Antarctic Oral History Project receives a grant boost!

The Trust is thrilled to announce that Capital Group has awarded the British Antarctic Oral History Project a further £4000 this year. We also wish to thank the British Antarctic Survey Club (BASC) for their £1400 donation and the South Georgia Association who will fund one interview. Thanks also go to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Archives Service who catalogue and store the interviews and offer expert advice. Volunteers are an essential part of the project and without them our work would be greatly diminished.

The project preserves the memories of those extraordinary, dedicated and often heroic individuals involved in British endeavour in Antarctica. Its main focus is from the first continuous British presence in Antarctica during Operation Tabarin (1944) to the 1960’s but recordings from more recent times are also included (such as the first women to go south or the discovery of the ozone hole).

One concern is that there are many people overseas who had an important role in British Antarctic history but have not been possible to interview due to distance. Skype was recently trialled with good results so the awards will enable us to capture these overseas candidates and make the collection more complete.

The recollections offer us a unique, often entertaining insight into personal, social, political and scientific interactions and varied perspectives on the challenges and eccentricities of living in one of the world’s most hostile environments. This is a public collection that will inspire people for generations to come.

Our long term goal is to make the interviews easily accessible to everyone (it is possible to listen to them through the BAS Archives Service on request). In 2013/2014 we will be exploring the best ways to do this online. A selection of extracts can be listened to on the project’s webpage

The project is a collaboration between the UKAHT, BAS, BAS Club, the Scott Polar Research Institute and the British Museum.

RRS John Biscoe Painting for Auction

RRS John Biscoe

RRS John Biscoe

The executors of the late Humphrey Smith’s estate have donated this magnificent painting to the British Antarctic Monument Trust. Humph was an ex Signy Fid and Bas Club Member and commissioned this painting from celebrated Fid painter Mike Skidmore. Mike is making minor changes and restoration to the picture ahead of its auction.

Should you wish to make a bid please contact Tony Wincott by email or phone 07702055061.

The painting will be on display at the BAS Club Alnwyck reunion for a silent auction. All monies raised will be placed in the BAMT fund towards establishing the Southern Monument in Stanley 2014

Dr Humphrey Graham Smith 1945–2012

Microbiologist, British Antarctic Survey 1968-74
wintered Signy 1970 and summer visits 1968-69 and 1983-84

Humph’s ashes are to be scattered this spring in his belovéd woodland known as Mabley Wood on Saturday 27th April 2013, between 2 and 4pm.

Liz and Mark would welcome anybody who would like to be there, be with them, and to be at Humph’s final resting place. Humph particularly loved springtime in the woods when “everything’s coming out to play.”

Mabley Wood is at Woolhope, near Hereford
Visiting vehicles may park at Siege Wood, near the entrance to Mabley Wood which will be signed.

For its location: 1:50,000 OS Explorer Series 189, Grid Reference SO 605344
For those using a sat nav: the post code for the car park is HR1 4QL

For contact details please call Liz and Mark on 01432 861000 or 07749 880277

Australia mourns loss of ‘great friends’ in Antarctic plane crash

From AAD website

The Director of the Australian Antarctic Division Dr Tony Fleming says the Australian Antarctic community is deeply saddened by the plane crash in Antarctica and thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of the crew.

Dr Fleming said the Twin Otter operated by Canadian based Kenn Borek Air, which crashed in the Queen Alexandra range halfway between the South Pole and McMurdo station on Wednesday, had worked with the Australian Antarctic program over the summer season.

“The crew were great friends of the Australian Antarctic program and our expeditioners,” Dr Fleming said.

“The air crew were very well respected and had been embraced as part of our Antarctic station communities, we are deeply saddened by their loss,” he said.

“A couple of the crew had just completed a second year working with us in Antarctica performing a vital role supporting our science and moving expeditioners between stations during the season.

“I know they loved working with us and we certainly enjoyed and valued their contribution and friendship,” Dr Fleming said.

“Our hearts go out to their families, friends and colleagues at Kenn Borek Air as we share their grief at this time.”

Dr Fleming flew to Australia’s Wilkins Runway in Antarctica today to meet with some of the Antarctic expeditioners who are mourning the loss of their great friends.

More on the tragedy from ‘The Australian’ newspaper. 28/01/2013

The bodies of three Canadians who died when their plane crashed into an Antarctic mountain will not be recovered until October at the earliest, officials said today.

Conditions on the frozen continent were too dangerous for an immediate recovery operation, with the plane’s cockpit embedded in snow and ice at a height of 3900m, Antarctica New Zealand (ANZ) said.

“I’m sad to say our teams have not been able to access and safely recover the remains of the crew, it’s just unsafe to do so,” ANZ operations manager Graeme Ayers told Radio New Zealand.

“The aircraft has suffered a major impact into the side of the mountain and the front of the aircraft is firmly embedded in snow and ice.”

The Twin Otter belonged to Kenn Borek Air, a Canadian firm that charters aircraft to the US Antarctic program, and disappeared last Wednesday while on a supply run from the South Pole to Italy’s Antarctic base at Terra Nova Bay.

Ayers said search crews had managed to recover some equipment from the tail of the plane but no attempt would be made to reach the bodies until conditions eased later this year.

“At this stage we’re deferring the operation for recovery of any remains until the next Antarctic science season, which commences in October this year and runs through to February of the following year,” he said.

Rescuers initially hoped to find the crew alive but described the crash as “not survivable” when they found the wreckage Saturday.

New Zealand coordinated the search, with cooperation from US and Italian authorities in Antarctica, because the Queen Alexandra range lies in its rescue zone.

Shackleton expedition sets off

from The Telegraph newspaper website

A British-Australian expedition recreating Ernest Shackleton’s perilous 1916 crossing of the Southern Ocean in a small boat has set off, braced for fearsome seas and icy, bleak conditions.

Led by renowned adventurer Tim Jarvis, the team of six plans to sail 800 nautical miles in a spartan lifeboat from Elephant Island off the Antarctic Peninsula to rugged South Georgia, their support team said.

While there were unusually moderate winds and a small swell as they pushed off, the team was heading for looming pack ice to the east as they bid to relive part of what is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever survival tales.

They plan to only use the equipment, navigational instruments and food available to Shackleton during his 16-day voyage before facing a two day climb to 2,950 feet over the mountainous, crevassed interior of South Georgia.

That will take them to the old whaling station at Stromness on the other side of the island, where Shackleton and his crew, with little more than the clothes on their backs, raised the alarm about the sinking of their ship, the Endurance.

“We are well aware of the dangers but believe we have a good little boat (an exact replica of the original James Caird), a great team and the spirit and courage to be able to honour the legend of Shackleton,” Mr Jarvis said.

Further pictures of the expedition and plans of the James Caird

2013 geographic South Pole marker moved

From the Antarctic Sun website. By Jeffrey Donenfeld, Special to the Sun, Posted January 11, 2013

As tradition dictates, on New Year’s Day the geographic South Pole marker was moved to its freshly surveyed position, and the new brass-and-copper plaque that tops the marker was revealed.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station sits on a moving sheet of ice more than two miles thick. The site where the geographic marker, sign and American flag are installed drifts about 30 feet per year due to ice flow. In order to keep the marker in close proximity to the point where all the lines of longitude meet, the site is re-surveyed Jan. 1 each year. [See previous article — A good point: South Pole geographic marker changes with the times.]

The entire South Pole Station staff gathered outside between the old and new pole locations this year and formed a semicircle. Each person helped pass the American flag from its drifted location to the new location just beside the 90 degrees South marker.

Almost all hands were present for the ceremony, including station manager Bill Coughran, winter site manager Weeks Heist, and National Science Foundationrepresentative Vladimir Papitashvili. The weather was sunny and a warm at just below minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the American flag had been moved, Heist revealed the design of the newly relocated geographic South Pole marker. This year’s marker was created by science machinist Derek Aboltins during the 2012 winter. It was machined out of brass and copper.

The marker shows the position of the planets as viewed from the South Pole on Jan 1, 2013. There are seven brass planets displayed on a copper inlay. In the very center is a small copper star that marks the South Pole.

It also “represents the earth sciences done from here, as we reach out to understand our planet. The large brass star represents astronomy and astrophysics, as it extends out past our solar system in the quest for knowledge,” Aboltins wrote in his description of the marker.

“In the center of the marker (in brass) we have the sun, sunset and moon, with the Southern Cross, including the pointers. If you look carefully, the small inscription above the moon reads, ‘Accomplishment & Modesty.’ This was a reference to honor Neil Armstrong, as he passed away when I was making this section with the moon.”

There was even a nod in the design to disenfranchised Pluto: “For those of you who still think Pluto should be a planet, you’ll find it included underneath, just to keep everyone happy,” Aboltins said. “Bring back Pluto, I say!”

The previous 2012 South Pole marker was removed from its old location, and a flag was placed in its stead to mark the previous site. The 2012 marker will be displayed at the entrance of the South Pole Station.