Centenary of "vital" Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge 12 January 2020
A scientific institution founded in the wake of the fatal Scott expedition to Antarctica is "vital" to "our understanding of the global climate". Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his four companions died returning from the South Pole in 1912. Money poured in after his last written words were revealed to be "for God's sake look after our people". Cambridge University founded the Scott Polar Research Institute 100 years ago using £6,000 of the £76,000 raised.
Captain Scott's failed attempt to lead the first team to reach the South Pole, only to be beaten by a Norwegian team, is well known. But the 1910-1913 Terra Nova expedition was also the largest-ever research mission to the pole, involving 12 scientists.Scott chose four companions to accompany him on the South Pole attempt - and several pounds of geological samples and scientific notebooks were found beside their bodies.
"Their observations are a century-old baseline against which contemporary change can be measured," said institute director Prof Julian Dowdeswell. The institute was the base for scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic in the 1930s and, during World War Two, it was the government's centre for research into cold weather warfare. After the war it became an international centre for research in a variety of fields related to the polar environment.
An Australian explorer just broke the record for the longest unsupported journey across the Antarctic. Completing a 3,300-mile trek across the Antarctic is no easy feat, and Australian Dr. Geoff Wilson did it with nothing but his supplies, a kite, skis, and sled. The route involved heavy winds, rugged terrain, chilling temperatures, and a race against the clock. He made history yesterday when he completed his journey. He travelled 128 miles (206 km) farther than the previous record. The grueling polar journey took the 49-year-old explorer 58 days.
The Guardian view on an Ice Sheet Collapse 7 January 2020
A scientific expedition to Thwaites glacier aims to provide vital information about the dangers of melting Antarctic ice. Thwaites glacier, a vast river of ice the size of Great Britain, holds enough frozen water that were it to collapse, the world’s oceans would rise by more than 60cm. Part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, it is one of the most unstable glaciers on the continent. Since the 1980's, Thwaites has lost 540bn tonnes of ice into the dark waters of the Amundsen Sea. This single glacier is responsible for 4% of global sea level rise.
The rate of Thwaites’s disintegration has alarmed scientists for good
reason. In a handful of decades it could retreat to the point that
collapse becomes inevitable and irreversible. That would lock us into a
future sea level rise of far more than half a metre or so. The reason is
simple: today, Thwaites is a brake on large inland glaciers. Lose
Thwaites, and those it holds back will follow. Over centuries perhaps,
they would add fully 2m to sea level rise. Read more here.
North Pole explorers complete epic trek 8 December 2019
Two explorers who trekked hundreds of miles at the North
Pole and were running out of food have reached safety after an epic journey
across the ice. South African Mike Horn and Norwegian Boerge Ousland covered
about 1,800km (1,120 miles) on treacherous drifting ice in the past couple of
months. Because of delays, they had been expected to run out of food by Friday. However, they managed to meet up with two Norwegians sent to
rescue them despite a local storm. Read more here.
Searching for Snow Hill, Antarctica's Most Elusive Island - National Geographic 21 October 2019
Antarctica is surreal — it’s a place where the air is cleaner, the water purer and the landscapes more untainted than imaginable. It’s where wildlife, avian and mammalian, are so fantastically naive about the threat of humans, they approach with the sincere inquisitiveness of children.
The Seventh Continent’s outrageous beauty is only matched by
this uncanniness, and the sense that maybe none of it is real. Having been
lucky enough to visit several times, I’ve never been able to shake the
peculiarity of the experience. I’m consistently left with a feeling that in a
world increasingly plagued by uniformity, perhaps this continent — and it alone
— deserves to be called unique. Read more here.
Researchers from more than a dozen countries are preparing to launch the biggest and most complex expedition ever attempted in the central Arctic – a year-long journey through the ice they hope will improve the scientific models that underpin our understanding of climate change.
In the €140m (£123m) Mosaic expedition, 600 scientists from 19 countries including Germany, the US, Britain, France, Russia and China will work together in one of the most inhospitable regions of the planet.
“The Arctic is the epicentre of global climate change,” said Markus Rex of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, who will lead the expedition. “At the same time the Arctic is the region of the planet where we understand the climate system least.”
Packed full of scientific equipment, the German icebreaker RV Polarstern will leave the port of Tromsø in northern Norway accompanied by a Russian vessel to search for a suitably large ice floe on which to anchor and set up base. As the days get shorter and the sea freezes around it, the Polarstern will slowly drift off on its own towards the North Pole while rotating teams of 100 scientists spend two months each conducting research on the ice.
Read the original news article at the Guardian.
An ice pick once owned by a member of Captain Scott's doomed Antarctic
expedition team has sold at auction for £22,000. The geologist, Frank Debenham,
took the ice pick on the Terra Nova British Antarctic Expedition of 1910 to
1913 and later gifted it to a friend, who in turn gave it to the owner who sold
it at auction in Cambridge. Its pre-sale estimate was £200 to £400 but the final
price excluding fees was £22,000 – 55 times its pre-sales estimate!
Debenham was part of Scott's expedition but injured his knee while playing football in the snow and did not go on to the South Pole with him and four comrades, who all died in 1912. Debenham later helped found the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge as a memorial to Captain Scott and his four companions.
Diaries from the Fram Expedition up for auction 27 February 2019
Henrik Greve Blessing's diaries recording his experiences on the Fram expedition.
Blessing's registration of weight for the Crew of the Fram expedition.
Contract for Henrik Blessing to join the Fram expedition signed by Blessing, Nansen and Sverdrup.
Update: 6 March 2019 - The Blessing archive sold for NOK 600 000 (£52 500) to a Norwegian institution.
The archive of Henrik Greve Blessing, doctor on board Fram on the first expedition towards the North Pole 1893-1896 is up for auction in Oslo on March 9th.
Henrik Greve Blessing (1866-1916) was one of Nansen’s 12 chosen men for the first Fram-expedition, where he was hired as the doctor. The Blessing archive is extensive. Around 500 handwritten diary pages and extensive letter correspondence, before and after the expedition, gives a unique and detailed insight in one of the primary expeditions of the Heroic Era.
Read more here
The archive is estimated at between NOK 500 000 to NOK 750 000.
Shackleton's sledge smashes estimates 6 February 2019
A sledge from the first expedition to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton sold for £143,750 in the Bonhams Travel and Exploration Sale today. Estimated at between £60,000-£100,000, the sledge was the subject of fierce competition from bidders in the room, on the phone and on the internet.
The sledge was used on the 1907-9 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition by Eric Marshall – one of the four men, with Shackleton, Jameson Adams, and Frank Wild, to undertake the sledge march to the South Pole. Although they had to abandon the attempt, they reached within 100 geographical miles of the Pole – at the time, the furthest south ever travelled.
A detailed account of the expedition and the sledge's crucial role in it can be found here
Magnetic North Pole continues to accelerate 5 February 2019
At the start of the 20th century, the magnetic North Pole sat on the edge of the Canadian Arctic, nearly as far south as 70ºN. The intervening century has seen it gradually move further north, crossing into the Arctic Ocean just before the turn of the millennium. Over this time it has also been speeding up, from around 15 kilometres annually, to now more than 50 kilometres annually. At present it sits closer to the geographic North Pole than at any point since it was first measured by James Clark Ross back in June 1831, and it is rapidly progressing towards Russia.
The precise cause of this change is extremely complicated, triggered
by the unpredictable movements of vast streams of fast-moving liquid
iron within the planet’s outer core. Read more in the March 2019 edition of Geographical Magazine.
Antarctic explorers are to break their way through 75 miles of sea ice in an effort to reach the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, which sank to the bottom of the Weddell Sea in November 1915. Expedition leaders believe they have the best chance yet to find the wreckage of the lost vessel, which became trapped in sea ice for 10 months and eventually went down in two miles of water after the crushing forces of the surrounding ice breached its hull.
Researchers on the SA Agulhas II, a 13,700-tonne icebreaker, hope to
reach the wreck site later this week if the weather and sea conditions
do not turn. But that is not a given in the changeable Antarctic waters,
which have a knack for scuppering even the best-laid plans. Read more here.
Endurance athlete took 54 days to walk 932 miles across frozen continent, dragging a 170kg sled. An American explorer has made the first solo unsupported trek across Antarctica, an epic feat of endurance that took nearly two months and ended with an extraordinary sprint.
He had spent 54 days in conditions that pushed his body to its limit,
battling hunger, cold and solitude, often trekking almost blind through
driving snow, struggling over treacherous terrain and pulling weeks’
worth of supplies on a sled. The total journey was 932 miles.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen famously beat Britain's Captain Robert Scott to the South Pole in 1911, becoming the first man to reach it. But his later attempt for the North Pole was not as easy - and the Maud, his ship for that trip, has finally come home.
spent years locked in Arctic ice - and when Amundsen ran into financial
difficulties, he sold it off. It became a floating warehouse and radio
station under its new owners - before sinking off Canada in the 1930s. Raised from its watery grave in 2016, it has now been towed across the Atlantic to its Norwegian home - 100 years after it left.
Sir David Attenborough has launched the 10,000-tonne hull of the UK's newest polar ship - named after him - into the River Mersey. The broadcaster pushed the button, sending the hull sliding out from the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead, into the water where building will continue.
An official handover of the finished ship is scheduled for the end of
the year. It is at this point that the RRS Sir David Attenborough can
begin sea trials, and go on its maiden expeditions to the Arctic and the
Stonington Diaries, Base E, Antarctica 1 May 2018
Read the daily updates from the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation team at
Stonington as well as 'live' historical entries from the men who were
stationed there in the 60s. We hope you enjoy the story of this unique
and remarkable Antarctic heritage site!
will lead an international scientific expedition to the Weddell Sea on board a South African polar research ship, the Agulhas II, during the Antarctic summer in January and February of next year.
The main scientific purpose of the expedition will be to explore the
edge of the Larsen C ice shelf adjacent to the Weddell Sea, which was exposed in July 2017 by the separation of a giant iceberg known as A-68.
But Dowdeswell hopes the two high-tech AUVs can also search for the
wreck of Shackleton's Endurance, which was recorded as sinking about 215
miles (350 kilometers) from the edge of the ice shelf, in a part of the
Weddell Sea almost always covered by sea ice that's several meters
The UK's first polar bear cub to be born in 25 years is male. Born at the Highland Wildlife Park, near Kincraig, in December, the sex of the cub was confirmed when it was given a health check earlier on Monday. Staff at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland park are preparing a list of "suitable names" for the public to choose from for the cub. The park's Una Richardson, said: "It was very exciting to find out we have a little boy."
China has begun building its first polar expedition cruise ship, state news agency Xinhua reported Saturday, as the country looks to shipping lanes opened up by global warming to extend President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative to the Arctic. Construction of the 104.4-meter vessel, equipped with an advanced electric propulsion and control system for navigating sea ice, was expected to be completed by August 2019, Xinhua reported.
China released its first official Arctic policy white paper in January, in which it revealed plans to encourage companies to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages with the goal of building a “Polar Silk Road.”