Category Archives: conservation

Wonderful Things: Tucker Sno-Cat

The Sno-Cat is a tracked vehicle that was originally used to maintain phone lines in North America in the 1940s.

Tucker Sno-Cat - great for Antarctic adventures

Tucker Sno-Cat - great for Antarctic adventures

In 1958 however, it was used to carry equipment in the first motorised crossing of Antarctica, travelling 2000 miles over 2 years! It traversed terrains as different and perilous as soft deep snow and frozen choppy sea. It was able to function in extreme conditions, including -55°C and wind speeds up to 45mph. In fact, this very expedition led to the founding of the British Antarctic Survey.

The Sno-Cat was able to reach the remote areas of Antarctica for scientific survey (it did get stuck a few times though!) , such as measuring the thickness of the ice sheet, which continues to be important in understanding climate science. Visit the Atmosphere gallery to find out more about our climate changing world- and see a real Antarctic ice core.

What about its use in the future? With energy shortages on the horizon we will need to find new sources of fuel. The sea surrounding Antarctica contains rich oil fields and natural gas, and in 2048 a ban on mining minerals is set to end. Maybe vehicles like the Sno-Cat will be used to reach these valuable resources?

Why can’t a normal car drive across Antarctica? (How would the Sno-Cat fare on UK roads?)

What equipment would you need Sno-Cat to carry on an expedition to Antarctica? (See here for an idea of daily life on the British Antarctic Survey)

Should areas of remote wilderness like the Antarctic continue to be protected from mining, when our need for energy increases every day?

The Sno-Cat is part of the Ten Climate Stories exhibition and is found in Making the Modern World, on the ground floor.

Tom (Cambridge University), Gulmira & Chen (Tokyo Institute of Technology)

Should pandas be left to face extinction?

TV naturalist Chris Packham said last week in a newspaper article that pandas should be left to face extinction. It’s a shocking statement from a man who is well-known for his love of animals, and one that will provoke strong reactions from your students.

Pandas appeal to peoples’ emotional side, and they have become a poster-child for conservation. As Packham says “It’s easier to raise money for something fluffy”. 

Giant Panda


But panda conservation is expensive, and due to the animals’ limited habitat and extremely restricted diet, it is perhaps unlikely to be ultimately successful. Doesn’t it make more sense to use the same money to protect other species which are more likely to survive in the long-run?

Dr Mark Wright, chief scientist at the WWF maintains that the pandas’ natural habitat in china should be conserved, not just to keep the pandas from extinction, but also the myriad of other wildlife living in the same area.

One way to get your students to really engage with these issues is to run a marketplace activity. Assign each of your students a persona, get them to research the issues and then present their case to the class.

Some ideas for groups include – Chris Packham, WWF workers, rainforest conservationists. You could even get some of the children to be the spokesperson for pandas, or to represent the Yangtze river dolphin, an animal that has become extinct very recently and was sadly much too ugly to attract much in the way of conservation cash. 

Is extinction just a part of life on earth? Do your students feel comfortable deciding which species to save? Can any of your students describe the WWF logo?

Find out more about the marketplace activity or check out our question generating activity - guarenteed to brighten up your lesson planning.