Race to the South Pole: an historian’s view

In December, I got an invitation from the NZ Antarctic Society, Wellington Branch, to be part of the speakers series in February.  The speakers series is part of the exhibition: “Lessons from the Antarctic” How Amundsen won the race to the South Pole. It is organised by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the NZ Antarctic Society.

My talk was on the race to the South Pole in its historical context. The title “We took risks. We knew we took them” from a quote from Scott’s diary, should show the audience that it was a risky business (and is still today) in exploring the Antarctic and that the early explorers were well aware of that. The historical context is often overlooked. The economic, political and scientific aims at going South were strongly linked with each other and I wanted to demonstrate this on several examples related to the “race”.

The event on Wednesday started with a movie about the Amundsen expedition and was followed by my talk. There were over 100 people in the audience and they got very engaged in the discussion afterward.

The Norwegian Honorary Consul General, Graeme Mitchel, thanked me at the end of the evening and presented a beautifully handcrafted polar bear of clear glass that looks like a piece of clear ice.




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).