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Polar Bytes - No. 20, October 2001

Polar Bytes - No. 20, October 2001

A word from our Chairman, Philippa Foster Back:

I begin with exciting news regarding the Christie's sale, thanks to many generous donations (see below). It demonstrates that the Nation does care that such important material is kept for all to see and share. This is an important aspect of the Institute's work which is underlined in the launch of the appeal to create a Scott Polar Research Institute Fund. I hope that you enjoyed reading the brochure you were recently sent and will feel able to contribute, all donations will be most welcome to this worthy cause.

Our congratulations go to Professor Julian Dowdeswell who has just been appointed to the new Chair of Physical Geography. Julian, formerly on the staff of the Institute, is returning to Cambridge from Bristol where he was Professor of Geography and Director of the Glaciological Centre.

You will find included in this envelope an example of this year's Christmas card. This will allow you to see what a beautiful card it is, as we know that photocopies of previous years' cards did not always do them justice! I hope this may encourage you to purchase some, on the attached form, from the Institute - I am sure your friends will be pleased to receive such a card in this the Centenary Year of Scott's 1901 expedition.

The Shop

The Friends are about to become responsible for the shop. A shop assistant/museum attendant is being appointed to run the shop from Tuesday to Saturday afternoons. The shop itself will be located to the right of the Museum entrance. Any suggestions for merchandise would be welcome, please send these to Ann Bean.

Nominations for the Committee

This December Pam Davis and Charles Swithinbank both retire by rotation from the Committee. I should like to thank both of them for their tireless support of the Friends and their ideas which have helped to further our work. I am therefore seeking nominations. Should you wish to nominate someone, please, per Article 5(v) of our constitution, send Ann Bean a letter of nomination with the name and address of an additional seconder together with a letter from the nominee giving their agreement to serve on the Committee.

Please forward such nominations to Ann Bean by October 31st. Nominations may be sent by email with the paperwork following thereafter. The email address is


I look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it to the AGM - there is a busy day organised, as you will have noted in the last Polar Bytes. Should anyone have any items that they wish to add to the Agenda, please let Ann Bean know by November 15th.

A Word from the Keeper and Librarian, William Mills

The following press release was issued by the Institute on 26 September:

Shackleton papers acquired for the nation

We are pleased to inform you that with considerable assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust and the Institute's own MacDonald Fund, the Scott Polar Research Institute has been successful in acquiring the Endurance diary of Dr Alexander Hepburne Macklin (Christie's, lot 195) and the Archive of Shackleton's Quest expedition (lot 232), at the Christie's Polar Sale in London on 25 September 2001.

Macklin's diary covers the period from the abandonment of Shackleton's ship Endurance in October 1915 through to his return to London. It is one of the most important sources on the period during which the expedition was forced to live on an Antarctic ice flow through to Elephant Island, when Macklin was one of twenty-two marooned on this exceptionally desolate island for 105 days whilst Shackleton famously went for help in South Georgia. The Quest Archive includes Shackleton's death certificate and Macklin's description of his death in a large collection of papers from Shackleton's comparatively little-known last expedition. With these papers in the Institute's Archives, there will be every opportunity for historians to gain a clearer understanding of this still under-appreciated expedition. Robert Dufton, Head of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: "The National Heritage Memorial Fund is delighted to have been able to help the Scott Polar Research Institute to acquire such important historical records from these Antarctic expeditions. Shackleton's heroic leadership is well known and inspires us all today. The Macklin Diary and Archive illustrate the steadfastness and courage of all men who took part in the Polar expeditions of 1915 and 1921."

We wish to thank all those whose help enabled us to make these purchases.

Retirement of Ron Wilbraham as Honorary Map Curator

After twelve years of tireless industry among the Institute's very extensive map collection, Ron is moving to Ely from where he will no longer be able to look after our maps. Ron also scans The Times each day for articles of polar relevance, which we photocopy and keep in the Archives.

Ron's going will leave the Institute a much emptier place. Famed for his cheery personality and loud head-teacher's voice, Ron's finest moments include helping William Mills to coordinate the Polar Pictures competition for primary-school children - the prize was a flight in Dan Weinstein's plane! - and the amazing headgear he wore as master of ceremonies at one of the Institute's many parties. Ron will be very much missed but we wish him and Betty a very happy 'further' retirement in Ely, where we hope that he will not get up to too much mischief!


Do you have a love of maps? Do you enjoy looking through newspapers? If you do, you can help us. To look after the map collection, you would need to live locally. Anyone, anywhere can help with scanning newspapers and we are interested in all newspapers and not just The Times. If you think that you might be able to help in either of these ways, please contact William Mills to find out what you might be letting yourself in for. Tel. 01223-336557; e-mail

Friends' AGM

In the knowledge that for many Friends the AGM is the one opportunity to make use of the Library, it will be open on Saturday 17 November from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. Anyone wishing to make use of it, should first contact William Mills for arrangements. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to allow access to any materials in the Archives.

A word from our Secretary, Ann Bean

My apologies to those of you I have been bothering with queries concerning payment by Banker's Orders and my thanks to those of you who have already replied. I am gathering all the information together and hopefully will be able to report back shortly that all the queries have been sorted!

Following my request in the last issue for volunteers to act as area contacts I have had two offers - one from Cambridge and one from Holt - are there any more?

Diary Dates:

On Tuesday 19th March 2002 a special event is being held in Plymouth to mark the city's association with Scott. At 1.00pm, at the Plymouth City Museum, there will be a lecture by Dr David Wilson. (Further details in the next Polar Bytes)