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Open Day at National Oceanographic Centre

NOC outside main entranceThe National Oceanographic Centre (NOC), formerly Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC), held its annual open day this Saturday during the Science and Engineering week festivities. NOC’s distinctive chimneysThere’s a few photos here; and, as usual, more photos, in our gallery.

It was a great opportunity for mummy to show Tolii and Tosha where she worked. Even though both had been there before, Tolii had it in his mind that mummy played with train tracks all day – who knows why. Now, he just thinks she plays with great big globes with walruses on them (a game he played).

NOC’s distinctive chimneys - closeupThe NOC is housed in a purpose built place, with a confusing layout (least of which is the fact that there are half-floors between each floor: people floor, equipment/pipes floor, people floor, equipment/pipes floor, people floor, equipment/pipes floor. NOC and the large globe projectionSome pretty characteristic chimneys stick out of the place. You’d think they manufacture deadly toxins, or something, instead of watching walruses.

Mummy’s favourite toy, which would only cost her department £30,000 to buy, is a very large globe with a projector inside it. They had only borrowed this one from the Science Museum for the open day. Mummy’s mathematic models of the oceans look really, really, really nice on it…

Divers Tolii and Tosha at NOC’s open dayIronically, daddy and Tolii saw one of these at the Cirque du Soleil show, Varekai, that they went to see last month – except there it was floating above the stage during one part of the show as if it was a hot air balloon.

Tosha and Tolii look through microscopes at NOC’s open dayNearby, was a room filled with microscopes and interesting slides of microscopic sea thingies to look at. A scientist also played whale songs to add to the atmosphere!

The ground floor held the most fun for all: engineering works! The boys sifted through sandboxes for buried treasure; posed for a photo beside a clown diver; made some badges; and, watched a diver go up and down in a tube as the air pressure in it changed.

Tolii controls a submersibleTolii had a blast controlling a submersible in one of two large tanks of water. There must have been a dozen of these remote controlled gadgets bopping around in there! Submersibles in a tank at NOC’s open dayThe goal was to pick up the pennies at the bottom of the tank using the submersible’s magnet. Tolii didn’t really care – so long as it went up and down and around and around. Granny stood by patiently as Tolii spent the better part of a quarter of an hour playing with his.

Then, it was time to head dock-side to walk around the small research ship Callista (the NOC has two other ones which are much bigger: Cook and Discovery).

NOC’s Calista shipThe first thing on board was a display of the muck picked up from the bottom of the Solent. The research scientist said that it was a magnificent layered sample in the morning, only ruined by the time we saw it because everyone loved to stick their fingers in it. Sea creatures from the Solent on board CallistaDaddy stuck his fingers in it. The scientist said it had clearly shown how pollution controls had really made a difference: the bottom part of the sample had been rich in oil sludge and the top was almost just natural sediment. Daddy saw just a grey muck; and then he went to wash his hands.

Beside the muck, there was also a display of some of the crabs and other sea life found by them in the Solent.

The real sidescan radar on Callista, a NOC research shipTolii was completely fascinated by the explanation of how sidescan sonar worked. A thoughtful model had been constructed: a closed box with just a grid of holes on top, into which straws could be placed. Tolii filled up the holes and found that the middle ones didn’t sink as low: there must be something in the box! He guess an underwater volcano – and he was right!

Tolii keeps a lookout while Tosha pilots Callista at NOC open dayUpstairs, they took turns driving the ship. Tolii used the sophisticated binoculars to see people walking about on shore.

Then everyone started getting cranky – it had been a long day; and it was starting to rain.

NOC’s aquarium centreLuckily, we were just about done – just a quick tour through the tanks in the aquarium centre and we were off.

All in all, a fantastic day for everyone!

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