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Polar Bytes - No. 44 - July 2007

Polar Bytes - No. 44 - July 2007

From the Chairman, Robin Back:

The first instalment
© Celene Pickard

Although our Lent term lecture series may have finished, it doesn't seem as though life at the Friends has slowed at all! The exhibition of Seago Antarctic paintings from the collection of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh at Bonhams was rated a great success not least by those who attended and enjoyed the several receptions. The Friends are particularly grateful to Orient Lines for their sponsorship of the Friends champagne reception on the penultimate evening, attended by Friends and other guests. The opportunity was also taken to present our Director with the first of (we hope) many contributions to the new Museum Acquisition Fund. (see picture)

Penny Smith, GMTV Presenter & Sledger 2007
© Rolf Williams

On the 2nd of June, we held the Friends Summer Lunch at the Institute. This was counted a great success but was quite a squeeze - made more so by the new display panels in the lobby and the Shackleton Retrospective exhibition! This removed space we had previously had available so grateful thanks are due to all behind the scenes who worked so hard to make it happen despite the limitations. We were, however, unable to do all we wanted. We particularly wanted to show what our sledgers got up to and apologise to them for not being able to fit in their presentations on the day. Many thanks also to the Antarctic Adventurers who generously gave of their time and effort to show some of their equipment and polar clothing and answer our questions. Lots of points to bear in mind for next year - not least how can we fit it all in!

Summer lunch 2007
© Rolf Williams

We are now turning our attention to the Michaelmas term series of lectures, the first of which will be given by Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of the Archives on September 29th at the usual time of 7:30 PM in the Institute. Other lectures will follow at fortnightly intervals as before. One key date for your diaries is our AGM which will take place on Saturday 10th November. The lecturer on that day will be Tony Soper the well-known and very experienced author, wildlife photographer and BBC film-maker.

Several Committee members retire at the end of this year so vacancies will arise for two or three new members. Now is the time for Friends to ask themselves if they would like to become more involved with our activities and to consider joining the committee. If so, please feel free to ask for more details.

I must also mention the Antarctica: Ice & Light exhibition at the Institute from 10th July to 6th October a collection of paintings of icebergs in the Antarctic by Scottish artist Malize McBride, (details on the SPRI website) and the Family activities with which the Institute is involved - notably The Big Draw and 'pArtworks' a consequences game being organised in October. I close by wishing everybody a warm and relaxing summer - notwithstanding monsoon conditions currently showing on our TV screens!

From the Institute

A few words from the Director, Julian Dowdeswell:

May and June are always busy months in the Institute. Our own M.Phil. students are finishing their masters degree dissertations and the undergraduates that we teach are taking their end-of-year or final examinations. This means a good deal of marking, as SPRI courses in years two and three are popular, and the first year paper we set is taken by 105 students. Graduation is, of course, a big day for the students, and many of us attend the ceremony and lunches that follow for the proud families.

Now that this part of our teaching is completed for the year, we turn to field and laboratory research once more. I will be going to West Greenland in late August to join the RRS James Clark Ross. This year, in collaboration with Colm O'Cofaigh, a former Post-Doctoral Research Associate at SPRI and now a Reader in Durham University, we will be working on the Greenland continental shelf and out into the deep waters of Baffin Bay. The research includes taking sediment cores to date past ice advances across the shelf, together with several geophysical methods to image the submarine glacial landforms and underlying geological structure of the shelf and slope that has been sculpted by glacial action over the past few million years. Several SPRI post-doctoral workers and research students will also be on the cruise, some to work up data subsequently and others to gain experience in marine-geophysical data acquisition. We will fly to Greenland from Copenhagen, and pick up the ship in Illulisat, a beautiful fishing settlement on the west coast that lies close to the fast-flowing Jakobshavn Glacier and its many icebergs.

Some of you will have seen our very successful exhibition of Edward Seago's Antarctic paintings, held at Bonhams in May and June. HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh both visited the exhibition. The Institute is very grateful to Prince Philip, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, for the loan of the paintings from his collection. I was able to announce, at the evening reception for the Friends of SPRI, that we had received a Stage One Pass and an initial grant of £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the redesign of our Polar Museum and the refurbishment of the behind-the-scenes curatorial spaces. This should pave the way for the award, under Stage 2, of what would be a grant of over 1 million pounds for this project. We now have much planning work to do before the Stage Two proposal is submitted.

Archives & Museum

From the Librarian, Mrs Heather Lane

The SPRI Museum has just been awarded a £50,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This development funding has been given to aid the preparation of a second stage bid for £1m towards the total cost of our extensive museum renovation project. The project will enable the current galleries to be stripped out and completely redesigned, with new interpretation at a range of levels, which will significantly increase our capacity for educational outreach. Our aim is to double visitor numbers within the next five years and to have the capacity to mount a large-scale exhibition to mark the centenary of Captain Scott's achievement of the Pole.

Prof. Julian Dowdeswell with Keith Shackleton's granddaughters at the opening of the artist's recent retrospective exhibition at SPRI. Note the new display panels and picture-hanging system.
Photo © Robin Back

Curatorial space will also be expanded, creating purpose built storage for the collections. For the first time, a dedicated search space for the Museum will also be open to the public. The archives strong room will be refitted with storage which meets modern standards, aiding the long term conservation of the manuscript collection. As a result of the reorganisation, items which have never before been displayed will form part of the new exhibitions and materials will be more securely housed in correct environmental conditions.

This first stage funding will allow us to employ a Project Officer to work with Estates Management, external contractors and a design team. The brief will be to draw up detailed architectural and interpretation plans in advance of a second stage funding bid early next year. We will be consulting widely with the Friends and with Museum visitors about our plans for the future. The questionnaire, to which many of the Friends kindly responded last year, was very helpful in the preparation of our audience development plan, required by the HLF. We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to contribute to the process of redesign.

We are delighted that our HLF stage one bid has been accepted (see Director's notes above), as we are now significantly closer to reaching our fundraising target. We still need to find £300,000 as our contribution towards the total cost, but the possibility of creating a museum which truly projects the importance of the polar regions in the global environment is now within our grasp. The museum refurbishment will allow us to be more flexible and creative with our exhibitions, enabling more people to enjoy our world-class collections and projecting both the history of exploration and the modern scientific work of the Institute.

Polar News

News from the Arctic:

  • Information from scientists researching the glacier-melt rates in Greenland this year underlines their continuing concern at the effects of rising global temperatures. A side effect is the increasing numbers of tourists keen to see the glaciers before they vanish. Whilst nobody is predicting instant meltdown of the whole Greenland ice mass, a growing number of experts believe the time-horizons are shortening.
  • Students of geopolitics may be aware of ongoing discussion between Canadian and Russian officials on the provenance of the Lomonosov ridge which extends from Ellesmere Island to Siberia. Under UNCLOS 1997 a country can secure rights to the seabed beyond the normal 200 mile limit if they are able to prove (within 10 years of the Treaty date) that the portion of ocean floor in question is geologically linked to their own continental shelf.

News from the Antarctic:

  • The Government of New Zealand have committed more than $NZ11 million for research into Antarctica's role in climate change. This financial boost will be spread out over the next three years.
  • The IPY 2007/8 has spawned a large number of new and reinvigorated research projects across both polar regions. 120 projects have been identified by SciencePoles covering all of the disciplines associated with climate change. It is anticipated this number will increase as the IPY progresses.

From the Secretaries

A few words from the secretaries:

We are most grateful to Adventure Fleet for supporting Polar Bytes. The Adventure Fleet operates small ship expedition cruises to Antarctica, the Arctic and other captivating destinations across the globe. Their style of expedition cruising is focussed on the destination, seeking out the remote and pristine, the spectacular and the exotic. Their support of the Friends is greatly appreciated and we have pleasure in extending their Executive Friend membership.

New Friends:

A very warm welcome is extended to all our new Friends. Membership continues to grow and from 600 at the end of last year we have now arrived at 630! To mark their appreciation of the donations (a minimum of £1,000) raised by each of this year's dog sledgers the Committee has offered one 90 Degree Club Joint Life Membership and seventeen 80 Degree Life Memberships to the 2007 Dog Sledgers.

Passing Friends:

We are very sorry to note the death of Irene Burns. Until her retirement in 2001 Irene had been the SPRI finance manager for 15 years, during which time she administered the Friends accounts and managed the Friends shop.

Some dates for your diary:

At the Institute:

10th July - 6th October 2007

Exhibition by Malize McBride of her paintings of icebergs in the Antarctic

29th September 2007 - lecture series begins

Lecture by Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Archives

Saturday 13th October 2007

'pArtworks' consequences game with Artists visiting the Institute as part of The big Draw national campaign for drawing.

Saturday 10th November 2007

Lecture by Tony Soper & AGM/Buffet Supper

index04.jpg We are most grateful to Adventure fleet for sponsoring this edition of Polar Bytes. More details at