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The secrets of desert survival will be revealed by archaeologist Dr Mike Smith tomorrow during a media preview of the National Museum of Australia's new exhibition for 2005, Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere.

Dr Smith travelled throughout South America and Africa researching the exhibition, after years working in Australia's Red Centre - where he once tracked his lost son overnight across endless sand dunes.

"The world's southern deserts are home to many survivors," Dr Smith said. "As we all now adapt to extreme climate change and shrinking water supplies, Extremes shows how people have lived in hot, harsh conditions for thousands of years and continue to call these places home today."

WHAT: Extremes media preview
including a performance by South American band Inka Marka

WHEN: 11am, Tuesday 21 December 2004

WHERE: Hall, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Extremes, which opens on 26 December, tells rich desert stories through 350 objects including 250,000-year-old hand axes from the Kalahari Desert, an EJ Holden from the Bush Mechanics, a South American whaling raft made of sea lion skins and Dr Livingstone's compass.

The exhibition features ancient rock art from the three continental deserts found along the Tropic of Capricorn, with visitors invited to feel their intricate stories on specially moulded panels.

Dr Smith said the means of survival in each extreme environment was vastly different: Aboriginal people opportunistically followed rain; traders opened up South America's Atacama; and early Africans adapted to the oldest deserts, the Namib and Kalahari.

Extremes is on show at the National Museum of Australia from 26 December 2004 to 22 August 2005. Entry: $8 adults, $6 concession, $5 children, $16 families.

For interviews with Mike Smith and striking images please contact public affairs director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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