About urack

I am a polar historian, specialised in social and environmental history

Video – Interview at SCAR POLAR2018

I had the opportunity to give an interview at the conference in Davos. That gave me the chance to introduce my work. On the Facebook page  “Women in Polar Research” are some of the interviews to find. Mine is accessible through this link: #PolarWomen2018 #Polar2018  https://vimeo.com/275919706

I think Stephen Curtain did a great job with all those interviews. I am looking forward to seeing his official conference video. He has done a short and long version in Hobart last year and it had a great positive response.

interview June 2018


Book chapter published

In September 2016,  the conference on “Historical Antarctic Sealing Industry” was held at Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and in June 2018, the book with the conference proceedings has been published. Because of the discipline of the conference contributors in submitting their chapters and the hard work of the two editors, Bob Headland and Bryan Lintott, it is now available. Soon, there will be an online version available which I will promote as well. My chapter in this book is on “Survival and Science: Early Antarctic Explorers and Sealing” (pp 121 – 129). I am very pleased with the appearance of the book and I hope it will become a sort of textbook in the future. Bob Headland provided in the appendixes valuable information on “Peri-Antarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean Sealing Industries” (pp 166 – 170) and the “Antarctic Sealing Voyages (1786 – 1922)” (pp 171  – 223). The conference has demonstrated that sealing has many aspects and is an important part of social history and the history of the Southern Ocean industry and this is reflected in the book.


Weddell seal, laying around peacefully (picture was taken December 2014)

Poster session on Thursday, 22 June 2018 in Davos (SCAR POLAR2018)

My poster “Whaling, claims and a doctoral thesis from 1940” was of interest by many visitors. A young international law student wrote his thesis about the attitude of claiming states in the Antarctic and the economic factors which were one of the drivers next to nationalism and politics in the 1930s and 1940s. During my own studies it was to recognise that the problem is still a controversial discussion today with all the new players in the Antarctic. Whaling conventions and the Antarctic Treaty System are strong toolsto keep the Antarctic kind of safe from commercial use but economic discussion are challenging the systems.




Conference in Davos – SCAR-POLAR2018

We took a group picture from a part of the Gateway Antarctica folks to remind ourselves of our great presence in Davos. Everybody of us had so far great presentations (orals and posters) and we will continue tomorrow and on Saturday.

I had my first poster on 21 June: Whaling, claims and a doctoral thesis from 1940. Many people passed by and talked with me about the topic – it was a great outreach.



Gateway Antarctica attendance: picture from 20 June 2018 by Gabriela Roldan


Davos – SCAR – POLAR2018 conference

13 June: I left Christchurch and 38 hours later I reached Davos, Switzerland. The SCAR OSC POLAR2018 is held here from 19 – 23 June. However, side meetings are already happening from today, 15 June. After registration and meeting already some people, I try to get ready for my programming course tomorrow and on Sunday: “Software Carpentry and Intro to HPC for Polar Science – POLAR2018”. It is a hands-on workshop from 9 am – 6 pm. The aim is to introduce researcher to data management and task automation. I am looking forward to this two days’ course.

To beat the jetlag I had a walk to the Davoser See (lake) and saw the Physical-Meteorological Observatory. I took a picture from the building. It has historic significance for its meteorological studies especially in the 1920s on atmospheric radiation.


This is the Physical-Meteorological Observatory in Davos where already Fritz Loewe undertook studies in  1923-24 on atmospheric radiation.

MA 18 conference in Christchurch

Last week, I attended the MA18 (Museum Aotearoa 2018) conference: Insight – Outsight. As a volunteer in the committee in the Lyttelton Museum Society, I paid the fees and attended for 3.5 days the conference. I learned very much about Christchurch, the museum’s work and the changes which correspond to the change in society and perception of museums. Today, a museum is a space for addressing current social issues and also link to the past most of the time on the bases of storytelling and visual media. Education is also a very crucial part of museum’s work today. A short summary is to find in the MA newsletter, News & Notices 29 May 2018: please, see copy below!

It was a great experience, especially the hands-on session in the Canterbury Museum workshop for mounting artefacts.

20180601_122444[1]              20180601_122404[1]

We learned how to make the base, worked on the metal parts and created the top (second picture). Normally a more attractive hat or delicate artefact would be on this mount 🙂 but it was a good way to see the work behind a good display support. Before we could start to work on that piece we had a very good introduction about the different materials, complicated issues with some of them and the many options of the diverse mounting supports. It is a very creative work and needs accuracy to hold the artefacts without any impact on the item itself. When planning an exhibition it is also helpful to know about different ways to mount the displayed items and consider this also in the cost and time calculations. Once became clear, this can only work within a great teamwork.



Extract from the MA newsletter, 29 May 2018


Whew, it’s over – or is it? MA18 Outside Insights conference may be over, but the challenges and kōrero remain with us. Tā Mark Solomon challenged us all to take responsibility for domestic trauma in our communities, Elizabeth Connor encouraged us to take the bad with the good and be open to creativity as well fact, and Kaila Colbin looked to a future which will be exponentially different from today. We heard from a wide range of people outside museums and galleries who had views on how they work with us, and from some inside who shared other kinds of challenges – such as inclusion and repatriation.

MA would really appreciate your feedback on MA18. A survey link has been sent to everyone who registered. And if you didn’t get to MA18 we would love you to tell us why, and would also appreciate your ideas and suggestions for future conferences. We are already working on MA19 in Wellington, and feedback from this year will help us to plan a relevant and inspiring conference. Please use this link to our Conference Survey.


Congratulations to all the winners and finalists in the 2018 ServiceIQ NZ Museum Awards, announced in Christchurch on 20 May. Otago Museum (Taonga Māori and Public Programme) and Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom (Museum Project) were prominent on the podium. Other winners are Canterbury Museum (Arts Access), Christchurch Art Gallery (Museum Shops), Dowse Art Museum (Museum Shops), Taupō Museum (Public Programme), MTG Hawke’s Bay (Taonga Māori), MOTAT (Social History), Kaikoura Museum (Science), Hastings City Art Gallery (Art), and Awhina Tamarapa is the first recipient of the Mina McKenzie Award for individual achievement.

Talk at the Women’s Fellowship Club

I have been invited to give a talk at the Women’s Fellowship Club at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church, Avonhead, Christchurch (29 May 2018). My presentation was on  “A historian in the Antarctic”.

After the talk, a woman came up to me and thanking me for the presentation. She told me also: “My grandson took on the ANTA 102 course last year and he loved the history lectures in the course; it changed his perspective on Antarctica”. That is the proof: History is the link to the different disciplines in the Antarctic studies courses. That was a real boost to my moral.

Many women thanked me for the presentation and they seemed really happy and enthusiastic about it. One woman told the group that her son is traveling Antarctica but more for sportive events. Over a cup of tea, the women asked very interesting questions about the Antarctic and it has shown that many are not aware that Antarctica is even present in their families (but is not really communicated: e.g. oh, yes, my husband worked as a firefighter there for few months….)



I am on the top of Crater Hill,  January 2016