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# Piers Vitebsky awarded IASSA Honorary Lifetime Membership

During the ICASS X meetings in June 2021, Dr. Piers Vitebsky was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership by the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA).

This very prestigious award is some small marker of the esteem with which Piers is held by the Arctic social sciences and humanities community. The presentation to Piers was made virtually, and a number of SPRI colleagues joined an international audience to reflect on Piers's career and celebrate his achievements.

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# Mapping glacier surface debris thickness across high mountain Asia

PhD student Karla Boxall and supervisor Ian Willis have mapped the thickness of debris cover on all glaciers in High Mountain Asia. With colleagues from the US and China, they developed a robust statistical relationship between surface temperature and the few existing field measurements of debris thickness. Using regional scale thermal imagery, they applied that relationship to map debris thickness across all 134,770 glaciers in the region. Their map of debris thickness is as accurate and more precise than one already in the literature.

They also determine the controls on the distribution of debris thickness across glaciers showing that thicker debris typically occurs on flatter, west-facing slopes at lower elevations, where ice flow is slower.

Debris thickness contributes to the rate at which glaciers melt, so these findings have important implications for modelling the future behaviour of glaciers in this region.

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# Dowdeswell Bay

We are delighted to announce that Professor Julian Dowdeswell, former Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, has been honoured by the Antarctic Place-names Committee, and an Antarctic bay has been named for him. The bay is about 8.5 km wide and 8 km deep (2021) at the southern end of Lallemand Fjord, Loubet Coast. To the west of Hooke Point and north of, and formed by the retreat of, Müller Ice Shelf. The newly named Dowdeswell Bay continues a well-established naming theme of Glaciologists in this area.

Professor Dowdeswell is a glaciologist, studying the form and flow of glaciers and ice caps and their response to climate change, and the links between former ice sheets and the marine geological record. He was Chief Scientist on the Weddell Sea Expedition, 2019, and represented the UK on the councils of both the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and was Chair of the UK National Committee on Antarctic Research. Awarded the Polar Medal (1994) for 'outstanding contributions to glacier geophysics'; Founder's Gold Medal from the Royal Geographical Society (2008); Louis Agassiz Medal from European geosciences Union (2011) and Lyell Medal from the Geological Society of London (2018).

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# New book: Explorations in the Icy North

A new book by Nanna K. L. Kaalund, SPRI Research Associate on the ERC Arctic Cultures project, is now out: Explorations in the Icy North: How Travel Narratives Shaped Arctic Science in the Nineteenth Century, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021.

Science in the Arctic changed dramatically over the course of the nineteenth century, when early, scattered attempts in the region to gather knowledge about all aspects of the natural world transitioned to a more unified Arctic science under the First International Polar Year in 1882. The IPY brought together researchers from multiple countries with the aim of undertaking systematic and coordinated experiments and observations in the Arctic and Antarctic. Harsh conditions, intense isolation, and acute danger inevitably impacted the making and communicating of scientific knowledge. At the same time, changes in ideas about what it meant to be an authoritative observer of natural phenomena were linked to tensions in imperial ambitions, national identities, and international collaborations of the IPY. Through a focused study of travel narratives in the British, Danish, Canadian, and American contexts, Nanna Katrine Lüders Kaalund uncovers not only the transnational nature of Arctic exploration, but also how the publication and reception of literature about it shaped an extreme environment, its explorers, and their scientific practices. She reveals how, far beyond the metropole—in the vast area we understand today as the North American and Greenlandic Arctic—explorations and the narratives that followed ultimately influenced the production of field science in the nineteenth century.

"In this study of the making of Arctic science, Nanna Katrine Lüders Kaalund's originality lies in her attention to Greenland as well as the Canadian archipelago and the shores of the Arctic Ocean; the role of narratives in shaping knowledge; and the role of the Inuit, who have too often been ignored by historians. She brings literary sensibilities as well as historiographical ones to this book, which will accordingly be of interest to historians of imperialism, historians of science, cultural historians, literary scholars, and those simply fascinated by the Arctic."

Trevor H. Levere, University of Toronto

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# Fibre-optics used to take the temperature of Greenland Ice Sheet

RESPONDER team members installing borehole sensors after drilling to the bed of Store Glacier (Rob Law and RESPONDER team)

Scientists have used fibre-optic sensing to obtain the most detailed measurements of ice properties ever taken on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Their findings will be used to make more accurate models of the future movement of the world's second-largest ice sheet, as the effects of climate change continue to accelerate.

The research team, led by Dr Poul Christoffersen from the Scott Polar Research Institute, used a new technique in which laser pulses are transmitted in a fibre-optic cable to obtain highly detailed temperature measurements from the surface of the ice sheet all the way to the base, more than 1000 metres below.

"With typical sensing methods, we can only attach about a dozen sensors onto the cable, so the measurements are very spaced out," said first author Robert Law, a PhD candidate at the Scott Polar Research Institute. "But by using a fibre-optic cable instead, essentially the whole cable becomes a sensor, so we can get precise measurements from the surface all the way to the base." The researchers found three layers of ice in the glacier. The thickest layer consists of cold and stiff ice which formed over the last 10,000 years. Below, they found older ice from the last ice age, which is softer and more deformable due to dust trapped in the ice. What surprised the researchers the most, however, was a layer of warm ice more than 70 metres thick at the bottom of the glacier. "We know this type of warm ice from far warmer Alpine environments, but here the glacier is producing the heat by deforming itself," said Law.

Read the full paper: Robert Law et al. 'Thermodynamics of a fast-moving Greenlandic outlet glacier revealed by fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing.' Science Advances (2021). doi:10.1126/sciadv.abe7136

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# SPRI Review 2020

SPRI Review 2020 is now available online. SPRI Review is the Annual Report issued by the Scott Polar Research Institute, giving information on the Institute's activities over the past year.

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# Professor Julian Dowdeswell

Professor Julian Dowdeswell retired from the Directorship of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Easter 2021 after almost 20 years in the post. He will remain as Professor of Physical Geography and a member of SPRI during a period of sabbatical leave prior to retirement from the University of Cambridge at the end of 2022.

During a career of over four decades, since his graduation from the Cambridge Geography Department in 1980, Julian has led or participated in more than 40 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. His research, published in almost 400 papers, is centred in two main themes. The first concerns the patterns, processes and rates of glacial sedimentation on high-latitude continental margins, from fjords and continental shelves to the deep sea, and the record of past glacier and ice-sheet change found there. The second is the form and flow of modern glaciers and ice sheets, their sensitivity to climatic variations and the implications for global sea level.

In terms of highlighting environmental issues concerning the changing icy world to wider audiences, from decision-makers to the general public, Julian has also made wide-ranging contributions; co-authored books include 'Islands of the Arctic' and 'The Continent of Antarctica'. He has spoken a number of times to members of both Houses of Parliament, has been an invited speaker on issues concerning ice and environmental change at, for example, the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Nobel Dialogues in Stockholm and was a UK delegate at the 2016 White House Ministerial on the future of the Arctic.

He also represented the UK for almost 10 years as delegate to the councils of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Beyond academia, Julian is also a Trustee of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Julian says of his time as SPRI Director: 'I have very much enjoyed the challenges of being the Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute. It has been a privilege to have undertaken research in the Arctic and Antarctic and their surrounding seas on a regular basis and to have been able to work with a series of very able research students and post-docs over this period. A key continuing role for the SPRI is to train the brightest and best to take forward our understanding of polar environmental change; the Centenary Fundraising Campaign is an important contribution to this. I also value the collections of the Institute greatly – our wonderful Library, Archive, Museum and Picture Library. One particular benefit of being Director is the opportunity to get to know these collections and, indeed, to show visitors the breadth, depth and quality of our holdings. Wider outreach through SPRI's contributions to the centenaries of the 'Heroic Age' expeditions has also been memorable through, for example, services of celebration and remembrance in St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. It has been a fulfilling twenty years as SPRI Director - as has been my whole career spent in Cambridge, Bristol and Aberystwyth universities.'

# Daughters of the Snow (BBC Sounds and Radio 4)

A BBC Sounds / Radio 4 program, "Daughters of the Snow", broadcast this week and available to listen online, featured Dr Michael Bravo.

This collaboration between Dr Bravo, radio producer Andrea Rangecroft, and the artist and poet Himali Singh Soin, explores the North Pole as a mythologised space in literature. Reading novels like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Arthur Conan Doyle's Captain of the Pole Star at school in India, the North Pole has often been portrayed as a blank, white, mysterious and uninhabited place. The conversations in this programme, set to music, discuss the consequences of mythologising this huge region of diverse lands and cultures at the top of the world.

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# Greenland Ice Sheet lakes drain in the winter

Ian Willis

PhD student Corinne Benedek and supervisor Ian Willis have discovered that large lakes on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet drain in the Arctic winter. They used satellite radar images to identify large, anomalous, sudden and sustained increases in radar backscatter, showing a switch from a water to an ice surface.

It is known that lakes can drain catastrophically in the summer but this is the first time they have been seen to disappear in the winter.

Using other satellite data they confirmed the lake drainages, which show a lowering of the surface by several metres and the loss of up to 20 million cubic metres of water, the equivalent of around 8000 olympic size swimming pools emptying to the bottom of the ice sheet over a few days, possibly just a few hours.

The findings have implications for the speed at which the ice sheet flows to the ocean.

The work is discussed further on the University of Cambridge news pages and is published in The Cryosphere.

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# Big Freeze Art Festival launches

The Big Freeze

Online art festival, 4-14 March 2021 #BigFreezeArtFest

This spring, the Scott Polar Research Institute is holding an online art festival. Featuring work from the Polar Museum's collections, Friends of SPRI artists in residence and a range of other polar artists and film makers, the Big Freeze art festival will be the perfect way to wave goodbye to winter.


Throughout the festival we'll be sharing short films and interviews with a range of artists. Find out about the Inuit traditions that inspire Alaskan artist Art Oomittuk's work, watch a short film about Lesley Burr's residency in the Canadian Arctic and watch a film showing a day in the studio with Theo Crutchley-Mack. Most of our programme will be streamed over social media, you can see the full programme on our website.


The Big Freeze art festival includes the Big Freeze online exhibition. Featuring work from our participating artists and from our collection, the exhibition will offer the opportunity to explore at your own pace.


You can get involved too by joining in with The Big Freeze Challenge: Polar self Portraits! How about a polar self portrait of… yourself? The festival will open with a special online screening of artist and curator Zsuzsanna Ardó's Polar Self Portraits project, and the invitation to you to join in by imagining yourself in the polar regions and creating your own self portrait. Share your image with us using the #BigFreezeArtFest hashtag on social media.

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