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Polar Bytes - No. 26, April 2003

Polar Bytes - No. 26, April 2003

A few words from the Chairman, David Wilson:

Great changes are taking place at the Institute. Our new Director, Julian Dowdeswell, is expanding the Institute's Polar research programme and exciting plans are also developing in the Library, Archives and Museum.

The Friends, of course, are a powerhouse of support for many of these programmes. A visitor to the Institute will often find Friends volunteers helping the various librarians and archivists, very often cataloguing donations of Polar material from Friends; and our financial contribution to these bodies continues to be around £5k per year. This is in addition to such sums as the £10k recently donated to purchase important archival material. That the Friends are able to play such a central role in the life of the Institute is due both to the unfailing support of each and every one of you and to the dynamic leadership of Philippa Foster Back as chairman. It is almost impossible to find adequate words to thank Philippa for the astonishing amount of work that she put towards developing the Friends into the flourishing organisation that we are today. Needless to say, her example is a challenging one to follow. I am determined, however, to continue strengthening the Friends as an organisation for Polar enthusiasts and to continue increasing our support for the Institute. It is the latter, of course, that is our primary raison d'être and I sometimes think that we all too easily lose sight of it and forget to encourage each other's efforts. To these ends, I hope to see many of you at the Summer Lunch, which helps to raise money for the Friends as well as being a wonderful Polar social! By holding the Lunch at the Institute this year we have managed to reduce the ticket price and increase the amount coming into the Friends coffers - a neat trick, I hope you will agree!

Whilst we digest our lunch, we will all doubtless be discussing bright ideas for the future - at least, I hope so - as it is ringing with the challenge of fresh opportunity. It is nearly fifty years since the last great Polar Year, which saw a huge scientific undertaking, as well as Bunny Fuchs and his team crossing Antarctica. It has recently been announced that the year 2006-2007 will be the next International Polar Year and I am sure that we will all want to see the Friends and the Institute make pivotal contributions to it.

In the meantime, I urge all of you to continue your active recruitment of new Friends, as a part of our 'Friends find a Friend' campaign. Those of us who can afford to might also consider increasing their subscription to the Friends above the small sum requested. Numerous Friends already do this and it is a very useful addition to Friends funds.

All support for the Institute, whether through financial generosity, donations of material, or volunteering, is greatly appreciated and I both thank you for your existing Friendship and look forward to our continuing work.

A few words from the Librarian and Keeper of Collections, William Mills:

Archives Hub: a progress report

Friends will know that the Institute possesses a matchless Archive but how do you know exactly what is in it? Up until now, you will have been referred to the catalogue of manuscripts compiled in 1982 by then Archivist Clive Holland. This is a wonderful work of reference but SPRI has received many collections since and, of course, not every library has a copy of Clive's catalogue. Soon you will be able to use the Internet to see descriptions - not yet the originals - of our very extensive Antarctic collections. The Arctic collections will follow so long as we are successful with our application to continue the project. The work is being carried out by Naomi Boneham, Assistant Archivist, with the help of Rebecca Stancombe, Librarian's Secretary.

To see the SPRI holdings, enter the Archives Hub home page ( Here you will read the Hub's description of itself as "A national gateway to descriptions of archives in UK universities and colleges". "UK universities and colleges" is underlined. Click on this and you will see the option "Browse repositories". Click on the down arrow and look for "Cambridge: Scott Polar". Select this. At the time of writing (March 2003), Naomi has created 500 descriptions of which 59 have been loaded onto Archives Hub. More descriptions will follow at a rate of 30 per week, or as many as the Hub staff can handle. Our target for the end of the first year (August) is 1,000 descriptions. If we succeed in this, it will mean that the Antarctic entries are virtually complete. Rebecca's task has been to write brief biographies for the many individuals represented in the collections. As you may imagine, some of these are well-known, while others are obscure. The biographies alone will be a valuable resource, often the only reliable source of information for these persons on the Internet, while Naomi's descriptions of the collections should transform the means by which historians of polar science and exploration pursue their research.

If you would like to know more about this project, please contact me by letter or e-mail (

A few words from Duncan Lawie on the Friends Cruise:

November 16th, the day of the last Friends AGM, saw 6 Friends dining together whilst sailing across a calm Scotia Sea (we drank a toast to our absent Friends!). We were full of high spirits having spent several fantastic days at South Georgia with blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately, technical problems with the ship meant the cancellation of the remainder of the cruise shortly after our 'Friends evening' but the company were generous with their compensation and several of us plan to return South next season instead.

A few words from the Secretary, Ann Bean:

We are pleased to announce that the Museum/Shop will be opening on Saturdays, for a trial period of 6 months, as from Saturday 26th April - during which time it will be closed on Mondays.

Celebrating the William Spiers Bruce centenary

Exhibitions are running until June at the Institute and the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.

Peter Speak, an Institute member and a Friend, has recently published his book "William Speirs Bruce - Polar Explorer and Scottish Nationalist", which is available from the Institute shop.

Terry Lay, a Friend, has very kindly donated four sets of signed British Antarctic Territory First Day Covers, commemorating the centenary of the Scotia Expedition under William Speirs Bruce. These are signed by Russ Jarvis, Acting Governor Falklands, Gerry Burgan - Capt of James Clark Ross and Mike Skidmore - the stamp artist. We will be raffling one set at the Lunch and the others are offered for sale at £50 each, on a first come first serve basis.

We still have a couple of the British Antarctic Discovery centenary First Day Covers available at £50 each.

If you are interested in either set please contact me on 01895 271141 or .

Looking for volunteers

Julia Korner (a Friend and the daughter of Andrew Croft) is planning to cycle across France to raise money for the Andrew Croft Memorial Fund. The fund exists to support expeditions to the Polar Regions. Julia is looking for volunteers to cycle with her - the trip is expected to last four weeks from mid September to early October. Any amount of time you are able to give would be very deeply appreciated. For further details please contact Julia on or telephone her on +44 (0)208 747 1652

I would be most grateful for help collating future issues of Polar Bytes. If you live in the vicinity of the Institute and would be willing to help in this way please let me know.

It was suggested at a recent Committee Meeting that we should consider sending Polar Bytes by email to those Friends who have the technology. If you would be interested in receiving your copy in this way please send your email address, together with your name and membership number to

The British Post Office is releasing a set of 6 stamps on 29th April 2003, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Conquest of Everest. The set is called 'Extreme Endeavours' and features stamps of Shackleton (42p) and Scott (68p) and other British Explorers.

The BBC recently reported:

"A colossal squid has been caught in Antarctic waters, the first example of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni retrieved virtually intact from the surface of the ocean. All we knew prior to this specimen coming through was that the animal lived in the abyssal environment down in the Antarctic. Now we know that it is moving through the water column, right up to the surface and it grows to a spectacular size." said New Zealand squid expert Dr Steve O'Shea.

For more information see:

Dates for the Diary:

  • Summer Lunch Saturday 7th June 2003
  • AGM & Supper Saturday 16th Nov 2003