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Polar Bytes - No. 55, April 2010

Polar Bytes - No. 55, April 2010

From the Chairman, Robin Back

Dear Friends,

Our Lent Term lecture series finished on a high note with Bob Headland's lecture on the South Sandwich Is. and an evening hosted by the South Georgia Association. Notable also because when we restart our lecture series in the Michaelmas term, we should be back in our own Lecture Theatre at the Institute! Before leaving this topic though we must say how appreciative we are of Paul Goldstein's lecture on the 20th February which raised over £400 for Friends funds and was very well attended. In a different vein but as gripping was Fiona Cahill's lecture on conservation in extreme climates – the historic huts!

We also welcomed back 'our' artist Rowan Huntley after her very successful Residency on board HMS Scott. Those of you who attended the last lecture will have seen some samples of her work but she has so much more to work through that at times she could be forgiven for feeling a trifle overwhelmed!

The new entrance to the Museum on Lensfield Road
The new entrance to the Museum on Lensfield Road
© 2010 SPRI/R.D.Smith

Looking to the immediate future, there is an ongoing rush to get the museum ready for it's opening dates. Some 50 volunteers have come forward to help man the museum during opening hours on a roster basis. This will offer a dramatically different experience to visitors from that which the previous limited resources have been able to offer. There will always be a need for volunteers so if you find you would like to help in this area do phone or email Heather Lane at the Institute. The 'soft' opening is on June 1st and is followed by the Descendants weekend and the formal opening on 8th June.

The visit to HMS Scott planned for June 11th is going ahead. A flyer is enclosed and we have room for up to 50 guests. We are inviting all those who wish to come to refer to the attached and obtain tickets for themselves and their guests from Celene at the Institute.

The Summer lunch date of 10th July should be in all your diaries already and the booking form is now enclosed. This will be the first opportunity for many Friends to reunite under the SPRI roof since 2008. The new layout should provide adequate space for us all so do please get your requests in promptly. Tickets are £25 per person again and will include a glass of sherry before lunch, lunch in the lecture theatre and a tour afterwards.

There is a very useful form enclosed from our Membership Secretary, Ann Bean to help you with the change of your standing order membership fee payments. Please note her instructions on the back page of this newsletter. The new membership fee scale applies after 1st August 2010 but you are very welcome to renew/upgrade at the current rates before that date if you wish.

Dr. David Wilson reminds us of the Scott Centenary website where you will find other events planned up and down the country over the coming year.

The Institute

From the Director, Julian Dowdeswell

The coming few months will mark the beginning of the celebrations of the centenary of Captain R.F. Scott's Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica. The Institute is organising and participating in a number of events associated with the centenary. The first of these is the reopening of our Polar Museum in June. The refurbished museum is nearing completion, and is redesigned on the theme of 'exploration into science'. This allows us to show both the achievements of the historical British polar expeditions in terms of geographical discovery, and also their legacy in terms of early scientific research. This theme is then developed through a variety of displays about the contemporary significance of the Antarctic and Arctic in a world whose environment is changing rapidly. Our own research at SPRI forms an important part of these exhibits about climate change. We thank all those Friends who have contributed so generously to the appeal for funds to make the museum refurbishment possible.

Immediately after the reopening of the museum, we are also having a 'Descendants' Day' at the Institute, where members of the families of those who took part in Scott's expeditions will be shown round the new museum and the Institute, followed by a centenary dinner. In addition, SPRI is also playing a full part in the events that mark the departure of the Terra Nova from Cardiff for the South, one hundred years ago in June. I will be aboard the Royal Navy's survey ship, HMS Scott, in Cardiff, where we will be showing our exhibition of Herbert Ponting's photographs of Scott's last expedition.

Before these events, I will be going to Greenland shortly to represent the UK at the annual meeting of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). This body coordinates much of the international research that takes place on the landmasses that rim the Arctic, and in the waters of the Arctic Ocean. Part of the Arctic research work of the recent International Polar Year was linked together through the IASC.

I am sure that all of us with polar interests are looking forward very much to being able to celebrate the Scott centenary, and I certainly see the reopening of the SPRI museum as an auspicious beginning to these events.

News from the Collections

From the Librarian Heather Lane

Installation of the new display cases begins
Installation of the new display cases begins
© 2010 SPRI/R.D.Smith

At the time of writing the new museum is rapidly taking shape. All the drawings and plans we have pored over for so long are now taking on physical form, as the museum fit-out gets under way. This is both very exciting and nerve-wracking as we wait to see if all our ideas will work and how objects will fit into the space. Writing the texts and captions and selecting images for the graphic panels is almost complete and with just 10 weeks to go, it feels like a headlong rush to the opening.

We will open the new Polar Museum on Tuesday 1 June - 100 years to the day that Terra Nova sailed from London, en route for Cardiff and the Southern Ocean. There will be an event to launch our new exhibition of Inuit Art (attendance by an invitation only) in the morning, with public access from 2.30pm. Our new opening hours will be Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 4pm.

The official opening ceremony, again by invitation only, will take place on the morning of Tuesday 8 June, when the Museum will temporarily be closed to the public.

We look forward to welcoming the Friends of SPRI for a special tour of the Museum at the Summer Lunch on 10 July, if not before.

Look out, too, for an announcement of our touring exhibition of Inuit Art which will also open at Canada House in London later in June. If you also happen to find yourself in New York between the end of May and January 2011, do go along to the American Museum of Natural History, where a collection of items from SPRI will be on display as part of their exhibition, Race to the End of the Earth.

Arctic and Antarctic News

On the 7th of February 2010, an iceberg called B9B collided with and knocked the floating end off the Mertz Glacier tongue. The Mertz Glacier lies between the Adelie Coast and George V Coast approx 145° East and 67° South. The resulting iceberg is about 2500 sq kms, 78 kms long and 33 to 39 kms wide or more than twice the size of Rutland.

An interesting observation of the Arctic Sea Ice by the National snow and Ice Center in Boulder Colorado, reports that the early April 2010 ice cover is approx. 1 million square kms larger than the equivalent date in 2007. This after dropping below the 2007 exceptionally low coverage during February. Overall however, Arctic sea ice cover remains below the 1979-2000 median.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

The correlation between this and our own very chilly recent winter is governed by the activity of the Arctic Oscillation which, amongst other things, also acted to prevent the outflow of sea ice from the Arctic and contributed to the uptick in the blue line in the graph above.

At the other end of the planet, the Antarctic sea ice has passed its lowest point and is now growing again with the onset of the austral winter. The lowest point is reported to have continued the overall year-on-year average growth in minimum sea ice coverage in the Antarctic. It is important to note however, there are deviations from this trend in areas such as the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas.

Help for the Friends

The Friends are ever-conscious of the need to raise funds and we are enclosing a short leaflet on ways of remembering the work of the friends in your will which we hope will be of interest.

From the Secretaries

Membership (Ann Bean) (

Membership is currently 639.

As mentioned in the previous issue subscriptions are to be increased with effect from 1st August. A new Banker's Order form is enclosed, to enable those of you who pay your subscription by Banker's Order (and those of you who may wish to change to this method) to make the necessary amendments. Please return the completed forms to the Membership Secretary at the address on the form and NOT to your Bank. Overseas subscriptions will, of course, continue to be collected by credit card or cheque.

New Friends

A very warm welcome is extended to all new members.

Passing Friends

We are very sad to report the passing of Lady Philippa Scott (Phil), widow of Sir Peter Scott, who died on January 6th this year. Globally regarded in the wildlife conservation world she had become an international photographer of renown, her work illlustrating many of her and her husband's publications, including those based on his TV programmes, Look and Faraway Look. Phil's obituary in the Times recorded the pioneering work undertaken by Peter and Phil in the establishment of the WWT centre at Slimbridge and Phil's continuing involvement after Sir Peter's death in 1989 as Honorary Director. At her 90th birthday held at Slimbridge, Sir David Attenborough said: "The Scott partnership put conservation on the map at a time when conservation was not a word people understood, at least not in the natural history context." He added that if people did conserve and protect the natural world in future much of what survived would be due to the Scotts' legacy. (The Independent) Phil and Peter Scott were married in 1951 and are survived by Dafila and Falcon to whom we extend our deepest sympathies.

We also note with sadness the passing of Dr. Hal Lister, Glaciologist on the successful 1957/8 BTAE who died on 25th March at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Some Dates for your Diary

FoSPRI Events in 2010: Date: Time: Location:
'Soft' opening of SPRI Museum 1st June Invitation only SPRI
SPRI Descendants Weekend 5th/6th June Invitation only SPRI
Formal opening of SPRI Museum 8th June Invitation only SPRI
Friends HMS Scott lunch & tour 11th June 11:30 for 12:00 Cardiff Docks
Friends Summer Lunch 2010 10th July 12:00 noon In the Institute!!
Friends Lecture Series (Advance Notice)
Lecture #1 16th Oct SPRI Lecture Theatre
Lecture #2 30th Oct SPRI Lecture Theatre
Lecture #3 13th Nov BMS Lecture Theatre
Friends AGM & Supper 13th Nov TBA SPRI Lecture Theatre
Lecture: R.P.Back 'The Northern Party – in the shadows of the Heroic Age' 27th Nov 8:00 PM SPRI Lecture Theatre
Other Events in 2010:
RGS sponsored exhibition of works of Edward Wilson 1902 - 1912 12th Mar to 24th May Open Daily Brantwood, Coniston, Cumbria
We are most grateful to Windows on the Wild for sponsoring this edition of Polar Bytes. Windows on the Wild logo

All images in this issue of Polar Bytes are copyright their respective owners