Explorer's Antarctica survival story inspired Detroit Zoo's new penguin center

The countdown continues until the grand opening of the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo. It will be the largest penguin facility in the world. It opens on April 18.

Meanwhile, Detroit Zoo Executive Director Ron Kagan joined us on The Nine to tell us more about the explorer's journey that inspired the design of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

Sir Ernest Shackleton endured an 18-month struggle to lead his crew to safety after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed in the pack ice of Antarctica's Weddell Sea. This harrowing journey 100 years ago has been called the greatest survival story of all time.

In anticipation of the opening of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the zoo is featuring the exhibition, "Triumph Against All Odds", in the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery through September 7. The exhibition is free with Zoo admission and features 150 photographs taken by Frank Hurley, a member of the ship's crew, as well as video clips and replications of artifacts from the expedition.

Once open, when you visit the new penguin center you'll be able to see just how this expedition inspired many of the facility's design elements. The dramatic exterior resembles a tabular iceberg with a crevasse and waterfall. 

A 360-degree 4-D visitor experience will include arctic blasts, waves and snow and simulate being on the Endurance while crossing the Drake Passage. 

The penguin center will also have a video feature called projection mapping depicting iceberg calving - one of nature's most dramatic visual spectacles where icebergs split, sending massive cascades of ice crashing into the sea.

The center's signature feature will be a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors can watch the birds deep-dive. Two acrylic underwater tunnels will provide views of the penguins above and below.

Meanwhile, the zoo is also hosting some fun springtime events.

Bunnyville is March 25 and 26, with games, crafts, live entertainment and zookeeper talks. The event is free with Zoo admission, but each guest with a non-perishable food donation for Gleaners Community Food Bank will receive a reduced admission price of $9.

For more information, visit www.detroitzoo.org.