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Polar Bytes - No. 18, April 2001

Polar Bytes - No. 18, April 2001

A word from our Chairman, Philippa Foster Back

Welcome to the Spring edition of Polar Bytes.

Firstly I should mention that is a great honour and pleasure for me to continue as your Chairman for the next two years.

I record the sad news of the death of Colin Bertram in January. Colin had a most distinguished career and served as Director of the Institute from 1949-56. His most notable expedition was to British Graham Land in 1934-37 under John Rymill. He made a great contribution over many years and is honoured by the official naming of Bertram Glacier, flowing west into George VI Sound.

Also, sadly, Silva Gethin, a staff member at SPRI for many years has recently died.

Our thoughts go out to the families.

This Spring our secretary, Ann Bean, has been getting to grips with a new Members Database, so we hope to forward new Friends membership cards to you all in due course. Ann will be handling membership matters, taking over from Jennifer Dale, who has so ably coped for the past 7 years. Jennifer will continue to act as the Friends Liaison with the Institute, to maintain that vital link. She gives us below her last report as Membership Secretary.

Some of you may be aware that the University has updated its accounting system to CAPSA. There have been a few teething problems like all new systems but the Friends now has its own unique code YQ. So please note when writing a cheque to the Friends to make it payable to "University of Cambridge - a/c YQ"

Ann, as part of a review, is checking all bankers orders that have been set up and may be in touch individually with queries.

At this point I would like to draw your attention to the questionnaire. An addressed envelope is enclosed to encourage you to respond, as we would like your ideas and thoughts on the Friends and hopefully achieve more for you.

Irene Burns, the Institute's accountant, who has in addition been a stalwart in the running of the Institute and the shop is sadly (for us) due to retire at the end of September. We are discussing the best way forward for the future management of the Shop.

You will find in this envelope a small example of the Antarctic Tartan, designed by Celtic Originals. Do please contact them to purchase the cloth, ties, scarves etc as all the profits are donated to Antarctic conservation charities and the WWF.

Friends Lunch

This is to be held at Girton College on 9th June. Please see enclosed. Following lunch there will be a performance of "A Father for my Son" by Jenny Coverak - previously performed at the Old Vic. Tea will be provided in the interval. The performance will end at 4.30pm. Do come if you can.

Forward Diary Date

AGM Saturday 17th November 2001

Library by William Mills

Discovery centenary

Captain Scott's first Antarctic expedition sailed in the Dundee-built Discovery on 6 August 1901. 100 years on, this epoch-making event is being celebrated up and down the United Kingdom, most notably in Dundee where Discovery now resides. In order not to direct attention away from Dundee, no major exhibition is planned at the Institute but instead two lectures will be given in the Michaelmas Public Lecture series: one devoted to Scott's Discovery expedition and the second to the contemporary German expedition led by Erich von Drygalski, this latter lecture being made possible through the assistance of the German Embassy. On the one hand, the mounting of these two expeditions reflected national rivalries at this time; on the other, their planning exhibited a degree of scientific collaboration unmatched in the Antarctic until the International Geophysical Year. The Institute is also participating in a commemorative event to be held in the autumn at the Royal Geographical Society. Further details will be provided in the next Polar Bytes.

Two previously unknown Wilson watercolours acquired by the Institute

Edward Wilson, who died with Captain Scott returning from the South Pole in 1912, was a consummate and prolific artist. Thanks to the generosity of the Wilson family, the Institute already holds the largest collection of his work in public ownership, other substantial collections being held by Cheltenham Museum and the Royal Geographical Society. Last year, with the assistance of Dr David Wilson, Edward Wilson's great-nephew, a number of watercolours and drawings previously on display in Edward Wilson House at the Guild of Health in London were transferred to the Institute. To this important acquisition may now be added a further two watercolours, both painted during Scott's first expedition, which have been purchased recently from a private owner. One painting bears on its reverse the text 'Mt. Erebus & Castle Rock, Aug. 16 '02. Midday'. It is unsigned but clearly by Wilson. The other is inscribed 'Cape Anne - Coulman Island, Jan. 13 1902' and is signed 'E.A.W.' Both are in excellent condition. The Institute is very grateful to Mr Tom Digges La Touche, whose generous donation enabled this significant purchase to be made.

The paintings have been acquired in time to be included in the forthcoming publication Discovery Illustrated, edited from the journals of Edward Wilson and Reginald Skelton by David Wilson and Judy Skelton and illustrated by paintings and photographs made respectively by Wilson and Skelton.

Important Soviet polar archive on temporary loan

Aleksey Fedorovich Treshnikov was one of the leading scientists working in the polar regions during the Soviet era and was for many years director of the Arctic and Antarctic Institute, St Petersburg. Materials from the very substantial Treshnikov archive have been generously lent to the Institute.

Treshnikov's involvement in the polar regions stretched back to 1940-41 when he wintered in the New Siberian Islands. He was subsequently involved in defence of the Northern Sea Route during World War II, before participating in the 1948 Soviet expedition to the North Pole and thus quite possibly being one of the first men to stand at the North Pole. In the 1950s he was station leader on the North Pole-3 drifting ice station in the Arctic Ocean before leading the Second Soviet Antarctic Expedition. He remained active in polar matters until the 1980s.

The material lent includes a flag - purportedly the first flown over Vostok station, where the world's coldest temperature was recorded (-89.2ºC.) - Treshnikov's personal journals, and many photographs including albums depicting the Arctic voyages of Sibiryakov and Chelyushkin in the 1930s. An exhibit is currently being prepared in the Friends' Room.

Publications by Friends

Some recommendations for your library. These are some recent publications by Friends. If you too have written a recent book, please write to Institute Librarian, William Mills.

  • Joseph Macdowall - On floating ice: two years on an Antarctic ice-shelf south of 75ºS. Edinburgh: Pentland Press, 1999. (ISBN 1858217202).
  • Neville Shulman - Some like it cold. Chichester: Summersdale, 2001. (ISBN 184024142X).

Please also see the two enclosed flyers.

A word from Jennifer Dale, Membership Secretary:

I have now finished working as the Membership Secretary after 7 years and I am handing you over the Ann Bean, who I know will perform the task admirably.

Historically this job was part of the position of the Director's Assistant. I have worked as a secretary at the Institute since January 1994 and began the Friends work as a temporary measure during the autumn of that year and it just continued!

Now that the work has increased I don't feel that I can give so much time to it as I have in the past. We have a 1000acre farm of arable and livestock 6 miles SW of Cambridge, I have 3 children one still at University, my mother is in poor health, so I am kept busy enough with family commitments.

I have got to know so many of you over the years and can often remember your addresses by heart. I shall still see you when you visit the Institute but I am now leaving you in Ann's capable hands.