A thirst for knowledge;Places to go;Discovery series;Water

6th August 1999 at 01:00
Mankind has always been fascinated by what lies at the ends of the oceans. Voyages of Discovery, an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London SW7, until spring 2000, allows visitors to follow the voyages of Sloane in Jamaica (1687), Darwin in South America (1831), Wallace in South America and Malaya (1848), Captain Cook on the 'Endeavour' and the remarkable voyage of 'Challenger' in 1872, which investigated the deep ocean's geology and life. The education programme includes 'Over the Edge', a performance using adult puppetry and family days to the coast.Tel: 0171 938 9090; website: www.nhm.ac.ukvoyages

With the creation of 12 new galleries, The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich in London SE10 is now complete. Summer family events include Nelson activity trails and stories of people influenced by the sea and seafaring. Regular 'Shipmates' activity sessions are held on Saturdays, 2-4pm, on sea monsters, explorers, Vikings and the like. Tel: 0181 312 6608 As a seafaring nation, Britain has a number of good maritime museums. Merseyside Maritime Museum in Albert Dock, Liverpool, for example, reflects the importance of the city as a gateway to the world, its role in the slave trade and emigration. Exhibits include the original shipbuilder's model of the 'Titanic'. Free admission to all DFEEregistered educational groups. Tel: 0151 478 4747 or 0141 478 4499; website: www.nmgm.org.ukmaritime The Aberdeen Maritime Museum is also well worth a visit. The displays (shipbuilding, the oil industry, fishing, the harbour and the North Sea) are housed in the 16th-century Provost Ross's House and two other historic buildings overlooking the harbour. Children's workshops include the voyage of a Victorian boy on his way to the New World (Australia). Free. Schools information packs from tel: 01224 337710.

Visitors attending courses at The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Powys, stay in eco-cabins with their own independent power supply from solar, wind and hydro power and their own water suppply, compost toilet and reed bed sewage system. Water turbines fed by the reservoir and a device which captures wave energy convert water power into electricity. Tel: 01654 702400; or 01654 703743 (courses); website: www.cat.org.uk

Another source of water power is the water mill, although few are in working order today. Two that are can be found at Letheringsett, north Norfolk, and Otterton, east Devon, where visitors can see how the water wheel grinds corn into flour. Otterton Mill, tel: 01395 568521; Letheringsett Mill, tel: 01263 713153.

For those who, like Ratty in "The Wind in the Willows", enjoy nothing so much as 'simply messing about in boats', hiring a narrowboat couldn't be simpler. The website at www.canals.com contains information about canal holidays in the UK, Europe and the USA, including 'The Boats and Waterways Directory', which lists boatyards and hire firms. Or look at the ads in 'Waterways World 'and 'Canal and Riverboat' magazines.

At the London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1, you can see inside a narrowboat cabin, learn about the history of London's canals, the people who lived on the waterways, the horses that pulled their boats and cargoes carried. Children's activity days will be held on August 12, 19 and 26, at no extra charge, where they can make models, draw, read and listen to stories on a canal theme. The Angel Canal Festival takes place just over a mile from the museum on September 5. A photographic exhibition by Clifford Morris, 'Only the Tide of Time', runs until August 22. The museum's Mikron Theatre Company is touring venues along the Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation, the Erewash Canal, River Trent and Trent and Mersey Canal during August with its new production 'Just in Time'. It reaches the canal museum at Stoke Bruerne, near Towcester, Northants, on August 11, 7.30pm. Tel: 0171 713 0836, website: www.charitynet.org

Europe's largest sea experience centre, Nausicaa, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, aims to show how man can effectively manage the sea and enjoy it at the same time. A giant prism teeming with tuna next to a trawler forms part of the museum's focus on the fishing industry and the interests that must be considered when attempting to prevent overfishing. Other features include a paradise beach on a South Pacific island, a glassed-in underwater aquarium and an underwater observatory suspended under cliffs. Group prices approximately pound;6 adults, pound;4 children. Tel: 00 333 2130 9898.

The London Aquarium, County Hall, SE1, has spectacular displays of all the great waters of the world and the things that live in them spread over 170,000 square feet. The sharks are fed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. New this summer is a special reef cave tank with an interactive display about this endangered habitat. Tel: 0171 967 8000. Family and group rates available.

Among the best aquaria in North America are the Vancouver Aquarium, British Columbia, and the Virginia Marine Science Museum. The former offers "animal encounters" in Arctic, tropical, Amazon and British Columbian waters. Tel: 001 604 659 3553; website: www.vanaqua.org Highlights at the latter include sharks, sea turtles, harbour seals, river otters, pontoon boat trips and seasonal whale and dolphin watching boat trips. Tel: 001 757 437 6000; website: www.vmsm.com

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, exhibits more than three-quarters of the world's species and sub-species of wildfowl and is a rich educational resource. Tel: 01453 890333.


Water, water everywhere - but not much of it you'd care to swim in, let alone drink. At least that's the impression you get visiting the many websites alerting us to what we're doing to water. One of the few which delivers the message without leaving users feeling suicidal is run by Surfers Against Sewage, (www.sas.org.uk), self-styled 'UK's coolest environmental group' which campaigns for an end to all marine sewage and toxic waste discharges. One has to admire the spirit of these crusading surfers, who seem to be capable of having fun even when paddling through a soup of used condoms and dilute excrement.

Making undrinkable water drinkable has always been a major challenge - but it's also now big business. For a lucid explanation of how a desalination plant works, try Virginia Tech's Water Treatment Primer(www.ce.vt.eduenviro2wtprimerwtprimer.html) - a site that also fills you in on sludge removal, and many other processes that go on at your local waterworks.

Little wonder that people will pay many times as much for water in a plastic bottle than for the stuff that comes out of taps. Go to the Bottled Water Web (www.bottledwaterweb.com) to see just how profitable this industry has become - and what you get for your money.

Water as a source of power is efficiently dealt with at www.hydro.co.uk, Scottish Hydro-Electric's website where you can also mug up on the life-cycle of the salmon. For the Welsh perspective, go to First Hydro at www.fhc.co.uk. Big pictures of big dams - and a useful glossary of water terms - can be found at www.lcra.org, the Lower Colorado River Authority - or visit the Hoover Dam at www.hooverdam.com.

Two centuries ago, water was seen as the future for all inland transport needs: go the the British Waterways site (www.british-waterways.org) for the history of Britain's canals and navigable rivers. For an overview of the life afloat, there's no better starting point than the National Maritime Museum site at www.nmm.ac.uk

Exploiting water for its beauty reached a peak in the baroque era. Rome is the place to go to see it: if you can't get there today, try the art history pages of the Australian National University (arts.anu.edu.auarthistorydefault.htm) for multiple images of Bernini's 'Fountain of the Four Rivers' in the Piazza Navona.

Some artists prefer their water solid. Every year, the world's leading snow and ice sculptors congregate in Japan for the Sapporo Snow Festival (www.aurora-net.or.jpsnowfesindexe.html). The short-lived fruit of their labours are immortalised here - everything from a perfect tenth-scale replica of St Paul's Cathedral to frozen scenes from samurai movies...

Finally, water as killer. NASA's Tsunami site (http:observe.ivv.nasa.govnasacore.shtml) explains tidal waves, tells you what to do if you see one coming, and shows the results of coastal impact. Or tap into the latest research on finding the causes of the Old Testament deluge at www.nationalgeographic.comblacksea (Ballard and The Black Sea - the search for Noah's Flood, see also the Detective Story on page 19).

A list of Sea Life Centres in the UK, Spain, Holland and Belgium and their telephone numbers can be found at website: www.educate.co.uksealife.htm Or call 01202 666900 for your nearest Centre.

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