On 29th September we had the AGM of the NZ Antarcitc Society (NZAS) at the University Staff Club and we had a good turn out. I am the elected chair of the Society for another, but final, year. A very important annual event is linked to this position: Sunday, 27th September, was the wreath laying ceremony, at the Scott Memorial Statue. Each year is the Season Opening celebrated at the last weekend of September when the overwintering group is coming back and the new group goes down, and all people who are going to the Antarctic in this season. On Friday, 25th September, was a reception at the Tannery and on Sunday was a church service in the Transitional Cathedral and the wreath laying ceremony.
Three wreaths were laid to point to the importance of history and tradition, and highlight the strong link between Christchurch and Lyttelton, and the Antarctic. This connection was recognised by Scott’s widow, Kathleen Scott, when she created and then gifted to the people of Christchurch the Scott Memorial Statue on 9th February 1917. June Lady Hillary and Peter Beggs (CEO of Antarctica NZ) laid the first wreath to commemorate the tradition and remembering the presence to point to the strong scientific support through Antarctica NZ.
In 1928, Admiral Richard Byrd laid a wreath at the Scott Statue and later Sir Edmund Hillary in the 1950s. Since then, the Antarctic Society is holding this ceremony annually. When Scott fell down in the February Earthquakes, the ceremony was held for few years at the Canterbury Museum.
The second wreath was laid by two Antarctic Society Life Members: Bill Cranfield (pilot at the Commonwealth-Trans-Antarctic-Expedition 1957-1959) and John Parsloe (ice pilot and the Society’s archivist) to commemorate all they are gone before us and all NZAS members. The NZAS was instrumental in getting New Zealand government involved in Antarctica in the 1950s. Many of our members played a vital role in exploring the Ross Sea Region in the early days of modern exploration. Our Society continues to keep this part of history alive, by acting in the present to build awareness of the Antarctic challenges and opportunities we face now and for the future.
The third wreath was laid by Margaret Knuth (Operation Manager, Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics, US Division of Polar Programs and Directorate for Geosciences fo the US National Science foundation) and Valerie Mayer (Honorary Italian Consular Agent in Christchurch). This wreath symbolised strong international collaboration that makes work in the Antarctic possible. First international attempts were made exploring the Antarctic in 1901-1905 when England, France, Germany, Scotland and Sweden set yup coordinated observations in meteorology and collaboration in biology, geology, oceanography, and many of other disciplines. Cooperative efforts continued through the years, importantly including the Fourth International Polar Year, known as the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-1959 which led to the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. One of the most important organisations which coordinates the National Antarctic Programs is COMNAP (Council of Manager of National Antarctic Programs), currently based in Christchurch.
The Very Reverend Peter Beck gave the blessings for the wreaths and the final blessing for all they go down to the Ice and their families, friends and loved ones who stay behind. An Antarctic event, as so many events in life, are always a team effort and so were the preparations for this event as well. This is the point I want to thank all involved in this very successful event.