Why does the big globe in Raleigh have silver oceans?

Several years ago, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh added a beautiful new wing, complete with a four-story tall globe. If you haven’t visited yet, it’s pretty awesome. The inside of the globe is a huge circular theater, with seating on each floor of the museum. And the outside of the globe is, well… mostly gray.

SECU Daily Planet

In fourteen hundred ninety two, Columbus sailed the oceans… gray.
(Image Credit: Radiofan)

So what’s going on here? Why didn’t they bother to paint in the oceans? I got in touch with Roy Campbell, Director of Exhibits and Digital Media at the Natural Science Museum to find out. Here’s what he said…

The decision to leave the ocean blank on the Daily Planet was a combination of factors. If we had depicted them we more than likely would have portrayed the ocean floors. We would have put a blue cast to that so as not to cheat the sea in favor of the geologic surface. But then again the oceans are dynamic. They show currents and sediment influx, algal blooms, storms and calm. All according to season.

But we never got to argue over all of that because cost was a very major consideration. It cost roughly a quarter million dollars to place simply the continents and the ocean because it is larger than that would have ramped up costs dramatically.

We also were expecting to use the Pacific Ocean as a projection space for all sorts of content but ran short of money and planning time for that as well.

The good news is that we are hopefully back on track to re-install the night lighting effect we had for just three days at the opening. This casts a blue flood light on all the oceanic areas but a white light on the continents to show them in real color. So hopefully within the year you will be able to walk by at night and see the blue planet as it should be.

This leaves us with several fun facts:

  • It cost a cool $250,000 to paint the continents. (Good thing the whole globe was donated by the SECU!)
  • Museum curators have arguments about how to paint oceans.
  • The globe in Raleigh can be lighted up with blue lights to make it look more “realistic.”
The globe can glow blue at night!

The globe can glow blue at night!
(Image Credit: NC Museum of Natural Sciences)

Let’s hope they get that blue lighting back in place soon!

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