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.





Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London

Since 3 weeks, I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London – I received my identity card and the welcome package via mail. I have been invited to apply for the fellowship position because of my work which bridges history and geography; especially with my approach for the NZ Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship but also for my work I have done for environmental research. This Fellowship position will give me a number of opportunities for future funding applications for humanities research and also broaden my possibilities for publications. I know now a bit more about it since the official welcome package arrived.



Wilhelm Filchner and Alfred Kling looking for “new land” (Second German Antarctic Expedition 1911/12 (Filchner: 1923)





Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London

A few days ago I received an email which stated that my application has been approved; I am now a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in London. I have been invited to apply after my meeting with Alasdair MacLeod (Head of Enterprise and Resources) at 13 April 2018. It seems that the NZ Winston Churchill Fellowship pays off. With this RGS-Fellowship, I have lots of opportunities to stay connected with the European research community and also have access to valuable articles etc. which would only be possible with lots of financial efforts. That will also help me to get my research out to a wider community.


Sir Clements Markham was very influential when it came to the Antarctic expeditions during the Heroic Era – this bust stands at the building entrance of the RGS (picture taken by me)


Upcoming talk in Cambridge

My preparations are coming along, finally, and the countdown started: 4 March I will leave Christchurch – heading towards Washington, Columbus (Ohio), Bremerhaven, Cambridge, and London. All the meetings are organised and I have a long list of questions and ideas for my project: Frozen history – how other countries research, collect and communicate their Antarctic history. It is getting bigger with each contact I made so far and I am looking forward to starting it.

I also have some side events and one of them is a presentation in Cambridge on Wilhelm Filchner, the German polar explorer (1911-1912); 11 April, Friends of SPRI 6-7 pm.


Friends of SPRI talk_11 April 2018

Third announcement on that page 🙂



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.



The Atlantic – A quote in a magazine….

I got contacted by Fortunato Salazar (his working name) to find out more on the Erebus Chalice. There are lots of different versions out there what this chalice means. Salazar contacted many historians who were involved e.g. the Canterbury Museum, David Harrowfield, and also me. After an interview, I gave this comment on the special concept of the chalice: “As the tradition persists, all the years of regarding the chalice as genuine have imparted a symbolic value independent of the chalice’s real origins. Continuity, in itself, seems to provide a kind of comfort. “When the chalice is handed over in the [blessing] service, it gives everyone a feeling of something special, of being a part of a very special group,” says Ursula Rack, a polar historian at the University of Canterbury who has studied the chalice’s symbolic value. “Going to the Antarctic isn’t a granted right, and many people experience real hardship—so the chalice is a sort of security because it implies that others made it through successfully before, and a newcomer will as well.” this quote is from the magazine The Atlantic

Use the link and read the article – maybe the chalice remains a mystery – the deeper one digs the more questions appear – interesting stuff.



Erebus Chalice – Chapel of the Snows, McMurdo, January 2016 (Ursula Rack)


Guided tour and public talk

On Monday, 5 February, I was busy. I gave a guided tour for one person through Christchurch to show the connection between the city and the Antarctic. We were lucky to have access to the Canterbury Club where I could show the signed menus from Shackleton’s farewell dinner in 1907. With the historic interior of this Club, it was easy to create a feeling of the time and the man who went South. The Scott statue, the museum and the stain glassed window in the Great Hall were also on the programm. The tour was planned for two hours but I went back to his accommodation and told on the way more stories and facts what was highly appreciated as he pointed out in his email:  “Thank you so very much for everything you did for me this morning, it was a sheer delight to meet you and your enthusiasm will stay with me forever. I consider your Heritage Tour an essential precursor to anyone and everyone going to visit the Antarctic, it will add so much more meaning to what I am about to experience.”

An hour later, I was on my way to Parklands to the Parklands’ Ladies Club. I have been invited already in December to deliver that talk on “how to live in the Antarctic” – it was successful again and comments from some women afterward are summed up in following statement: “your talk was the most intersting since some long time”.


Shackleotn portrait




Finally – a HISTORIAN in the Antarctic (PCAS  2014 – 15)