Midwinter Dinner Antarctic Society Canterbury branch

At 22 June we have our Midwinter Dinner. I am this year’s organiser of the event with help of the committee of the Canterbury branch.

NZAS Midwinter dinner 2017JR_20_April


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.


Organised another talk

Isobel Williams will present new findings on Edward Wilson’s life and work, based on her research. the talk was organised by me for the Antarctic Society, Canterbury branch.


Dr. Edward Wilson
Artist, naturalist, explorer and Scott’s confidant

When:   Wednesday, 8th March 2017, 6:30 pm

Where:  Psychology-Sociology Room 252,  (University of Canterbury)

Dr. Edward Wilson was with Robert F. Scott in the Antarctic twice. Wilson was a civilian scientist and artist and Scott was the navy officer and leader. Both developed a close friendship over the years. Five British men went to the South Pole and died on the way back, Wilson was one of them. Isobel will give a new insight in Wilson’s life and work based on her research.


Isobel Williams is qualified in medicine at St. George’s Hospital, London University. She got interested in Antarctic history whilst she was a junior doctor. After she retired, she visited Antarctica and became interested in Antarctic history and published a biography on Edward Wilson. Isobel got increasingly interested in the history of the “below-deck” seamen who kept the expedition going. This led to another publication of the biography of Chief Petty Officer Edgar Evans. She just finished a publication on William Speirs Bruce, the Scottish explorer. To learn more about Isobel’s work see her blog www.isobelpwilliams.com.




AntSoc presentation: Oral History Program

New Zealand Antarctic Society

Oral History Program

Jacqui Foley

Tuesday 26th July, 6pm

Lecture theatre A4

You are invited to an interesting talk on the current Oral History Project of the Antarctic Society. Beginning in 1997, Jacqui Foley has interviewed most of the 48 members of different Antarctic expeditions, and their wives. The project gives a valuable insight into work and life in the Antarctic since the 1950s and the support these members received from their families.

Jacqui Foley is a freelance oral historian for more than 20 years. She works also for museums and trusts and is involved in several other history projects. Jacqui has received a number of Oral History awards. She lives in Tokarahi, North Otago.

All welcome


Antarctic Society MWD – Canterbury Branch

Last week was marked by the MWD. We had almost 60 guests, a wonderful presentation about the restoration work at Cape Adare and lots of good food and inspiring chats all around. the MWD (Mid-Winter-Dinner) goes back to Scott’s times and is a highlight in the Society calendar.

Lizzie Meek was not only the presenter of the evening, she also received the Conservation Trophy from the Antarctic Society. This trophy is an award for the commitment and passion from individuals for conserving the Antarctic with all its treasures – including the restoration of the historic huts. It was a pleasure for me to hand over the trophy to Lizzie.


The conservation trophy, Lizzie Meek and me – current chair of the Ant.Soc Canterbury Branch

Book launch – Worsley enchanted

The book launch was a success! 20 people were there on a cold, windy and rainy evening, but it was a great atmosphere at the Naval Point Club in Lyttelton. Our treasurer, John (see picture) introduced Sue who lead through the evening. Lynda from the Akaroa Museum introduced the “young Frank Worsley”and Sue presented the journey in 1914-1917, especially the boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. A great account to read next to the poem is “The great Antarctic Rescue. Shackleton’s Boat Journey” by Frank Worlsey himself. Even the title shows that Worsley kept Shackleton’s legacy alive and put himself in the background. The poem is a great way to give Worsley the credit he deserves.

18 Copies were sold and people not only like the poem, they love the line drawings by Myra Walton what ” brings the story very much alive” (quote of a buyer).

Wreath laying ceremony

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.

wreath laying ceremony 2015

wreath laying ceremony 2015