Humour us, please, we’re about to take you on a journey through 13.8 billion years, and all pretence that normally hides our child-like enthusiasm and excitement is well and truly out the window. We’re acting like six-year-olds, complete with ear to ear grins, and not ashamed of it. Today we’re taking a trip round Dynamic Earth, down in Holyrood, where we’re going to learn how the world we know today came in to being.
112 Holyrood Road – dynamicearth.co.uk
I think we can all acknowledge that the weather in our fine city can sometimes be less than what you desire in a summers day – in fact one of the most read articles on Edinburgh Editor is our 7 places to go when it rains – and so it’s always good to have a few ideas up your sleeve that are indoors. One of those on our list of ‘places to see’ was Dynamic Earth – it’s been here since 1999 and yet none of my friends or I had really been. Today that was changing as my partner in grinning for the day, Sarah, and I were on a learning expedition. We could talk about this for hours – we had an amazing time – but so we don’t bore you senseless or ruin all the excitement for you we’ll take you on an even briefer tour through time than even we went on.
We begin in Victorian times, oddly enough, and in the very city we’re in – Edinburgh. It’s some sort of lecture theatre complete with blackboards and the tutorage of the father of modern geology himself, James Hutton. We passed through relatively quickly, but it’s a great introduction to the idea of geology and how little we really know and how little time we’ve really known about the age of our earth and the wider universe.
Next you enter the first of several immersive exhibits – the time machine (that rather anti-climacticly works in a very similar fashion to a lift, makes you wonder why they didn’t just install one of those instead…) takes you down into the rock to board your spacecraft that takes your on a rapid tour starting mere moments before the big bang and then onwards through the next 10 billion years as our galaxy, solar system and ultimately our planet came into being. And believe it or not that is, in every sense, just the beginning of your journey.
Over the next hour you are taken on an amazing series of journeys – almost unbelievable in parts – that show you the powerful forces that shape planets, evolution, our oceans and the different regions that make up our planet. Built in a very logical fashion, your journey goes through a series of exhibits, some of which are more like simulators that guide you through a series of visual and immersive environments (the glaciation was my favourite, even if it was a little dizzying in parts), others than you walk through at your own pace reading about the different stages are you go.
There are glaciers, dinosaurs, oceans, tundra, and volcanoes and more beyond, each stage taking you through a unique part of the world, or a time in its history. Charting virtually every element of science – including mass extinctions and human evolution (spot the blogger with the biology degree…) – you learn in each ‘room’ about a totally different subject, most of the time without even realising it. Oh, and did we mention they have an iceberg? An actual real, touchable, freezing cold iceberg (although who knows how much of it is hidden below the floor…).
You end your journey in the rainforests of Borneo (because why wouldn’t you?) and another area we positively loved. There’s actual rain, animatronic animals, and a wall of dazzlingly beautiful photos worthy of a place in National Geographic or a David Attenborough documentary, where a guide talks you through the animals and climate of this rainforest, all whilst an orang-utan watches you through the trees.
And just when you think you’ve learnt everything you can you sit reclined in the dome auditorium watching a journey through the wild weather of our solar system, all of which makes our own world seem so perfectly comfortable.
We easily spent a couple of hours touring through time and space, learning as much as we could whilst excitedly playing with the exhibits and feeling like we were flying through time, both coming out with the desire to learn more about the world. If we had one criticism – if it is even that – it would be that there is almost too much. It’s impossible to take it all in, and because so much of it is done visually you retain less than if you read it like a traditional museum. We are both very visual people, but even still a week later recalling the details of the story is tricky. But as an experience, it is amazing.
Somewhere to learn about the world may sound primarily for children, but it’s not just for over-grown six year olds like ourselves; we encountered a diverse age range whilst there. Maybe it’s wrong to put ages on who would enjoy it – all you need is an enquiring mind. Next time it’s raining, go find out for yourself.