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Polar Bytes 63 - April 2012

Polar Bytes 63 - April 2012

From the Chairman, Nick Lambert

Dear Friends,

Where does the time go? It seems only days since I drafted the first PB of 2012 back in the darker, wintry days of January. We're now well into this busy centenary year and have already ticked off some of the exciting Polar events. Pole Day at SPRI on 17 January brought royalty to Cambridge, inspiring an enthusiastic audience of SPRI guests and Friends who subsequently dined in style at Corpus Christi College, in the presence of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, attending his first public function after a period of ill health over Christmas. As anticipated, the Friends' 'extraordinary' black tie dinner at Trinity House, London, in early March was a great success. Wonderful surroundings, very good food and excellent service formed the backdrop for David Baillie's quite outstanding presentation on filming in the Arctic, the Antarctic and South Georgia with the helicopter mounted Gyron stabilised camera. His thought-provoking talk encompassed life onboard HMS ENDURANCE and explained the capture of footage used in the Life and Frozen Planet series. Our members and their guests were entranced and have been raving about it ever since!

More recently, the memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 March reminded us all of that solemn discovery on the Ross Ice Shelf some 11 miles short of One Ton Depot and one hundred years ago. The photographs say it all – a celebration of Scott and his companions, a memorial to his expedition, his determination and his leadership, and an inspiration to all of us no matter how technologically advanced our society becomes.

Back at the ranch, your Committee has been pretty busy too. Various sub-committees have progressed issues such as Friends merchandise and redesigning the logo; we've struck a mutually beneficial arrangement with Quark Expeditions which will hopefully broaden our membership and bring in funds (look out for an article on this in the next edition of PB), and Will Taunton-Burnet's SSS100 charity sledge pull continues to make steady progress. I must, of course, remark on the sterling performance of the SSS100 Cambridge teams who ran the 11-mile course around Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.

The pressure on our financial state has also been eased thanks to the many efforts of our Friends to raise funds by a variety of means. Particularly worthy of note is the achievement by Jennifer Murray of raising substantial income from sponsorship for her marathon runs, which has transformed our financial outlook. I look forward to reporting accordingly at the AGM in November. We are grateful, as ever, to the many organisations which continue to provide charitable funds or contributions in kind.

More events lie ahead of course. The Summer Lunch will return to the Friends' alma mater in Cambridge on 14 July. This is another not to be missed event so I'm looking for maximum attendance – please roll up in your droves! The AGM will be on 10 November in Cambridge with, if all goes well, a very special speaker; so special that it's a secret for the time being. I hope I'm whetting your appetite!

I'll close as always with some thank yous. None of these events would happen without the support of the SPRI and Museum staff, the industrious Heather Lane, the ever-persistent Celene and, of course, your Committee. So thank you on behalf of all the Friends for their unstinting efforts. I hope you are all enjoying the centenary year and look forward to seeing you at some of these events.

The resonance of dates, families and places

As some readers will be aware I was able to attend the Rededication of the Scott National Memorial at Mount Wise, Plymouth on Friday 23 March, accompanied by my family. It was a wonderful occasion, blending refreshingly spring-like weather, superb music from the band of the Royal Marines, a suitably sombre and pithy service, polished support by the Princess Royal, with a strong presence from those who can trace their ancestors to the Terra Nova and Discovery expeditions. It was certainly a privilege to be part of the day, and has a real relevance to our family as Mount Wise is the splendid location from which my loved ones often wave HMS SCOTT off when I sail from Plymouth, or indeed watch our progress on our return to home port.

Since then I have returned onboard, rejoining the ship overseas in time to be able to dispatch the Executive Officer and a group of around a dozen of our sailors (our onboard family) to be able to attend the service of remembrance at St Paul's on Thursday 29 March. As a Ship's Company we were delighted to be invited to attend this prestigious event, which I gather was another substantial success. We too held a brief service onboard, when we reflected upon the powerful words written by Scott in his diaries 100 years ago, and also upon the characters of the men who accompanied him in the Polar party.

As I understand was commented upon at St Paul's, the enduring legacy of all participants of the heroic era of Polar exploration is truly awesome. It struck me while watching the presentation of the posy to Princess Anne that the quality of the Terra Nova's entire team (Scott's onboard family) was outstanding. Francis Davies, a Plymouth native and the Terra Nova shipwright, oversaw the construction of the hut by the team of sailors and scientists. Their results achieved were of such a good standard that what is effectively a timber shed has lasted to this day. His three year old descendant may one day recall an overwhelming day when she wore a pretty dress and was asked to give a friendly and graceful lady a bunch of flowers, and maybe she too will then be inspired by her predecessor's legacy. I suspect that all adult descendants who have attended the various events during the centenary will be properly proud of their ancestors' achievements, and I encourage each of us to draw strength from all members of our respective families.

I shall close by noting that it was a real pleasure to catch up with so many SPRI friends and Polar Buffs last week. HMS SCOTT is now back conducting our ocean survey work once more, hopefully living up to the memories of our Edwardian predecessors. Certainly on our next return to Plymouth I shall look up from sea to the Scott Memorial and pay my personal respects to their heroic example.

George W Tabeart
Cdr RN

Friends Scott Centenary Sledge Pull in Cambridge 'The Last 11 miles'

Sunday 25 March, almost 100 years to the day since Scott's famous last diary entry, saw glorious weather and nearly 50 people take part in the inaugural Cambridge Sledge Pull - on a 1.5 mile circuit around Jesus Green and Midsummer common.

Participants ranged from age 2 to 70, Students, Soldiers, professionals, BAS and SPRI staff all completed a sledge pull challenge either alone or in relay of between 1 and 11 miles, the latter being the distance from a supply depot when Scott, Wilson and Bowers finally perished in 1912.

Grattan McGiffin crosses the finish line

Grattan McGiffin crosses the finish line (Photo: Will Taunton-Burnet)

Journey markers on the 1.5 mile circuit of the park told the story of Scott's journey, depicting the Beardmore Glacier, The South Pole, the death of Evans, Oates' famous departure and the final camp site for Scott Wilson and Bowers, ending with a final leg symbolically to complete the uncompleted journey. 100 years on, we brought Scott home. The event was a great success. The small, wheeled sledges are actually easy and fun to pull; young children especially enjoyed the challenge as well as the reward of a certificate and a Scott Centenary Badge. Adults liked the competition, and the start and finish being well situated by the Fort St George Pub. Funds were raised too, with participants choosing to raise funds for SPRI, Help for Heroes and to start an expedition scholarship fund for Cambridgeshire students. The sledge pull has demonstrated the ability to engage and fire the imagination of all ages, and FoSPRI now plan to run the event again in 2013, hopefully on a larger scale. Please keep your eye open for the date next year, and come and join us. We already have a Plymouth Sledge Pull planned for Sunday 1 July 2012.

From the Institute

A few words from the Director, Professor Julian Dowdeswell:

Early 2012 has seen remarkable interest in Captain Scott and his British Antarctic (Terra Nova) expedition – this is no surprise, given that we are in the midst of the Scott Centenary and the many events that go along with it. On 17 January, exactly one hundred years after Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans reached the South Pole, a series of events took place in Cambridge. Given that the Institute is a national memorial to the five companions, and that it offers a continuing research legacy to the scientific endeavours of those on Scott's two expeditions, it was highly appropriate that a day of lectures on polar science, governance, exploration and history were delivered to an audience of 80 in the Institute's lecture theatre. Speakers included Prof. David Vaughan on Antarctic science, Jane Rumble on Antarctic governance, Sir Ranulph Fiennes on exploration, and David Crane, Max Jones and Julian Evans on aspects of polar history. This splendid set of talks was followed by tours of the SPRI collections and of the British Antarctic Survey. Among the guests for the day was HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

Chairman of Friends Nick Lambert in conversation with HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.

The evening saw a Gala Dinner for 120 guests at Corpus Christi College, in celebration of the achievement of the South Pole. Guests of honour were HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HSH Prince Albert. Over coffee, speeches and toasts were given by the University's Vice-Chancellor and the Director – guests drank to both the 'Scott Polar Research Institute' and to 'Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans'. The evening was completed with an auction of promises, which raised over £15,000 in support of the scholarly and heritage aspects of the Institute's work.

Miss Barbara Debenham

Miss Barbara Debenham, daughter of the founding Director of SPRI is introduced to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

In addition, the Vice-Chancellor announced the establishment of an endowment fund, 'Scott Polar Scholarships', to support doctoral and masters students at the Institute, and the acquisition of Scott's own photographs of the journey to the South Pole with a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and further support from the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is a pleasure to record my personal thanks to those who attended these events, and to those who made them possible.

Gala Dinner

Guests enjoying the Gala Dinner at Corpus Christi College.

As I write, we look forward to the service in memory of the Pole Party at St. Paul's Cathedral on 29 March, exactly a century after Scott's last diary entry. And, for me, it is then to the Greenland Ice Sheet in May to conduct a programme of airborne geophysical research on the thickness and basal properties of the ice in northern Greenland.

A Day of Commemoration – 29 March 2012

The long awaited service at St Paul's proved to be nothing short of outstanding. Well over 2000 people packed into the Cathedral to be enthralled by a brilliantly organised and choreographed commemoration that skilfully balanced the history and folklore of the Heroic Age with our contemporary mores and aspirations. With descendants at the forefront of the nave in the presence of HRH the Princess Royal, flanked by the great and the good, and a very healthy cadre of Friends, we lustily sang Scott's favourite hymn, witnessed a touching laying of a wreath at the Pole Party's memorial, prayed and dwelt on true heroism. The Bishop of London's sermon was thought-provoking, rightly emotional, stirring and spot on. The congregation departed an hour later, heads held high, inspired and fulfilled. The subsequent reception in the Guildhall buzzed with enthusiasm and happiness; a Beat Retreat at Scott's statue in Wellington Square rounded the day off beautifully. Our thanks and gratitude are due to the remarkable organisational efforts of the teams at SPRI and the UKAHT.

Nick Lambert

For a selection of photographs from the day view the Commemoration Day Photo webpage.

Descendants – can you help?

'Exploring histories' research project: a note from Claire Warrior

Recent scholarship has demonstrated the many ways in which museums, archives and artefacts can tie people together, linking them through both time and space. I have long been fascinated by this potential, and it forms a crucial part of my PhD thesis, a collaborative project between the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, and the National Maritime Museum, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. My starting-point is at the National Maritime Museum (where I spend the rest of my time as Senior Exhibitions Curator), which has superb collections from the 19th century Arctic expeditions spearheaded by the Royal Navy, particularly relating to the 1845 Franklin and 1875-76 Nares expeditions, although also relating to the voyages of Ross, Parry and Back, as well as material from the Franklin search expeditions (particularly those relics found by McClintock, Schwatka and Rae). In addition, the NMM holds collections relating to the Antarctic expeditions of Scott, Shackleton and Mawson. So far in my research, I have been tracing the displays of Polar artefacts throughout the Museum's history, to understand the different ways in which they have been understood, and how they have contributed to national histories of exploration, as well as tracking what came into the Museum's collections when, and from whom.

A key part of the next stage of my research will be to look at how Polar artefacts (that is, objects taken to, used at or brought back from the Poles) and archives are understood by the families of those who used or collected them, how important they remain as vessels of family histories and how, if they are donated to museums, family members view their entry into this context. I am interested in investigating the interrelationship between family history, memory and wider national histories, as well as learning about how important these histories are to people's personal and family histories today – what is known and what is not known, what is the stuff of family legend and what has remained hidden until more recently. I hope also to look at how museums are viewed in this context, when they are seen as being appropriate guardians for objects and archives, and, for the objects that people choose to keep within the family context, why and how they use them there.

I would be delighted to talk to any relatives of those who ventured to the Poles who feel that they may be able to assist me with this research. I can be contacted via e-mail on or by telephone on 020 8312 8562.

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

As the Director has mentioned, the Heritage Lottery Fund has made a major award to the Institute to enable the purchase of the 109 photographs taken by Captain Scott during the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-12, the so–called 'lost' photographs which have been the subject of a recent book by David Wilson. We are immensely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major grant, and to the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and The Staples Trust for their support of this project. We still hope to find a further £15,000-£20,000 to carry out the conservation, cataloguing and digitisation which will make the images accessible to the public. Details of our Appeal are available from the Librarian.

Dr Edward Wilson sketching

Camp on the march, Dr Edward Wilson sketching. One of the photographs taken by Scott on the Beardmore Glacier.

Archives - The South Pole Journals of Henry Bowers

The Scott Polar Research Institute is proud to announce the publication of a letterpress edition of Henry Bowers' account of the Terra Nova expedition, which includes the letters written home during the Polar journey on pages torn from his journal and notebooks. The diary records the events of each day, and Bowers' thoughts, hopes and fears throughout his time on Scott's expedition.

The journals have been transcribed from manuscripts held in SPRI's Archives and have never before been published. They have been made available in a deluxe limited edition, edited by SPRI staff Heather Lane, Naomi Boneham and Robert D. Smith, with an introduction by Anne Strathie, whose biography of Birdie Bowers will appear later this year. Each of the 200 copies is printed directly from lead type by Hand & Eye Letterpress of London, and quarter bound in leather. The volume is priced at £150 (+p&p) ISBN 9780901021182 and is available from the Museum Shop. Proceeds will be used to develop online access to the Scott archive.

Scott Centenary Events

Conquering the Antarctic: The Scott Centenary Concert Tour featuring City of London Sinfonia

In early 2011, City of London Sinfonia and the Polar Museum formed a partnership with the aim of developing a musical event which would raise awareness of the centenary of the Terra Nova expedition nationwide and be part of the Scott 100 Festival of Events. Conquering the Antarctic was the resulting project which toured to five venues across the UK and reached an estimated 203,749 through broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and concert attendance in February and March 2012. We wanted to create an event to draw in different audience types and age groups and to enable people of all ages to learn about the expedition and Captain Scott's life and work through music. The programme included projections of Herbert Ponting's original expedition photographs, narration by British actor Hugh Bonneville who read excerpts from Captain Scott's diary and the last letters of the Polar Party, alongside Antarctic-inspired repertoire by Ralph Vaughan Williams. A new commission by British composer Cecilia McDowall 'Seventy Degrees Below Zero', for tenor soloist and chamber orchestra, also used Scott's words, as well as poems by Seán Street and was met with great acclaim by the press.

Last Words: poetry and song

On 27 March 2012, Cambridge poet Kiran Millwood Hargrave read from her latest collection, 'Last March', and guitarist and singer-songwriter Jake Wilson performed songs from his new album, 'All's Well', at a concert in the Institute's Memorial Hall. Both Kiran and Jake had produced their work in response to the story of the Polar Party. The book and CD are now available from the Museum Shop and you can catch Jake Wilson on tour around the country until the end of June. Please see the Jake Wilson website for further details.

Museum News

Since the re-opening of the Polar Museum, visitor numbers have risen far beyond those we originally envisaged. As you will probably remember, in the first year following the refurbishment, over 40,000 people came through the doors – double the number we had originally planned for. However, visitor numbers continue to increase and in the past twelve months we have recorded 51,856 visitors. The Museum is currently a finalist for the European Museum of the Year Award – the prize is to be announced in Portugal in late May.

From the Secretaries

Membership (Ann Bean) (

Membership is currently 647.

Just to remind you that subscriptions were increased from 1 August 2010.

Please see the Joining the Friends page for details.

If you pay by Banker's Order and have not yet increased your payment we would be most grateful if you would instruct your Bank to amend your Banker's Order accordingly. If you would prefer to complete a new order please contact me (email above or telephone 01895 271141).

New Friends - A very warm welcome is extended to all new members.

Polar eBytes - If you haven't already added your name to our email list, please let Celene Pickard have details at You can also choose to receive future issues of Polar Bytes via email.


We thank 'Countryside' for generously sponsoring this edition of Polar Bytes.

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Edited by Heather Lane & Celene Pickard