Monday, March 19, 2012

Polar high-jinks

I spent four days in Hobart earlier this month hosting the 2012 conference of the ICOMOS International Polar Heritage Committee (IPHC) of which I have just become President. I say it as one how probably shouldn’t, but it was a great event with 50 polar heritage experts from all over the world present. Lots of highlights helped by the wealth of local polar links – check out Hobart’s Polar Pathways for a great self guided tour around the city.

Stand outs were:

1. A reception kindly hosted by the Governor of Tasmania, Peter Underwood, a role with many polar links. Sir John Franklin held this role from 1837 to 1843 – disappearing in the late 1840s in the Canadian Arctic whilst trying to reach the North Pole. Ettie Scott, Capt Scott’s sister was married to Sir William Ellison-Macartney, who was Governor from 1913-1917 before moving to the same role in WA. Scott’s mother and unmarried sister both lived at Government House, Hobart at the time, perhaps helping the British Government fulfil Scott’s dying plea ‘For God’s sake look after my people’.

2. Michael Morrison’s paper 'The Whaling Station of South Georgia' on the whaling stations of South Georgia. These five sites, Leith, Stromness, Prince Olav, Husvik and Grytviken between them processed an astonishing 175,000 whales in their life time before closing in the 1930s. They now represent a massive environmental and heritage conservation challenge. Check out the images (including the whales) at the conference proceedings on the IPHC site under here, but also look at this extraordinary picture of the process (apologies to the squeamish):

3. The main reason for holding the conference in Hobart at this time, namely the centenary of Amundsen announcing he had reached the South Pole from the steps of Hobart GPO on March 9th 1912. This was re-enacted complete with huskies, sledge and a look-alike Amundsen amidst general jollity as follows:

Meanwhile of course a hundred years ago Scott and his three companions were still fighting a losing battle against the odds on the Ross Sea ice barrier trying to get back to safety. I have been reading Scott’s diaries on a daily basis for the past year, which has given me an extraordinary sense of how their journey unfolded. It was 100 years ago today that Titus Oates walked out of the tent with the immortal words” I am just going outside and may be some time’

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

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