Monday, March 17, 2014

South Australian Museum

Even though I arrived in Adelaide on a Tuesday, I decided not to start my volunteering until Monday. This gave me plenty of time to master the public transportation, orient myself with the area, and sightsee a little bit. Since Jess worked nights and slept during the day, I had to figure it out on my own starting from the apartment. My goal was to find my way to the city and visit any free places I could find. The train was a bit farther than I was willing to walk every morning, so I decided on the bus. I didn't actually have a clue where I was going. Before leaving the house, I tried searching online for buses that would go from the apartment to the city, but the timetables just gave big intersection names (none nearby me) and I could only look up timetables with the bus numbers, which I didn't have. So I just left the house with only a guess as to where a bus stop might be, and a hope that the sign would be well marked enough to tell where the bus was headed. I came across one lady standing by a barely marked bus stop sign. I asked her if she was waiting for a bus. Without another word from me she responded "No, I'm waiting for someone. The city bus stop is two blocks down, if you're looking for that. It's bus 157." I thanked her, feeling slightly violated by her reading my mind without permission, and continued on to the correct spot. 

The bus pulled up after a few minutes. I climbed inside and explained to the driver that it was my first time on an Adelaide bus and I had no idea what I was doing. He helped me through the process of buying a small piece of white paper with a stripe on it. He then got out of his seat to come show me how to work the ticket reading machine, and let me know that I could use the ticket for my return as well. I was amazed at how nice he was, but felt a little bad for slowing the bus down for everyone else. Later on in the week I met oppositely mean bus driver who yelled at people for not running fast enough from the bench to the bus door, so I can't give any generalization on the bus drivers in Adelaide. 

I did like the feel of Adelaide more than Melbourne. I'm honestly not sure if this is because I like Adelaide more or because I got so sick of Melbourne. There were many preformers along the street every time I went into town. It sure helps waiting for the bus when you can watch a trapeze act to pass the time. Most of the people seemed very nice, though I didn't really talk to many people. I mostly wandered the town looking at things that seemed noteworthy. Out of all of them, I think the large metal statues of a cochroach and pigs were the least expected. The main area was mostly set up like an outdoor mall, filled with food courts and shopping.

After a bit of exploring, I headed into the South Australian Museum. It was completely free! The first part I went through was the taxidermied animal display. Unlike Melbourne Museum, SA Museum displayed their animals in divided sections pertaining to where in the world they could be found. The funniest section was North America. The porcupine had no quills left on it, making it appear nearly cuddly. The Virginia opossum looked like they took the fur from a large opossum and put it on a tiny frame, giving it the look of an anorexic opossum with thick, beautiful fur. The biggest thing I noticed was that the moose was labeled as an elk! This made me go back over to the elk, where I discovered that it was labeled as a wapiti. I decided to google the issue before bringing it up to anyone. Turns out that half the world goes by these names. So if someone calls a moose an elk, it's technically still correct.

Next, I went through a very long floor of indigenous artifacts and history. While I am interested in broad topics about race relations in Australia and the lost generations, I can only look at sharpened stones, spears, bowls, and animal skins so much. Thankfully, the next floor was animals again! There was a discovery center with live animals and some preserved specimens. 

Multi-lizard species exhibit (alive)

Huntsman Spider (alive). Thank God I haven't come across a wild one... yet...

Was unable to locate this "Carnivorous Snail"

This baby ocelot is manages to still stay absolutely adorable.

Sign Says: "Growth of an echidna: A female echidna makes a temporary pouch of folded skin to protect and carry her single egg, which hatches after about ten days. Milk oozes from her mammary glands and the puggle (Please take a moment to realize how adorable it is that baby echidnas are called puggles!) sucks it from her fur. The infant is evicted from the pouch when it starts growing its spines."

Sign Says: "Growth of a kangaroo: After it is born, a joey crawls into its mother's pouch using its front paws. It takes one of her teats into its mouth. The teat provides different kinds of milk as the Joey grows. The mother keeps her pouch clean by licking out the joey's waste."

The animal displays continued outside of the discovery center. The life-like posing of taxidermied animals and skeletons was very impressive! For display purposes, lighting tended to be brightly focused on exhibits, so the picture quality isn't great.

Fruit bat skeleton in a flying position. I love the way that their fingers make up the frame of the wings.

This one was pretty fantastic! It was a combination of bones from a wide variety of animals which challenged you to figure out what part belong to what animal. 

Around the corner was a curtain with the last known footage of a live thylacine projected on it. Behind the curtain was a small room with taxidermied animals that have gone extinct in South australia. Some, like the thylacine were completely hunted out of existence, while others are species that used to occur in the state of South Australia, but no longer do.

Sign Says "Thylacine. Not tigers, not dogs. Tasmanian Tigers looked like dogs, but were marsupials and carried their young in a backward-opening pouch. After hitching a ride with mum, much like a kangaroo joey does, they left the pouch at a young age and remained in a nest until weaned. 
They once lived throughout Australia, but long before Europeans arrived they were extinct on the mainland and found only in Tasmania. Competition with Dingoes may have contributed to their extinction on the mainland.
Tasmanian Tigers had a reputation as vicious sheep killers and the Tasmanian Government paid a bounty for each one killed. In the early 1900s disease and loss of habitat added to their woes. The last wild animal was seen in 1933. Three years later, when the last captive animal died, the Tasmianian Tiger was finally protected from hunting. A reserve was created for the species 36 years later- too late!
Here at the South Australian Museum we have the best display specimens in the world. These came from the Adelaide Zoo around 1900."

Species that no longer exist within the state of South Australia, but did at one point in time.

There was a decent sized exhibit about ocean creatures, but I wasn't feeling too interested in fish, and I didn't have a ton of time, so I skipped the majority of it. The most interesting part was a life size replica of a giant squid which spanned three floors, allowing you to see from above on the fourth floor and through a glass window on the lower floors.

View from fourth floor looking down.

The underwater exhibit slowly transitioned with one about ancient sea creatures that used to live off of South Australia. The main one focused on was the plesiosaur.

A replica of what a plesiosaur might have looked like based on fossil evidence. 

"Addyman Plesiosaur: A National Treasure. The Addyman Plesiosaur is the finest known opalised skeleton on Earth. These bones are the opalised remains of a marine reptile that swam and hunted in the icy seas of inland Australia, 330 million years ago. The Addyman Plesiosaur is a priceless part of our national heritage. It provides vital evidence of the past life of an ancient extinct predator. The fossil was discovered in 1968, and excavated from the andamooka opal fields by the Addyman family."

Smaller model head on top. Cast of actual skull below.

"Tiny teeth: The fine, needle-like teeth of the plesiosaur may have acted like a sieve to trap small fish and shrimp."

"Extinction of Dinosaurs and Marine Reptiles. A mass extinction wiped out three-quarters of all animal species at the end of the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago. All dinosaurs, most marine reptiles, and many other groups of animals and plants disappeared forever."

Through the following doorway, I found several casts of Australian megafauna and similar animals. I already was familiar with most of them, except for the Marsupial Lion.

"Fearsome Predator: Thylacoleo was described as a marsupial lion. It was a unique marsupial carnivore with a large hooded claw on an opposable thumb. It lived in the open forest and may have hunted at night, possibly climbing trees to ambush its prey."

"Described from fossil remains by the eminent paleontologist Sir Richard Owen in 1839. Noting the cat-like proportions of its head and the huge blade-like cutting teeth he named it a marsupial lion. Thylacoleo's ancestry lies with Australia's herbivorous marsupials, the possums, the wombats, the kangaroos. Thylacoleo is really more like a giant killer possum than a lion."

Representation of the marsupial lion based on fossil evidence.

The next floor was filled with Polynesian artifacts. This wasn't very interesting to me, except for the particularly creepy masks lining the walls.

Just as I was about to leave the museum, I glanced at the map and notice an Egyption exhibit that I missed. I headed back up to the third floor. There I found a small, slightly dated looking room filled with Egyption artifacts. My favorite was their collection of mummified animals.

Mummified Hawk
Sign Says "The hawk was the sacred bird of many gods, including Ra, the sun god, Horus the son of Osiris and Sokaris, a god of darkness and decay. Herodotus, a Greek historian, wrote about the hawks that were kept by the priests in the temples of Ra, the sun god. They were fed at the public's expense and mummified when they died. Any person who harmed a hawk was severely fined. Killing a hawk was punishable by death."

Cat Mummies
Sign Says "Cats were the sacred animals of the goddess Bastet, a local deity of the Delta region of Egypt. She was usually represented as a woman with the head of a cat." "According to the Greek historian Herodotus, it was considered a crime to harm a cat. When a pet cat died, members of the household shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning and sent the bodies to be mummified."

There were human mummies as well, but I didn't look at them in great detail before it was time to leave the museum and head home.

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