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Polar Bytes 61 - October 2011

Polar Bytes 61 - October 2011

From the Chairman, Nick Lambert

Dear Friends,

It's remarkable how quickly the time to draft PB comes around; the autumn's upon us with a new programme of lectures lying ahead, the AGM and dinner, and (Lord help us!) Christmas before the next round of Centenary events kick in next year. Behind us lie the spring and summer lecture series, a very well reviewed summer lunch in London, Dafila Scott's artistic sojourn onboard HMS SCOTT, that ship's high profile visit to Plymouth and, of course, the wonderful gathering of Polar Buffs also in Plymouth in June.

The new FoSPRI committee is shaping up well, the ideas are flowing and I'm delighted and extremely grateful for the personal initiative and efforts of our representatives. There's more to come of course. Celene is busy juggling the requirements and preparation for three key events over the next six months, details of which can be seen in this edition of PB. In short we would be most grateful if you could confirm your attendance on 12 November for the AGM and/or the dinner that follows, in Emmanuel College that evening. Like the summer lunch this is a departure from the norm and a chance for us to socialise in the wonderful setting of a Cambridge College; I trust it will meet with members' approval. As Jane Chisholm will have completed her term of office and steps down as Minuting Secretary, we thank her for her very valuable contribution to the Friends Committee. If you would like to join us, please return the enclosed nomination form by the end of October.

Please also inform us if you wish to participate in the two events held on Pole day, 17 January 2012. This will be a day of talks by high profile speakers followed by a gala dinner in the evening at Corpus Christi College. Please see details on the enclosed flyer. Most importantly, we need an early indication of those members who wish to attend the national service of remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 March 2012; this is a chicken and egg conundrum as the cathedral staff need to know the level of FoSPRI interest before they can allocate places. Please advise Celene if you wish to attend as soon as possible by completing the attached form. We're working on a first come, first served basis and I'm very keen that the Friends are well represented - so get those requests in pronto please!

We were sorry to hear of the unexpected but understandable impact of the very sad BSES event in Svalbard on the SSS100 sledge pull this autumn. More broadly, our finances bump along in traditional fashion. Meanwhile, the intrepid Jennifer Murray is limbering up for her remarkable marathon challenge; we need to move quickly on PR and sponsorship of this event, so please respond to the call for sponsorship included with this issue. This a major opportunity to raise much-needed funds in support of the Institute, not least to complete our pledge to pay for a proportion of the museum renovation.

So, another busy period for FoSPRI. I commend this edition of Polar Bytes to you and wish you the very best for the autumn.

HMS Protector staff

Captain Peter Sparkes (2nd R), Lt. Craig Guest and Lt David Ives from HMS PROTECTOR with Heather Lane and Celene Pickard during their visit to the Institute in September

From the Institute

A few words from the Director, Professor Julian Dowdeswell:

The next few months see the climax of celebrations of the Scott centenary. The Institute is involved in organising several events over this period. On 17 January 2012, we will be hosting a day of talks and tours exactly one hundred years from the day that Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans reached the South Pole. There will be several presentations on polar history by, for example, David Crane and Max Jones, who have both written excellent books on Scott. Sir Ranulph Fiennes will talk about sledging to the Pole and there will also be talks on the modern behaviour of the Antarctic in a warming world and on the geopolitics of the Antarctic Treaty and its environmental implications. Later in the afternoon, there will be behind the scenes tours of the museum, library and archives followed by a Gala Dinner at Corpus Christi College, where a Promises Auction will also be held to raise funds for the Institute. I hope that as many Friends as possible will attend, although we are limited to about 90 for the day and 130 for the dinner by the size of rooms. Please fill in the flyer that accompanies Polar Bytes if you would like to come.

We are also organising, together with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, a service of remembrance for Captain Scott and his four companions in St Paul's Cathedral. The service will be held at 11:00 on 29 March 2012, a century on from the date of Scott's last diary entry. This will be a major national event to remember the sacrifice and to celebrate the achievements of the Polar Party and I hope that as many Friends as possible will come. We have a substantial number of tickets available for you – again please fill in the form that accompanies this newsletter.

In addition to these two events, an exhibition on Roald Amundsen has just opened in the gallery space in the foyer of the Institute. We have been able to mount this exhibition with the support of the Fram Museum in Oslo, which has lent many of its major pieces. It will be followed, from December, by an exhibition on Scott and the Terra Nova expedition, based around manuscript material that has rarely, if ever, been on public display. Again, Friends are most welcome to visit these two special exhibitions that are part of both the Scott and Amundsen centenary celebrations.

Farewell to staff at SPRI

Claire Lampitt

Claire Lampitt

The Institute was sad to say goodbye to two stalwart members of staff this September. Claire Lampitt, who will have been familiar to many of the Friends as the Institute's Receptionist for the past five years, has moved on to a new post working on events for the Cambridge Alumni Relations Office. The Friends are very grateful for her contribution over the years and for providing a friendly welcome to one and all.

Fiona Cahill

Fiona Cahill

The Museum's Conservator, Fiona Cahill, is moving further afield, to take up the post of Senior Conservator at the Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand. Fiona has single-handedly spearheaded the conservation of all the objects on display in the museum and on loan elsewhere, as well as setting up the protocols for collections care which will stand the museum in very good stead for the future.

Visit by HMS Scott

We were delighted to welcome the Captain of HMS SCOTT, George Tabeart, and members of his crew, Lt Will Alexander RN, Lt Cdr Jim Brown RN and Lt Chris Merriam USN, when they paid a visit to SPRI in August. They enjoyed a tour of the Institute, including a look behind the scenes at the museum, library and archives, before joining Institute staff for afternoon tea.

HMS Scott Captain and Crew

The Captain and members of the crew of HMS SCOTT with Celene Pickard, Heather Lane and Bob Smith in the Friends Room.

News from the Heritage collections
From the Keeper of Collections, Heather Lane:

At the recent Christie's auction, both Shackleton's Cape Royds biscuit, which fetched £1,250 and the pocket diary owned by Captain Scott, with a hammer price of £27,500, were both out of the Museum's reach. However, we were successful, on the same day, in acquiring a sugar bowl from Terra Nova, on sale at an auction in Dorset. Remarkably, this is the first piece of crested china from this expedition to be added to the collection. We have also been able to buy Sir Vivian Fuchs' camera from the 1955-58 Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition, recently sold at auction in Cambridge.

Sugar bowl from Terra Nova

Sugar bowl from Terra Nova.

British Antarctic Oral History Project Ellen Bazeley-White (SPRI Committee member and BAS Archives Manager) and Joanna Rae (BAS Assistant Archivist)

The British Antarctic Oral History Project (BAOHP) is a collaborative project to capture reminiscences and preserve the memories of those involved in British polar science. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Archives Service began an oral history project in 1985 to preserve the memories of those who had worked for, or closely with, Operation Tabarin, 1943–45, the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS), 1945–61, and the British Antarctic Survey, 1962–present. The project declined after 1988 due to lack of resources but was revived in 2003, when a professional freelance interviewer was employed to undertake most of the recording work.

Following concern from members of the BAS Club about the number of interviews that could be funded this way, the BAOHP project was initiated in March 2009. It is a collaboration between BAS, the BAS Club, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) and the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI). The aims of the project are to preserve and make accessible the unofficial history of British endeavour in the Antarctic particularly that of BAS and its predecessors. Those interviewed cover a wide range of roles, stations and periods, from the first pilot to the first woman to winter at Halley. Before 2009 BAS managed to fund only a few interviews a year, in 2010 a total of 44 were made. There are now 175 recordings in the collection.

Most of the funding for the interviews has been provided by the UKAHT and the British Antarctic Territory Government via UKAHT, with BAS Club so far paying for 10% of the interviews. The BAS Archives Service contributes on average three interviews per year and the South Georgia Association has paid for one interview. The success of the project is due to a team of enthusiastic volunteers and professionals working together to maximise use of resources while meeting good practice standards for oral history work.

Audio and filmed interviews, photographs of interviewees and a database (providing a detailed synopsis of content) are preserved and maintained by the BAS Archives Service. Transcripts of some of the interviews are also available. Transcribing is time consuming but a team of volunteers are continually adding to the collection. You can find out more by visiting the website for the project via the BAS Archives Service at The website includes a list of interviews and links to short clips.

In addition to BAOHP the British Library's National Life Stories is creating a major archive for the study and public understanding of contemporary science in Britain through a new oral history project involving 200 in-depth interviews with British scientists. A selection of polar research scientists have been interviewed for this project and you can find out more via the National Life Stories web page at

Oral History Interview

George Hemmen (FIDS 1953-54) and Christopher Eldon Lee (interviewer) during an oral history interview in 2010.

From the Secretaries
Membership (Ann Bean) (

A very warm welcome is extended to all new members. Membership currently stands at 652. So far, 71 members have notified us that they are happy to receive their copy of Polar Bytes (and other communications from the Friends) by email. Please let us know if you would like to be added to this list.


We are most grateful to Granta Books for sponsoring this issue of Polar Bytes. Granta website.

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Edited by Heather Lane & Celene Pickard