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SPRI Review 1999: Polar History and Humanities Group

Polar History and Humanities Group

Dr B. Riffenburgh

H.G.R. King, P. Speak, Dr J. West, M.P. Casarini-Wadhams

During the year, the Polar History and Humanities Group and its corresponding members continued with a wide range of research, dealing with polar, maritime, and exploration history and Arctic humanities studies.

Dr Beau Riffenburgh spent the spring and summer of 1999 in Kingston, New York, from where he was able to carry out extensive research at the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Association, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the US National Archives, and the Library of Congress. This is part of a project examining and assessing the American role in the exploration of Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa and the Canadian high Arctic. In connection with this same project, he also conducted interviews with relatives of a number of American polar explorers, including Robert E. Peary, Evelyn Baldwin, Anthony Fiala, George W. Melville, and Adolphus W. Greely.

As part of his continuing research into the roles of the British and American popular press in the creation, dissemination, and effect of imperial heroic exploration myths, Dr Riffenburgh also conducted research in the archives of a number of American newspapers, including The New York Times, The World (New York), the New York Journal, and The Boston Globe.

Dr Riffenburgh's book The photographs of HG Ponting, written in conjunction with Dr Elizabeth Cruwys, was published in November 1998. Drs Cruwys and Riffenburgh then edited a new edition of Ponting's classic work The great white south, which was due to be published late in 1999. Dr Riffenburgh also served as a member of the editorial board for the major publication The Literature of Travel and Exploration, due to be published in 2000.

Dr Riffenburgh gave invited lectures or papers at the University of London, New York University, the State University of New York, and Boston College. In January 1999 he lectured about exploration on an Antarctic cruise.

Maria Pia Casarini-Wadhams (research student) continued her research for her doctoral thesis entitled 'Lady Jane Franklin and her role in the Franklin searches, 1848-1860.' Ms Casarini-Wadhams delivered a Saturday night lecture at the Institute in the centennial series, on the 1899-1900 expedition by Luigi Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of the Abruzzi, from Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa towards the North Pole, which achieved a farthest north of 8634'. She was also an invited lecturer at the 1999 Orkney Science Festival, speaking on 'Lady Franklin's journey, 1849' at Orphir, Orkney, on 6 September 1999. This talk was based on the diary kept during a visit to Orkney and Shetland in order to seek first-hand news of the early searches for Sir John Franklin's lost ships Erebus and Terror.