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Polar Bytes - No. 53, October 2009

Polar Bytes - No. 53, October 2009

From the Chairman, Robin Back

Dear Friends,

The developments at the Institute are going well as described in more detail elsewhere in this issue. The impact for this year however on our AGM arrangements is such that no part of it is available to us. You can see why from the photos below!

"Spirit of Enderby" in the Ross Sea
"Spirit of Enderby" in the Ross Sea

Enclosed are several flyers starting with details of Pen Hadow's lecture and where to get tickets. Next is notice of the AGM, the Agenda and order form for buffet tickets as well as last year's minutes for perusal. We shall hold the Friends AGM in the BMS Lecture Theatre after Pen Hadow's lecture at 18:30. There is one committee vacancy arising this year as Celene Pickard's tenure comes to an end so a Committee nomination form is also enclosed. We have NOT lost our post-AGM buffet which will be held in the BMS Theatre after our AGM is complete. Please do take advantage to stay a little longer and meet new people. Tickets from Celene on the form enclosed.

Arctic Sledging
Warning: This can become addictive!

Also included are details of the Friends Centennial voyage to the Ross Sea in January 2011. This replaces the voyage on the Kapitan Khlebnikov which fell through. We have reserved a number of places on the Spirit of Enderby through Heritage Expeditions of Christchurch NZ, and their UK agents, Discover the World. If this appeals to you, I suggest an early enquiry as 20% of the places have already been taken!

For our dog-sledgers and indeed for all members, there is a special letter seeking your support in discovering the sledgers of the future. We have arranged another sledgers evening at Dyers Hall in London on the 8th December when full details of the 2010 sledging adventure will be set out and we shall be ready to sign up next year's participants. For more details please get in touch with Celene. At this point we record a specially huge vote of thanks to sledger Jennifer Murray's superhuman efforts in the Namib desert! She has raised over £13,000 for us!

As Polar Bytes goes to press, HMS Endurance' replacement on the Southern patrol, HMS Scott, is on sea trials working up to her South Atlantic deployment. The Friends planned visit to the ship in Plymouth on 16th October is over-subscribed but do stay in touch with Celene in case of cancellations.

In advance of this, your chairman hosted a 'Captain's Lunch' at Dyers Hall with past Captains of HMS Endurance and past chairs of the Friends on the 29th September. Sadly Captain Gary Hesling RN, CO of HMS Scott, was at sea but we were able to receive Commodores Nick Lambert RN, and Bob Tarrant RN and Commander Tom Sharpe RN, (CO HMS Endurance) with Lt. Rolf Williams RNR in support. The photograph shows the party in front of one of the swan murals in Dyers Hall painted by Sir Peter Scott in 1952.

Finally, there is a more detailed list of this coming term's lectures for your information. As you know these are free and we welcome not only our Friends but also guests. So feel free to bring the topics to the attention of those you feel would be interested.

'Captain's Lunch'

From l to r: Commodores Bob Tarrant RN and Nick Lambert RN, Lt Rolf Williams
RNR, Julian Dowdeswell, SPRI, Celene Pickard, Robin Back, Friends, Heather Lane
SPRI, Philippa Foster-Back UKAHT, & Commander Tom Sharpe RN (HMS Endurance)

The Institute

From the Director, Julian Dowdeswell

"James Clark Ross" in Disko Bay
RRS James Clark Ross in Disko Bay off Ilulissat, 200 km north of
the Arctic Circle in West Greenland, during summer 2009.

I am writing this piece from Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen, at 78°13'N. The long Arctic days of summer are replaced rapidly by the onset of the polar night at this time of year. Several inches of snow fell overnight, and this morning is wonderfully clear, with views across Isfjorden to the mountains beyond. The Swedish research icebreaker, Odun, came in during the morning from work in the sea ice north of Svalbard. We are co-operating with colleagues at Stockholm University to merge marine-geophysical data collected from Odun and the UK's ice-strengthened research vessel, James Clark Ross. These data, taken together, will help us to understand the nature of past ice-sheet growth across the Yermak Plateau, north-west of Svalbard.

During the summer, I spent a month aboard the James Clark Ross offshore of West Greenland, investigating the past growth and decay of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The ship has a crew of 29 and there were an additional eleven scientists on board. The detailed shape of the sea floor and the stratigraphy, or 'layer-cake' structure, of the underlying sediments were studied using geophysical methods, and the glacial sediments were also sampled using a coring device. Extensive surveys were undertaken on the West Greenland continental shelf, which is up to 700m deep, and in the deeper waters of Baffin Bay to the west. We also spent about seven days in Disko Bay and the more northerly Umanak Fjord system.

Track of the "James Clark Ross"
Track of the RRS James Clark Ross

When we finished our work, in early September, it was an eight day journey back to the UK from 68°N offshore of West Greenland. The weather during our scientific investigations had been almost perfect; calm and clear. The return trip around Cape Farewell at the southern tip of Greenland and across the north Atlantic south of Iceland was marked by gales and rough seas.

The New Polar Musuem

Robert Smith, Project Manager, SPRI development

It has been a very hectic and rather disruptive summer for all of us at SPRI.

The ground cleared
The ground cleared

The builders, ISG Cathedral, moved into the building on 13 July and it was not long before we were subjected to the first of several days of what one colleague called 'the re-enactment of the siege of Stalingrad'! The alterations to the building, indeed the structure of the building itself, proved to be a lot harder than expected and the demolition crew brought in the 'big guns' resulting in major noise and vibration. The heavy work involved taking down a short section of concrete wall and taking up the floor.

Opening the front door
A historic moment!
Our Librarian opens the front door!

Thankfully, this stage did not last too long and work is now well under way to rebuild the museum to our new designs. What is truly amazing is the opening up of the space and the feeling that we are beginning to move toward our vision for the new museum. The old entrance on Lensfield Road has been opened up and new steps to bring visitors into the museum are being created as I write this. We are also taking advantage of the building work to install a new heating system to the original 1934 building – something which has been sorely needed.

Work has gone on apace with the development of the new displays for the museum and this part of the work will be tendered in late September. The major building work, to make ready for the installation of the showcases and fittings, will be completed by Christmas. The internal work to create the new museum itself will, we hope, begin at the start of the new year.

Internal partitions removed
Internal partitions removed

At the moment, we are busy writing all the new interpretive texts for the museum, as well as all the captions for each individual object. To bring order to the new displays, we have organised them into themes within which to tell the overall story of Exploration into Science. In outline these are: an introductory area; Northern Peoples; Exploration and Encounter (dealing with the British exploration of the Arctic in the 19th century); The Heroic Age; Polar Politics and Ice and Climate. Enjoyable as this work is, it feels very much as though we are trying to get a gallon (or two) into a pint pot – quite a challenge.

The new main entrance
The new main entrance

Work is going forward in a number of other areas too. We have already recruited a new volunteer museum manager, Nicholas Hunnisett, whose task it will be to find and train a group of volunteers to look after the museum when we re-open. If you are interested in volunteering, please respond to the advert below.

ADVERT: Interested in working for the new Polar Museum?

We are looking for volunteers to help staff the new museum when we re-open in June 2010. in particular, people who can give their time on a regular basis to work on the reception desk and the museum shop and to help visitors to the museum. If you are interested in joining the volunteer team, please send a short CV to Kate Gilbert at the Institute, or by email by 18th December 2009. We will be interviewing from mid-January 2010. Successful applicants will be given full training and will start work on 1 June 2010.

For an informal chat please telephone the Project Manager, Robert Smith on 0798500 1497

ADVERT: Volunteer wanted for document transcription

In advance of the Scott centenary, we are looking for additional volunteers to transcribe letters, journals and other manuscript archive materials for future publication. You will be expected to type the contents of the documents straight into MS Word and accuracy and attention to detail are important. If you would like to volunteer please send a brief CV and covering letter to Kate Gilbert at the Institute.

If you would like an informal chat about the project please contact Heather Lane.

Archives & Museum

From Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections

Scott letters acquired at auction!

We were very pleased to be able acquire one of the lots recently offered at auction by Bonhams. With help from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, we were able to bid on letters from Captain Scott and Kathleen Scott to the parents of Edward Wilson. Kathleen Scott's letter to Mrs Wilson is particularly moving, congratulating her on Ted's successful expedition to Cape Crozier in 1911. She writes 'I am so very glad too that he has gone on furthurest South with my husband,' with the postscript 'He never fails - your Son.' The letters are an important addition to the archive collection.

From the Secretaries

Membership (Ann Bean) (

New Friends

A very warm welcome is extended to all new members. Membership is currently 621.

Passing Friends

We are pleased to report no notices have been received under this heading.

Some Dates for your Diary

Events in 2009: Date: Time: Location:
Lecture: Gavin Francis - Travels in Arctic Europe 17th October 20:00 Pfizer (Chemistry) Lecture theatre
Lecture: Paul Berkman - Polar Politics 31st October 20:00 Pfizer (Chemistry) Lecture theatre

Lecture: Pen Hadow - "Extreme Endeavour - Extreme Science"
Followed by AGM 18:30 and Friends Buffet Supper

14th November From 17:00 BMS (Main Chemistry) Lecture theatre
Tickets £15.00
Lecture: David Wilson - Nimrod Illustrated: Pictures from Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909 28th November 20:00 Pfizer (Chemistry) Lecture theatre
We are most grateful to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this edition of Polar Bytes. Princess Cruises logo
All images in this issue of Polar Bytes are copyright their respective owners