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Jen vs the Volcano: Our contributor rounds up the best places to visit to learn about volcanoes and other forces of nature
By Jenny Jet
She's moody, unstable, smothering and prone to major outbursts of anger. No, she's not your ex-girlfriend. She's someone you need to learn to embrace and respect...she's Mother Earth.
Earthquakes, and volcanoes, and hurricanes oh my! Well, Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore. Then again, if we're talking about tornadoes we could be in Kansas.
Whether or not you have/had plans to travel to Europe, we've all been affected by forces of nature beyond our control. As we approach the annual hurricane season we've already experienced the perfect 'storm' of natural disasters over the past 6 months including significant earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunami warnings. The earthquakes had tragic human consequences, the volcano eruptions have been mere disruptions, and Hawai'i was left unscathed by a major tsunami warning.
"Damn the volcano," declared a friend who works in the airline industry. How did another friend open our weekend brunch conversation: "Dude, Earth is so pissed."
But rather than continue to fret about whether Eyjafjallajokull will continue to erupt and if her angry sister Kalta will follow suit, let's use this time for fun and consider this one of life's 'teaching moments' because whether you're 4 or 74 you have questions and we know where to go to get answers! Take a look at our round-up of sites to visit and learn more about dear sweet Mother Earth's fury...
Alas, since this post is for Johnny Jet's site I should begin with his favorite childhood museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This museum should be called "Everything you always wanted to know about Earth but were afraid to ask" - if you have yet to visit this beloved site please get there soon!
Once inside the museum head straight to the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth where one of the museum's newest additions is the Earthquake Monitoring Station; this exhibit lets you monitor seismic data in real time. After you've learned everything you can about the Earth's core and have made peace with all of her quirks, make sure to visit The Butterfly Conservatory as this is where it all comes full circle and you can revel in the beauty of nature up close (as in real live butterflies lounging on your hands and head). For a preview, check out the museum's Live Butterfly Web Cam.
Johnny's Jet-Set Tip: Buy a City Pass for New York - this will let you by-pass all lines (at this #1-rated NYC attraction) and provides entry to all exhibits at the Museum of Natural History including the stellar Rose Hall Planetarium plus 5 other top NYC sites.
If you live in the Atlanta metro area or you're a Delta Airlines frequent flier, then it will be easy for you to get to The Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia for a special exhibition: Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters. The museum's website says it best, "You will experience the awesome spectacle of earthquakes, volcanoes and tornados, and witness the death-defying science behind the Earth's fiercest powers as the ground moves, mountains explode, and the sky turns black and violent." The good news is that scientists are hard at work to better predict, prepare for and survive these natural forces. If you can't make it to this traveling exhibit by the end of May, have no fear because this summer you can head to Omaha for a good steak dinner as this exhibit moves to The Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.
Johnny's Jet-Set Tip: Purchase the Super Value Pass at The Fernbank Musuem and save up to $11; includes Museum admission and two IMAX films (valid for same day admission only).
Aloha! I've driven up to the summit of Haleakala at an un-godly hour to watch the sunrise, but I have yet to visit Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The park is home to Kilauea and Mauna Loa -- two of the world's most active volcanoes. This incredible National Park bears evidence to 70 million years of volcanism and offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.
Johnny's Jet-Set Tip: If you're the fly by the seat of your pants, spontaneous type then grab a non-stop flight to get there quick because the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is offering 9 days of free admission from April 17 to 25 for National Park Week!
Okay, whatever you may think of Sarah Palin and the state that elected her...the fact is Alaska is stunningly beautiful and our 49th state is here to stay. It's also home to approximately 40 active volcanoes. Located in Anchorage, the Alaska Museum of Natural History is still a work in progress without an earthquake exhibit, but check out the website's cool interactive Volcano Simulator.
And, last but not least...if Europe's ashtray has left you stranded in London why not take the tube over to its Natural History Museum and discover the Red Zone Gallery (aka The Power Within)...yikes. Find out what happens - above and below the ground - when a volcano erupts or when an earthquake takes place. You will literally be shaken by Earth's ferocious temper during a simulation of the Kobe Supermarket earthquake.
Johnny's Jet-Set Tip: Admission is FREE and there are four on-site options for meals/snacks. Oh, and this London museum is also home to the world's longest insect...a 56.7cm-long stick-insect from Borneo, is on special display at the Creepy Crawlies gallery entrance.
Happy travels and may the Earth's force be with you!
FOR MORE MUSEUM INFORMATION:
American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
The Fernbank Museum (Atlanta, GA)
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (30 miles from Hilo)
Alaska Museum of Natural History (Anchorage, AL)
Natural History Museum (London)
*Please tell us what you think of Jenny's story!
All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements.
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