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The subject of Antarctica is a recurrent theme in Christchurch. Not surprising considering for almost a century the city has been a gateway to the great white south.

Since a child I have enjoyed visiting our Canterbury Museum and typically taking a beeline to the Antarctic displays, said to be the best anywhere. More recently I photographed the bronze bust of the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, first explorer to reach the South Pole. I noticed he had a shiny nose. Museum staff later told me those going to Antarctica rub Amundsen’s bronze nose for good luck and it is the one museum “Don’t touch” notice they are prepared to overlook. I have not been to Antarctica but I did rub his nose before setting out on a cycling tour of Norway.

Presently the museum (in the adjoining Robert McDougall Gallery) is staging an impressive Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic photography exhibition.The photography is that of Britisher Herbert George Ponting and Australian Frank Hurley. The collection was originally presented to King George V and these days remains part of the Royal Photographic Collection. Well-worth the admission charge, Heart of the Great Alone will run until February 20.

Another Antarctic gem was the recent discovery of bottles of whisky under the floorboards of Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island, near McMurdo Sound. Stored for a century in this natural refrigerator, the bottles spent some weeks gently thawing at the Canterbury Museum. The Whisky has now left for Glasgow in the care Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya. Under an agreement with the Christchurch-based Antarctic Heritage Trust, Mallya is taking the Whisky to be scientifically analysed by Scottish distillers.