The End of the Heroic Era – Conference

A conference, organised by the NZ Antarctic Society and the Royal NZ Navy, was held in Auckland. Friday, 24 March 2017, was the cocktail party at the Naval Museum in Devonport where the participants came together in a relaxed atmosphere.

IMG_9871The picture shows me, Philippa Ross and Myra Walton in the Naval Museum.

On Saturday, 25 March, were the presentations of different speakers. I have been invited to this conference to present the international perspective of the Heroic Era. My focus was on the German, Swedish, Japanese and French expeditions which took place at this time. I also provided a context of why these expeditions undertook science in the Antarctic and how it was linked to the economic and political circumstances at the time. Some of these links are still in place and are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty System.  It turned out during the conference that the Heroic Era is mainly a British Edwardian concept. This time of Antarctic explorations is stated usually from 1897 – 1917; however, sometimes it is also pointed out that the end was at 1922 when Ernest Shackleton died at Grytviken on a heart attack. This is a matter of debate but much more logical to end it in 1917.

A service was held on Sunday at the chapel of St Christopher. After the service a guided tour took place around the Naval Base.


“Nathanial Palmer” in the dry dock for repair and participants of the conference at the tour.

After lunch the presentations continued until 4 pm in the afternoon. The conference was concluded with drinks and lots of lively discussions until 5:30pm.

The conference was very well prepared by Brett Fotheringham, CDR, Roger McGarry and Mike Wing from the Auckland Branch of the NZAS. Of course many people helped in the background for the the conference run smoothly.

More photos can be found on the NZAS Facebook page:


Archive stay at Maritime Museum for NSC-DS project

Since Wednesday (22 March) I am in Auckland to meet Drew Lorrey (my boss at NIWA) to discuss further progress for the NSC-DS which ends for me at 30 June 2017. However, this does not stop me to continue the work in searching logbooks to collect weather data. The Maritime Museum has logbooks but mainly in diary format what is not of use for our project.


Engagement -DS

Last week, I handed in a proposal for the Engagement component of the Deep South National Science Challenge DS-NSC.

My idea was to look at extreme weather events in New Zealand from the 1850s-1970s and how this influenced the settlements and communities. Since I have been on the North Island earlier this year, I was thinking of this sort of project: for example: in Whakahoro were settlements from 1918 – 1942. The climate there is challenging and the terrain is not the usual sort of farmland but 40 farmers tried it. With their impact in working on the land (e.g. deforesting) and the weather events (mainly strong rain events) it caused landslides. Consequently the roads were hard to maintain and so the government decided in 1942 to close this area for business and the 3 remaining farms  were abandoned.

Now some farmers today try different approaches to work on the land.

It is an interesting topic and after I have done the research I will create displays on public places (which will be then decided if I should get the funding). Marney Brosnan will be the designer for the exhibition panels.

I hope that I will get some funding for this project – the proposals are now under review.

Clutha Flooding in 1878, Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library.

Isobel Williams

Isobel Williams gave a very fascinating talk on Edward A. Wilson at 8th March 2017 at the University of Canterbury.The event was advertised through the NZAS, Canterbury Branch, CHA, City Council, AHT, Antarctica NZ, and the University.

Wilson was a great artist, physician, ornithologist, and Scott’s friend. Isobel had great picture material from the rich collection of Wilson’s drawings. He was a fascinating character and a brilliant scientist with strong believes and high values. Fascinating biography and Isobel told us this wonderful story.


Wolfgang Rack, Isobel Williams, Ursula Rack before the talk started. Picture provided with courtesy of  Isobel Williams.