close relationship between Tycho and his sister, Sophie Brahe. I’d heard of Tycho’s achievements but not of the involvement of his sister in his observations. Tycho respected his sister greatly and called her his ““learned sister”. He viewed her as someone he could have an intelligent conversation with about his work. Too often the contributors to great scientific discoveries and observations are not documented with one (usually a man) given the fame, fortune and in this case an island but it was great to see the museum documenting this relationship.
The former All Saints Church which contains the Tycho Brahe Museum.
Me and Tycho.
The ferry to Ven leaves from Nyhaven in Copenhagen daily (more info here) . I would recommend hiring a bike on the island (make sure you get off the ferry sharpish and head up the hill – otherwise you will end up at the back of a very long queue)!
The museums ordinary opening hours for 2014
3 May – 30 June 10:00 – 16:00
1 July – 31 August 10:00 – 18:00
1 September – 29 September 10:00 – 16:00
Also weekends in April and October 10:00 – 16:00
It costs 60 SEK for an adult, 40 SEK for a student and is free if you are lucky enough to be under 15.
The island is called Ven in Swedish and Hven in Danish. It is now Swedish, but was Danish.