Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blue Skies Antarctica

Photo courtesy of

Sure, everyone wants Australia with all its charismatic marsupials, but what about the continent at the bottom of the world?

In this article, the Imagineer-in-Waiting shares Blue Sky brainstorming about what would be at the Antarctica continent at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The initial reaction is usually "Are you insane?  Antarctica in the middle of Florida!"  They also said it would be daft to build a vacation kingdom in the middle of a swamp, but they built it all the same.  "But, it's hot in Florida."  That doesn't prevent the Tampa Bay Lightning from playing ice hockey.  That doesn't prevent the operation of giant resort hotels with air conditioning and open lobbies.  You can skip the next paragraph if you're more into the imagination part than the engineering part of imagineering.

The energy requirements would be high, but not as much if the design were flexible to take advantage of a few things.  A climate-controlled dome would help.  In Florida, the water table is notoriously high, so excavating the area use earthen insulation is not likely.  But, building aboveground and covering the structure with an insulating overburden has been done before.  Just ask cast members who have been under Main Street.  Airlocks (or more accurately thermolocks) would also assist in maintaining the proper temperature even with warm bodies entering and exiting all day.  Keeping the place cool might also require innovative air conditioning.  One way is to freeze spherical shells containing a medium with a large latent heat of fusion (melting/freezing).  Then, one blows air through a packed bed of these spheres.  They are frozen during a duty cycle that's off-peak.  Electrical utilities refer to this as "load leveling."  Isn't thermodynamics class exciting?

Photo courtesy of

Let's get out of the Florida heat go inside the "Coolest Place in The World."

There is much storytelling about Antarctica.  One that fits into Walt's True-Life Adventure series would be the tale of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of Endurance.  The ship was crushed by the ice.  They were trapped at the bottom of the planet for many months, but in one of the most unbelievable accounts of survival, the didn't lose anyone.  Using a modified salvaged boat from the ship, a small group made an open-ocean trip to South Georgia Island to organize a rescue.

In addition to the Endurance ride-through attraction, one can take a group submarine tour in the frigid waters around the continent in "Glidin'."  Think of it as an underwater version of "Soarin'"  Penguins are flightless, but they can swim.  Encounter fish with anti-freeze in their blood.  Watch as an iceberg calves.

Photo Courtesy of

If the movie penguins weren't enough, a live penguin exhibit might intrigue guests more.  This is the Animal Kingdom, after all.  There are certain species of seals that inhabit the south polar regions too.  Somewhere in all this, guests could interact with the few human inhabits of Antarctica via a McMurdo Station link.  They could also virtually explore such strange places at Mt. Erebus (a volcano on Ross Island) or Lake Vostok which lies hidden under the ice.

If you need to take a break, just indulge in some ice cream or a snow cone.  They won't melt here.  Actually, I might put a plug in here for my personal favorite treat, the chocolate covered frozen banana with nuts.  I made a variation of this using mini-Reese's pieces in place of the nuts.

Still not enough animal life for the Animal Kingdom?  Perhaps an additional tank and show area could be outside the dome for an orca.  Say hello to "Mickeymu".  Take that SeaWorld.  Orcas range worldwide and large populations are known to swim about Antarctica.  There is a claim that orcas are the only species of whale to breed in Antarctic waters.

Well, have fun and remember to brace yourself for thermal shock when exiting Antarctica.  - Jeff 

No comments:

Post a Comment


Kate Smith likes
Create your Like Badge