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Welcome to SPRI

Welcome to the website of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI). The Institute is a well-known and long-established centre for research into both polar regions. It is part of the University of Cambridge and is a sub-department of the Department of Geography.

We have several research groups investigating a range of issues in both the environmental sciences and social sciences of relevance to the Arctic and Antarctica. Our polar library, which includes the Shackleton Memorial Library, has comprehensive holdings of scholarly books and journals on polar research, with exceptional archival collections from the exploration of the Antarctic and Arctic. We also have extensive online resources, including bibliographic and other information.

Around 60 academic, library and support staff, together with postgraduate students, associates and fellows attached to our research programmes, are working in the Institute, providing a strong core of intellectual activity focused on the Arctic and Antarctic and their adjacent seas.

We offer two Graduate Degree courses; a one-year Master's Degree (M.Phil.) course in Polar Studies, and a three-year Doctoral Degree course, leading to a Ph.D. degree. Both courses are closely tied to the research activities of the Institute.

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Friends of SPRI/HMS PROTECTOR Artists in Antarctica Programme

Bonham's

Sponsored by Bonhams

The application process for the Artists in Antarctica programme for the 2014/15 Antarctic summer seasons is now open. The deadline for applications is Friday 15 August 2014. Interviews will be held on 4 September 2014 in Cambridge.

Shane McCorristine collaborates on Antarctic Pavilion at Venice Biennale

Shane McCorristine collaborates on Antarctic Pavilion at Venice Biennale

Dr Shane McCorristine has collaborated with artists and architects on the Antarctic Pavilion at the 14th Venice Biennale of Architecture. Commissioned by the Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev and curated by Nadim Samman, "Antarctopia" is the first time that Antarctica has been represented at this prestigious cultural event. The Pavilion interrogates the architectural relationship humans have with Antarctica, looking at heroic pasts, techno-scientific presents, and imagined futures. Shane contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue entitled "'What shall we call it?' Performing home in Antarctica". The Biennale runs from June 7 - November 23 2014.

Pan-Inuit Trails Atlas Launched at SPRI

Pan-Inuit Trails Atlas Launched at SPRI

A new digital resource brings together centuries of cultural knowledge for the first time, showing that networks of trails over snow and sea ice, seemingly unconnected to the untrained eye, in fact span a continent – and that the Inuit have long-occupied one of the most resource-rich and contested areas on the planet. The material has been digitised and organised geospatially, with trails mapped out over satellite imagery using global positioning systems. It constitutes the first attempt to map the ancient hubs and networks that have long-existed in a part of the world frequently and wrongly depicted as 'empty': as though an unclaimed stretch of vacant space.

"To the untutored eye, these trails may seem arbitrary and indistinguishable from surrounding landscapes. But for Inuit, the subtle features and contours are etched into their narratives and story-telling traditions with extraordinary precision," said Dr Michael Bravo from SPRI. "This atlas is a first step in making visible some of the most important tracks and trails spanning the North American continent from one end to the other. Essentially the trails and the atlas reduce the topology of the Arctic, revealing it to be a smaller, richer, and more intimate world."

Dr Charles Swithinbank

Dr Charles Swithinbank

The Institute is sorry to learn of the death of Dr Charles Swithinbank (Emeritus Associate of the SPRI). Charles died peacefully on the morning of 27th May 2014. Many will be familiar with Charles' exceptional achievements concerning science and exploration of the polar regions, especially in Antarctica, which spanned six decades. Charles was an excellent and supportive colleague and a friend to the Institute over many years. There will be a funeral, followed by a memorial service in due course. An obituary has been published in the Telegraph. His funeral will be at 11.15 on Monday 16th June, in the West Chapel of Cambridge Crematorium.

Active groundwater reservoir found beneath the Antarctic ice sheet

Active groundwater reservoir found beneath the Antarctic ice sheet

Glaciologists at SPRI have identified a large subglacial groundwater reservoir beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet. The reservoir was found to be connected with a hydrological network in five large drainage basins, and to feed nutrients to subglacial lakes where living organisms may exist. Poul Christoffersen, the lead author of the study, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, talks to Planet Earth Online.

The Randolph Glacier Inventory 3.2

The Randolph Glacier Inventory 3.2

Second year PhD student Evan Miles is one of fourteen lead authors on a recent paper documenting a new and complete inventory of all glaciers across the globe. The full authorship includes 74 scientists from 18 countries. The inventory has been derived from careful analysis of satellite imagery and contains 198,000 glaciers covering an area totaling 726,800 km2. The inventory has been crucial in helping to derive recent estimates of glacier mass balance and volume changes and their contribution to recent sea level rise, as summarized in the latest (2013) IPCC report. (Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 60, No. 221, 2014 doi:10.3189/2014JoG13J176)

Julian Dowdeswell awarded the IASC Medal for 2014

Julian Dowdeswell awarded the IASC Medal for 2014

Julian Dowdeswell has been awarded the IASC Medal for 2014 by the International Arctic Science Committee 'as a World leader in the field of Arctic glaciology'. The committee also highlighted Prof. Dowdeswell's outreach and communication activities which have been instrumental for public understanding of Arctic change. The full citation for the award is on the IASC website.

Cambridge in Davos

Cambridge in Davos

Professor Julian Dowdeswell has been at the World Economic Forum in Davos (22-25 January 2014), delivering an invited presentation on 'Glaciers, Ice Sheets and Environmental Change'. He is part of a Cambridge contingent that includes the Vice-Chancellor, Lord Martin Rees and Jon Hutton. They each spoke in a session on 'Cambridge Ideas' at the Forum. Julian has given interviews on the changing polar regions and their global implications in Davos and more information about Cambridge in Davos is available. A video of Julian's interview is available online.

Lakes discovered beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet using radar

This study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, reports the discovery using airborne radar of two subglacial lakes 800 metres below the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The two lakes are each roughly 8 to 10 square-kilometres in area, and at one point may have been up to three times larger than their current size.

Subglacial lakes are likely to influence the flow of the ice sheet which, in turn, impacts global sea-level change. The discovery of the lakes in Greenland will help researchers to understand how the ice will respond to changing environmental conditions.

The work was undertaken by Steve Palmer, Julian Dowdeswell, Poul Christoffersen and Toby Benham at the Institute, in collaboration with colleagues at the universities of Texas and Bristol.

Glaciologists at SPRI to explore Antarctic source of sea level rise

Glaciologists at SPRI to explore Antarctic source of sea level rise

Researchers at ten British universities, the British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre are teaming up in a mission that aims to discover what is causing the recent rapid loss of ice from the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. The research project, which is funded by the National Environmental Research Council and known as iSTAR, is important for understanding sea-level rise, a global phenomenon which has major implications for coastal cities and environments around the world. The Cambridge University scientists contributing to the project are Dr Marion Bougamont, Dr Poul Christoffersen and Professor Liz Morris. All three are glaciologists at the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Last letter of Captain Scott finally revealed in full - 101 years on

Last letter of Captain Scott finally revealed in full - 101 years on

A letter written by the dying Captain Scott - one of only two remaining in private hands - can be revealed in full for the first time after being acquired by the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Icy debate on BBC’s ‘The Forum’

Icy debate on BBC's 'The Forum'

Poul Christoffersen can be heard on the BBC World Service after his recent return from Antarctica, to debate "Ice" with fellow scientist Mary Albert and visual artist Camille Seaman. The debate is a journey into the wilderness of polar regions and the panelists explain how they are confronted by impacts from climate change.

Water under the ice

Water under the ice

Craig Stewart, PhD student and recipient of the Scott Centenary Scholarship, talks to The New Zealand Herald about floating ice shelves in a warming climate. The interview took place in a remote camp on the Ross Ice Shelf, and during the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's visit to Antarctica. Craig's PhD research at the Scott Polar Research Institute aims to understand how ocean currents affect the Ross Ice Shelf, a large (487,000 km2) floating part of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Freeze Frame

Freeze Frame is a remarkable resource enabling you to explore over 20,000 photographs from 1845-1960, representing some of the most important visual resources for research into British and international polar exploration.

The Institute also hosts the Secretariats of the International Glaciological Society and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.