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Polar Bytes - No. 56, July 2010

Polar Bytes - No. 56, July 2010

From the Chairman, Robin Back

Dear Friends,

TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex and Professor Dowdeswell at the Formal opening of the refurbished museum on June 8th ©2010 Don Manning & SPRI
TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex and Professor
Dowdeswell at the Formal opening of the refurbished
museum on June 8th © 2010 Don Manning & SPRI

The museum opened triumphantly on the 1st of June as planned with the formal opening in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, a week later. In between, a Descendants weekend had been organised to celebrate the reopening and to signal the start of the Scott Centenary events which now stretch forward over the next two years. This was a huge success with representatives from the families of many of those on the Terra Nova attending. The day finished with a gala dinner at Downing College in the evening.

The following week saw the Scott Centenary action move to Cardiff with our Friends visit to HMS Scott on the 11th and an exhibition of Ponting's photographs on board. Also on board was an eye-catching exhibition of work by our Artist in Residence, Rowan Huntley, who presented the ship with a canvas of HMS Scott on station in the Antarctic, as well as exhibitions from other polar bodies including UKAHT and BAS.

The Terra Nova (alias Stavros Niarchos), leaving Cardiff Dock on 15th July ©2010 MOD HMS Scott
The Terra Nova (alias Stavros Niarchos),leaving Cardiff
Dock on 15th July ©2010 MOD HMS Scott

The Summer lunch took place on 10th July in the Institute. For those who have not yet seen the new museum space, I hope it was a memorable day and we are very grateful to Fiona Cahill and Bryan Lintott for showing us around.

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

The Friends Committee would also like to record their sincere thanks to the Augustine Courtauld Trust, who have once again provided a grant of £1000. The funding will enable the Institute to provide five purpose-built boxes of archival quality, to store mounted prints from the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-76 (Nares), to the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, and for a photograph album from the Livingstone-Learmonth expeditions of 1888 and 1889.

Congratulations to Grattan MacGiffin, extreme sledger in 2007, who in May this year, has climbed Mt Toubkal (4167m) in the High Atlas Mountains in North Africa while raising funds for the Friends!

Finally, a word about the invitations for the formal opening events. The limitations on numbers imposed by the space might have made the final invitations list appear selective, which was quite unintentional, and in part due to a number of extra official guests. I hope Friends who came to the Summer Lunch will encourage others to visit the new museum as soon as they are able.

The Institute

From the Director, Julian Dowdeswell

The month of June has seen the beginning of the celebrations of the Centenary of Captain Scott's Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica. There have been a number of highlights, with the reopening of the redesigned and refurbished Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute being particularly important for us.

HRH The Earl of Wessex unveiling the plaque (see text) ©2010 Don Manning & SPRI
HRH The Earl of Wessex unveiling the plaque (see text)
©2010 Don Manning & SPRI

TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex were present at the formal reopening on 8 June, with Prince Edward giving a very entertaining few words before unveiling a plaque which is now located along with donor boards at the entrance to the Institute. It was a pleasure for me to be able to thank the many people who have contributed to supporting the refurbishment, and also the staff of SPRI who worked so hard to make it happen. Feedback on the new museum has been very favourable and we are delighted with the result.

A week earlier, we also opened an exhibition of Inuit art, much of it purchased through a 'Collecting Cultures' grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in the foyer at the Institute, which is now our refurbished special exhibition space.

The Institute has also contributed many artefacts and paintings to an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 'Race to the End of the Earth', which allows us to showcase part of our collections relating to Captain Scott in a major North American venue. I was able to attend the exhibition launch and to view the splendid graphics that go with the artefacts. Also in June, a joint exhibition with the Canadian High Commission at Canada House in Trafalgar Square has allowed the display of part of our Inuit art collection alongside some very fine pieces generously loaned from UK collectors and from the High Commission. Again, this has provided us with a great opportunity to project the Institute at a major London venue.

Amidst all of this, we have also entertained 125 descendants of those on Scott's Terra Nova expedition at a special day of polar events at the Institute and have been at Cardiff Bay with HMS Scott to mark the centenary of the Terra Nova leaving the UK for Antarctica.

June is also the month when our seven M.Phil. students in Polar Studies complete their degree courses with the handing in of their dissertations. In addition, I and most of our senior academic staff have been marking hundreds of university exam scripts and sitting on exam boards in the University. I was also invited to appear on Melvin Bragg's Radio 4 programme 'In Our Time' last week, talking about Antarctica. I think it is fair to say that June 2010 has been one of the busiest months that we have experienced at SPRI.

I very much hope that those Friends who have yet to visit the new museum will be able to do so at the Friends' Summer Lunch or over the coming months – you are most welcome.

News from the Collections

From the Librarian Heather Lane

Many of you will have seen the recent coverage in the national newspapers of the sale of the Edward A McKenzie Collection at auction. McKenzie was Leading Stoker on Terra Nova during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13. The Polar Museum already holds a set of clothing and other artefacts relating to him. With the kind assistance of the auctioneers, Bamfords Ltd., we have negotiated the purchase of a number of important items from the McKenzie Collection, including two of his watercolours, his personal photograph album, compass, letters and most importantly, his diary of the voyage. The challenge now is to raise the funds - £30,000 is needed to secure these important items for SPRI's archive. The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust have generously pledged over £4000 towards the appeal and we thank them for their support. Please help us to find the remainder.

Arctic and Antarctic News

In our last Polar Bytes we showed you a graph reflecting then current ice cover inthe Arctic ocean which showed greater coverage than previous years. The same graph is shown below updated for June data from which you can see 2010 ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is now below the 2007 record low coverage.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent, June

Other Matters of note

"Are you related to any member of the Arctic Expedition of 1875-76 led by Captain George Nares ?

Sponsored by the Royal Navy and The Royal Geographical Society, HM ships Alert and Discovery sailed from Portsmouth on 29th May 1875. The expedition, though blighted by scurvy, achieved a furthest north of 83° 6َ' 41" and collected much valuable scientific data. One member, Lieutenant Wyatt Rawson, was my great grandfather. If you recognize a forebear amongst the names listed below I should love to hear from you!"

Meriel Larken []

NB:The list of names from those on the two ships Alert and Discovery has been added to the Friends website.

From the Secretaries

Membership (Ann Bean) (

Membership is currently 647. Our apologies for the confusion we caused by not including the increased subscription rates with the new banker's order form included with the April issue of Polar Bytes.

For those of you who have not yet completed your forms the new rates, with effect from 1st August, are:

Polar Circle
Individual £20, Family £30, Overseas £25, Life £400
80 Degree Club
Individual £80, Family £120, Overseas £100, Life £1,200

Friends donating in excess of the annual subscription and those wishing to continue paying by cheque or credit card do not need to complete the form. Thank you to all of you who have already returned your forms.

New Friends

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

Passing Friends

We regret to report the death on the 2nd of July of Beryl Bainbridge, novelist, journalist and playwright and a member of the Friends for many years. The papers and other media have been full of tributes in recent days which I will not repeat other than to echo the thought she will be sadly missed. Many regard the Birthday Boys (1991) about Captain Scott's last expedition as amongst her best work. We extend our special sympathies to her son and daughters.

Some Dates for your Diary

FoSPRI Events in 2010: Date: Time: Location:
Friends AGM 13th November 6:30PM SPRI
Friends Lecture series (advance notice) NB Except for the 13th Nov event (AGM) Lectures are free to members of the Friends otherwise £5.00 on the door.
Lecture "Sir Hubert Wilkins – Forgotten Hero?" Jim McNeill, Arctic Explorer 16th Oct 8:00 PM (Doors open 7:30PM) SPRI Lecture Theatre
Lecture "Melting Ice-Rising Seas" Antarctic Climate change and the Environment. Dr. Colin Summerhayes, Emeritus Associate, SPRI 30th Oct 8:00 PM (Doors open 7:30PM) SPRI Lecture Theatre
Cambridge & World preview of Ponting's 90° South – The digitally remastered film of the Terra Nova expedition 13th Nov 4:00PM (Doors open 3:30PM) NB This is a two hour lecture and film show.
Friends AGM & Supper 13th Nov 6:30PM SPRI Lecture Theatre
Lecture: "The Northern Party – in the shadows of the Heroic Age" R.P.Back, Chair Friends of SPRI 27th Nov 8:00 PM (Doors open 7:30PM) SPRI Lecture Theatre
Other Events in 2010:
"Rock Ice & Eggs – The science of Scott's Last Expedition" Andy Clarke (ex BAS) & Meredith Hooper (author) COST: Lecture (£15) and Reception (£20) 20th Oct 7:00 PM (Doors open 6:00PM) RGS (With IBG) London Tickets from Peter Fuchs, Fuchs Foundation, 01455 202207
We are most grateful to Noble Caledonia for sponsoring this edition of Polar Bytes. More details of their voyages can be found on their website. Noble Caledonia logo