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Polar Bytes - No. 16, September 2000

Polar Bytes - No. 16, September 2000

A word from our Chairman, Philippa Foster Back

Welcome back after the summer. We have a bumper pack with this month's Polar Bytes, including the lecture list for this autumn term so do please put the dates into your diaries.

Anne Millar, who has made a great contribution to the Friends as our Secretary, has sadly tendered her resignation. Much of the Friends expansion has been due to her and I am sure you will join with me in thanking her.

In searching for a new Secretary I would invite any interested local Cambridge residents to please contact me via the SPRI.

Regarding the proposed Arctic trip in the Summer of 2001, I have negotiated a discount for Friends of 25% (excluding flight) with the Abercrombie & Kent Cruise No.119 on the Explorer which leaves Longyearbyen, Svalbard on 27th July 2001 and return to Tromso on 11th August. The following cruise No.120 leaves Tromso, and arrives in Dundee on 23rd August. Charles Swithinbank will be one of the lecturers. If anyone is interested please let me know. I have provisionally reserved 20 places and have a limited number of brochures available, if you are unable to get one.

Cost per person US$ with discount (twin sharing):

Lowest Deck Next Up
(Explorer) (Yacht)
6,255 7,035 Cruise 119
3,404 3,828 Cruise 120

Thank you to the UK members who returned the Gift Aid forms. We are reviewing the purchase of a new membership database package which will result in everyone being allocated a membership number and a card. This will be progressed over the autumn.

I was sad to hear the news that our Friend Harding Dunnet, founder of the James Caird Society, died on 22 April 2000 age 91 years. His Memorial was at Dulwich College in the Old Chapel on 6 June 2000.

Below, sadly, is Philippa Smith's last contribution as Picture Library Manager, as she leaves the Institute on the 18th September to join the Press Office of the University. I should like to take this opportunity not only to wish Philippa well in her new role but to thank and congratulate her for putting the SPRI Picture Library so firmly on the international map - the Library now makes a significant contribution to the Institute's funds and we wish Philippa's assistant Lucy Martin every success as she takes on the role of Acting Picture Library Manager.

Committee Membership

It is that time of year again when I would call upon anyone interested in putting their names forward to stand for the Committee to do so.In December the two Committee members standing down are Derek Fordham and myself. Should you wish to stand or to nominate someone please, as per Article 5(v) of our Constitution, send the nomination, accompanied by the name and address of the nominee, with a letter of agreement to stand and the names and addresses of two proposers, with the letters of proposal. Please could you send these letters, addressed to me c/o the Institute, to arrive no later than Friday October 27th 2000. The nominations will be considered by the Committee in early November.

Picture Library, by Philippa Smith

The Picture Library has been involved in a number of projects, which are now coming to fruition. The National Maritime Museum have used many of our images, both in their new exhibition which opened on 13 September and in the accompanying book. We have also supplied material for exhibits at the Oates Museum, the Discovery Museum at Dundee, and Dulwich College; as well as for the several forthcoming Shackleton documentaries and the Imax film. It is wonderful to see our photographs getting so much 'airing', and with the likely upsurge in polar interest following all these new ventures, the demand is likely to continue.

Conservation work has continued; all film stock is now transferred to archival boxes, the majority of the lantern slides have been wrapped, catalogued and stored, all glass negatives and many of the older acetate negatives have been wrapped. All our large collections are now listed, and many of these lists as well as the contents lists from many of the albums can also be found on the Picture Library database, on the world wide web.

As always, many thanks are due to the volunteers who have contributed so much to this work. David Powell, Ailsa McQueen, Angela Haines, Winifred Ware, Anne Todd, Sally Stonehouse (who has got to grips with the video collection) and John Reid have all done so much to help us, and we are very grateful.

On a personal note - I shall be leaving the SPRI during September and Lucy Martin will be taking over the reins for the time being. I am very grateful to Philippa Foster Back and the Friends, for the support which I have been given while getting the Picture Library 'up and running'. I am leaving at a time of healthy public interest in all things polar; there are several new, major 'projects' in the air, so there is every reason to believe that the Picture Library will continue to thrive and help promote awareness of SPRI and its resources. I wish the Institute and the Friends every good luck as they move towards the many 'Polar Centenary' years ahead.

Polar Paraphernalia

The AGM is on Saturday 18 November following the Sir Vivian Fuchs, a celebration at 5pm. The buffet supper will start after the AGM.

Don't forget the museum shop catalogue has books for sale etc and Friends teeshirts and sweatshirts. It may also help with Christmas presents for friends and family.

Please note that the book "The Race to the White Continent" by Alan Gurney is not available until the end of October (flyer enclosed with this mailing) and orders should not be sent until then.

Membership Matters, by Jennifer Dale

Welcome to any new members - it is lovely to have you on board. Christmas is not far away and if you know anyone who is interested in joining the Friends then membership could be a suitable Christmas present that will last throughout the whole year.

Thank you to all those kind members who have sent me Gift Aid forms, automatically paid their subscriptions to me without having to be reminded, and sent their new banker's order forms back to me - it does save on postage costs. Also thanks to Anne Todd and Angela Haines for help with the mailings - additional help welcome.

Also a big thank you to Dr Hal Lister who has given us a very generous donation to our funds.

Lastly to Anne Millar for her help and support which I really appreciated and will miss so very much.

If you have any queries regarding your membership I can be contacted 9-12 Monday to Friday on 01223 336562 or email

Museum and Archives, by Bob Headland

Gifts of many things are received on many occasions by the museum including a very interesting pair of cymbals with the following description: "Present for crew steam yacht Morning National Anartic (sic) Expedition by R and H Green". These were acquired by David Wilson. Morning was one of the relief ships on Scott's first Antarctic expedition 1901 - 1904. The curator tested the cymbals and many of the staff were of the opinion their resonance enabled them to be heard from one end of the library to the other!

The Oral History Programme, by William Mills

Too many fascinating stories about events and personalities contributing to the science and history of the polar regions are preserved only in memory and not on paper. If nothing is done these will be lost. The Oral History Programme is the Institute's continuing campaign to record this disappearing history.

Thanks to the generous grant of £3200 from the Thriplow Charitable Trust, we have been able to employ Pam Davis as Oral History Co-ordinator, a task requiring enthusiasm, energy and powers of organisation, all three of which Pam possesses in great quantity. As a result, the programme has made great strides over the summer with interviews carried out with Colin Bertram, Ken Blaiklock, Bernard Stonehouse and Kevin Walton, and further interviews scheduled with Ray Adie, John Heap, Sir Martin Holdgate, and Harry King. Together with those carried out previously, these represent the proverbial 'tip of the iceberg' and we are very much aware of the need to record the memories of all who have spent time in the polar regions, have contributed to their history, and have stories to tell. Are you one of these? If so, please let us know.

The programme relies very heavily on volunteer labour and we have been particularly fortunate with our interviewers. Charles Swithinbank, Bernard Stonehouse, Simon Ommanney, and David Walton have undertaken the bulk of recent and planned interviews. Our camera team also consists of volunteers, newly trained by Christopher Warren: Mary Ledzion, Lucy Martin, and Isona Shibata (Hilary's daughter).

In addition to ideas for people to interview, the programme is always looking for help: camera operators, researchers, interviews, and yes - money, to help keep the programme running. If you would like to help in any way, please contact Pam or myself.

Public Lectures: Questionnaire Results

At last year's AGM, an undertaking was made to conduct another questionnaire to find the most suitable time to hold these lectures which for many of you are your main contact with the Institute. Although primarily concerned with timing and choice of day, suggestions were also invited on possible lecturers and topics. In all 68 responses were received. Very few respondents preferred another day to Saturday, with many stating explicitly that Saturday was their preferred day or that no other day was possible for them.

Timing is more controversial with so may Friends travelling from a distance and finding the current time of 20.00 late. However, yet again 20.00 was the most popular time (20 first choice, 3 second), followed by 15.00 (10 first choice, 1 second). Interestingly, quite a few of those expressing a preference for 20.00, travel from considerable distances, there being a less clear relationship between distance travelled and time preferred than might have been anticipated. Clearly, however, there are also many Friends for whom early afternoon events are more convenient. To meet both needs, where possible, William will try to arrange 'polar half-days' with an afternoon event followed by an evening lecture (see 18 November). William would also like to thank all those returning questionnaires, especially those taking the trouble to offer useful advice for future lectures.