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Polar Bytes 65

Polar Bytes 65

From the Chairman, Nick Lambert

Dear Friends,

I'm under subtle (!) pressure from Celene so it must be time to open the laptop and put pen to paper (so to speak) for edition number 65 of Polar Bytes. After all the excitement and frenetic pace of the first half of the year, the summer months have been a relatively quiet period as people drew breath and rightly caught up on holidays. The Friends returned to their alma mater at the Institute for the Summer Lunch where we listened in thoughtful admiration to Lieutenant Colonel Paul Edwards as he described against the backdrop of some excellent photographs the challenges and vicissitudes faced by the Joint Services In the Spirit of Captain Scott expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. Bedevilled by the weather (as all forays into the southern continent invariably are), the 22 strong team of men and women from all three services adapted plans and locations to achieve their aim to 'conduct scientific exploration in remote areas of the Antarctic Peninsula, seeking to further the bounds of human exploration and knowledge. His graphic description of the team's activities brought to life the challenge of living and operating in such environments, notwithstanding the benefits of modern equipment and including a particularly illuminating account of escaping from a crevasse. Paul's story is in demand and he will be speaking again at the RGS in January for those of you who would like to hear more.

Nick Lambert

Nick Lambert

Following the successful Summer Lunch, a 20 strong group of the Friends headed for Ipswich and a visit to HMS PROTECTOR alongside for a programme of activities with her affiliated city of Cambridge. Captain Peter Sparkes and his ever-professional team provided an excellent lunch, presentations and guided tours of his impressive ship and her considerable capabilities. We watched a video of the ship's attempt to navigate the ice of the Gut to the east of Adelaide Island and marvelled at the gymnastics of the ship's photographer as he clambered up the foremast to photograph the Friends on the bridge! PROTECTOR left Ipswich for a new davit to be fitted in Bergen before heading south for the 2012/13 season in the Antarctic. The ship's vital work is in good hands, she has an exciting programme ahead and I know that Peter will continue to update us on his progress.

A small (but perfectly formed) committee meeting took place at SPRI in September to consider the programme for next year and summarise activity in advance of the November AGM. Discussions covered the impending Shackleton Centenary which, of course, will be upon us very soon; we've got lots of ideas in conjunction with the Antarctica 100 team and would welcome any additional ideas from the Friends (in fact, feedback on any aspect of our activities is welcome at any time). We're also very excited about the AGM where Vanessa Berlowitz, the producer of the BBC's Frozen Planet series will regale us with her team's exploits. I'm very keen to ensure a big turnout for this event; the lecture hall in the Chemistry department can seat 450, so please bring your friends and family and display the enclosed owl poster. (Celene has already sold 50 tickets to the Stevenage and Knebworth Arts Group) for what I'm sure will be a fascinating afternoon. Thanks are due as always to the Committee, Heather, Celene and the staff at SPRI for their support of the Friends. I look forward to seeing you in your droves in November!

Paul Edwards

Lt Col Paul Edwards in conversation with Friends at the Summer Lunch (Photo: © James Pickard)

From the Institute

A few words from the Director, Professor Julian Dowdeswell:

Degree day in late June marks the end of the teaching year in Cambridge both for me and the other senior academic staff of the Institute. The summer is therefore a period when we can concentrate on our research, in the field and the laboratory. I was in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, during September, discussing marine geological and geophysical data from the fjords of Spitsbergen with Dr Riko Noormets – Riko was for several years a Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA) at SPRI and is now an Associate Professor at the University Centre in Svalbard. Dr Kelly Hogan, a SPRI PDRA, was also in Svalbard, and she was able to take part in a collaborative data-collecting cruise to the fjords and shelf north of the archipelago – data that we shall be working on together with Riko over the coming months.

I have also been working with marine geophysical data on the sea-floor morphology of the fjords of Chilean Patagonia in collaboration with the Hydrographic Division of the Chilean Navy. These data, acquired over a number of years by Chilean research vessels, provide a unique view of the sedimentary processes, including past glacial action, that have shaped these fjords. Part of my summer was taken up with the investigation of these data and the writing of a scientific paper together with a colleague from the Chilean Navy.

These are two examples of the collaborative work that the Institute undertakes with a number of other polar research centres around the world. I have also been in discussion with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, the James Caird Society and others concerning our evolving plans for the centenary period of Shackleton's Endurance expedition to Antarctica. I shall let you know more about these ideas in due course. We are delighted to welcome a new cohort of students to the Institute at the start of the Michaelmas Term and look forward to another very productive and enjoyable academic year.

Paul Edwards

The Norwegian settlement of Longyearbyen in Svalbard (Photo: © J.A. Dowdeswell)

News from the Heritage collections

From the Archivist, Naomi Boneham:

I attended the annual conference of the Archives and Record Association in Brighton in late August. It was wonderful to spend some time with fellow Archivists and Records Managers from across the profession. The conference theme was Progression, Innovation and New Landscapes. Many of the speakers discussed the growth in digital archives both the digitising of existing collections and how new material was increasingly delivered in a digital format and how archivists would cope with this move and ensure the preservation and access of digital and physical documents.

There was no escaping the polar world though, as during the final panel session Geoff Pick (Head of Public Engagement at London Metropolitan Archives and ARA board member) drew on Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen for his summing up of the challenges faced by Archivists. Back at the Institute, the summer saw several past researchers revisiting and we welcomed some new researchers beginning their work on a variety of polar themes. The year so far has unsurprisingly brought a lot of interest in the Terra Nova collections and this continues.

From the Picture Library Manager, Lucy Martin:

Just a quick update on the 'Lost' Photographs of Captain Scott – the prints have all now been digitised and cataloguing is under way. A small selection will be put on display in the Museum during the autumn. We are grateful to the HLF, the Staples Trust and UKAHT for their continued support.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Friends' visit to HMS PROTECTOR


On the bridge of PROTECTOR (Photo: LPHOT Arron Hoare)

On Sunday 12 August, while PROTECTOR was in Ipswich as part of her Affiliation Day, marking her relationship with the City of Cambridge, 20 Friends enjoyed a tour of the ship and a buffet lunch as guests of the Captain and crew. The Committee extend their thanks to the Captain and all concerned for making this such a memorable event.

AGM 2012

Notice of motion

The Committee has received a notice of motion intended to create the new post of Student Representative, with effect from 1 January 2013. The post holder will be an ordinary member of the committee and must be between the ages of 18 and 25 and in full time education at the time of election. The post will be open for nomination at the 2012 AGM. Anyone wishing to stand for election to the committee for this or any other post, should complete the enclosed nomination form and return it no later than 5 November 2012.

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.


Any enquiries about membership (including subscription rates and renewals) should be sent to Ann Bean ( A very warm welcome is extended to all new members, who are reminded that those wishing to bring non-members as regular guests could benefit from the savings offered by joint membership. Please also note that membership cards are no longer being issued.

We are sad to note also the passing of our Friend, Sir Neil Jephcott, a Life Member since 1996. A full obituary will appear in the New Year.