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Polar Bytes - No. 13, October 1999

Polar Bytes - No. 13, October 1999

A word from our Chairman, Philippa Foster Back

Well what a sale! Our thanks go to the many who brought the Christies' sale to the public's attention and our stars of screen and radio. Many items were saved for the Nation as a consequence.

In December Tony Billinghurst and Peter Speak retire from our Committee, having both worked tirelessly for many years. Under our Constitution, Article 5(v), I would like to invite nominations from Members. Each nomination should be accompanied by the name and address of the nominee, the names and addresses of two seconders and a letter of agreement to serve from the nominee. Please could such letters reach our Secretary, Anne Millar, no later than 17 November, in order that the Committee may consider them prior to the AGM.

On Wednesday 29 September a meeting was held at the Royal Geographical Society to commemorate the life of Alfred Stephenson ('Steve') who sadly died recently.

Tributes were paid by Colin Bertram, who journeyed with Steve on the British Graham Land Expedition; David Drewry, Derek Fordham, John Mitchell (ex RAF), Bob Schroter (Imperial College, Ted Gray (Young Explorers Trust) and Nigel Winser (RGS).

Each spoke very movingly of their memories of Steve and the great contribution he made in many facets of life. He made a difference to the lives of many and was truly a remarkable man.

We send our condolences to the family of David Smith, the artist, who sadly died during September. He was a great supporter of the Institute and will be missed but he has left us many beautiful paintings for us to remember him by.

Polar Paraphernalia, by Anne Millar

AGM, 20 November 1999

With this newsletter you will receive details of the AGM followed as usual by a Buffet Supper. Tickets are 8 to include wines or fruit juice. We do hope to see many Friends on this evening and to hear David Wilson's interesting lecture on "Edward Wilson of the Antarctic". Final date for ticket applications is Tuesday 16 November. We regret no applications can be processed after this date.

Christmas Card

We are enclosing a complimentary SPRI Christmas card for your use together with a form should you need further supplies. This is a splendid picture taken by the Librarian, William Mills, whilst in Antarctica earlier this year. Details can also be found on our website:

The Institute has been pleased to see Capt Joe Wubbold on a return visit, albeit a short one and he has contributed a short piece for this Polar Bytes.

A final thought; our membership is flourishing and is close to 500, we are delighted to welcome any new members - we just need a few more to make it a Millennium 500! Please contact Jennifer Dale, (see below).

Membership Matters, by Jennifer Dale

I heard the sad news today that Life Member, Mrs Dorothy Laurie died on 28 September. She was the wife of Alec Laurie who served with the Discovery investigation in 1930-33. Dorothy subsequently assisted as a volunteer in invigilating the Institute's museum for some years and was also responsible for passing many of her husband's papers to the Institute's archives. Her funeral was held on 7 October in Cambridge.

I am pleased to say that membership has increased and most of those that pay by subscription have renewed without me sending out costly reminders. Don't forget that an annual subscription would make an unusual Christmas or birthday present for those who are interested in polar matters. I can be contacted on 01223 336562 in the mornings and on e-mail

Capt Joe Wubbold writes:

Although it does not seem like it, almost a year has passed since we began accepting the Shackleton Memorial Library in stages from the builder, Haymills. I have returned to Cambridge to do the final inspection, which must be completed before the end of September 1999. I have completed that inspection, written my report for the architect and the contractor, and have been supervising the completion of the items on that report as well as the other snagging lists that have been generated by our architect, John Miller and Partners of London, and the consultants.

The major items that require remedial action are the wood block deck in the Friends Room and the rotunda, and the correction of water leakage into the watertight envelope in the new basement. I am most disappointed that both of these things happened, and am working with all of our contractors and consultants to make sure that both of these deficiencies are corrected, and at no cost to the Institute. Of course, there is a cost in aggravation and disruption. However, all hands have accepted the situation with the flexibility that has characterised all of our efforts together, as we built the Library and now as we go through this last period.

None of the above detracts from my pride in what we did together every time I look at the building from Lensfield Road, or at the engraved stones over the entrance to the Friends Room or the glass doors that were the gifts of the Friends. It is a remarkable building, and a very seamanlike building in design and function. The sailors for whom the Institute and its Library are named would have enjoyed working here, as I do.

Mary did not come with me - she asks me to send on her greetings to all Friends. The gifts from the Friends are in our home on Vashon Island, constant reminders of our time in Cambridge.

We hope that the next time we come to Cambridge it will coincide with a function of the Friends. In the meantime, I write this some time before it will appear in print, and by the time you read this, the Friends Room will be back in commission, for your use.

Written at 5 bells of the afternoon watch.

Friends on the Internet, by Oliver Merrington

The Friends now have their own space on the SPRI website via: You can read Polar Bytes on the Internet and find out information about the work of the Institute. If you have any suggestions about new additions to the webspace, please contact the SPRI Website Manager.