Great Barrier Island, Aliens, the Pope and Great Barrier Island

Aliens will be on the agenda when Great Barrier Island, population 939, brings the Pope’s astronomer and other top scientists to a quirky public event.

The one-day festival, called “Is There Life out There?”, follows a similar event last year that was organised by the island-based Awana Rural Women group and attracted around 12 per cent of Great Barrier’s residents.

But the coming summit, planned for mid-September, would be a stellar step up, with the speakers list including Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, top US planetary scientist Dr Faith Vilas, and Gino Acevedo, the Weta Digital creative art director behind such films as Avatar and King Kong.

Also on the bill is Auckland University of Technology microbiologist Professor Steve Pointing, who has worked with Nasa in researching extreme lifeforms that can survive in polar cold and desert heat.

The group’s president, Gendie Somerville-Ryan, chuckled when asked how these heavyweights had been pulled to such a remote spot.

“Well, it’s just never good luck is it?”



Interestingly enough, the Vatican recently made public statements that aliens probably exist, and there is no problem with this, as they would clearly  be God’s creatures also.

Again, the festival would address the topic from four perspectives: where did life come from, how does humanity fit into the universe, why do aliens appear the way they do in film, and how are we searching for other lifeforms?

“You can cover a lot of different angles, all with the purpose of providing education that meets a lot of peoples’ interests.”

The group also persued directors Sir Peter Jackson and James Cameron, but were unable to land them.

Still, she expected the talent on offer in September would more than satisfy locals.

“It’s amazing. We’re extremely privileged.”

Along with the main panel discussion, the festival would involve breakout sessions and an art exhibition and book month event at the local library.

The Auckland Astronomical Society also plans to run an educational programme on the island during the week, giving local school students and adults the chance to see the stars through an eight-inch telescope.

Whatever your views on aliens, this will be a great festival to attend.  After all, there is no such thing as a bad day on Great Barrier.


– NZ Herald

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