I delivered my lecture on Antarctic History yesterday evening – at Scott Base. Some people from Scott Base attended the lecture and of course all the PCAS students. It was good to have the tour through the Discovery Hut the day before, so I could refer to the location quite often. I compressed my lecture from a three hour to a one and a half hour one. That worked quite well and it was very helpful that we had the exercise already in the field. My lecture was recorded by Anthony Powell and I am looking forward how he will integrate parts of it in his new documentary.
Today I gave 3 tours in the Discovery Hut at Hut Point. It was very cold in there. It is hard to imagine how the Ross Sea Party members could live there for 2 month with the little equipment that was available to them, with the scurvy they endured during their long support sledge parties in 1915-16. We were all in our warm gear and were comfortably layered, but these men had only insufficient clothing, no heating and did not know if they would ever be rescued. Their achievements are not recognised enough and I hope I could make our students more aware that also others than Scott and Shackleton have endured hardships.
This picture is from last year, this year there was much more in the hut. All the restored and preserved artefacts were back and the impressions were much more intense for me than last year. It was somewhat of familiar but also very new this year. I am really privileged with my second chance to see the hut.
Some busy weeks are laying ahead. I will be in Europe to work in the Archives in Austria and England again.
My workspace at SPRI in 2013
I give a talk on my research at the Austrian Society of History of Science (Oesterreichische Gesellschaft fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte) at 16th April at 6pm (Vienna University Archive, Postgasse 9, 1010 Wien). I have been invited for a talk after I gave a talk in June last year at the Institute for Austrian History (Institut fuer Oesterreichkunde, IOEK).
The next step: I will spend some time in Cambridge again in the Archives at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) to do research on Nimrod Expedition 1907 – 1909 especially on the diaries and meteorological logs of the Ross Sea Party. This is a part of my COMNAP Research Fellowship project which started in 2012/13. In the meantime I gave 10 talks on the development on that project, had 3 poster presentations and 6 publications in journals and webpages.
In May I attend a workshop in Colorado: SCAR History Expert Group and the SCAR Social Science Action Group. I will give an oral presentation on the development of an digital platform where information can be exchanged on the whereabouts of diaries and documents of Polar expeditions. The idea has been discussed at the SCAR Open Science Conference last year. (see report) The platform is in the early state of its development, but at least it is a start.
It is sad, but I am back again from the Antarctic. I learned a lot and can understand some things much better now. Reading the diaries and letters from the early explorers helped me down there to see many details much clearer (landscape, light, distances, temperature, windchill, and much more); however, it helps me now to understand their writing so much better. The time in the field was very exciting and the life at Scott Base is interesting. The people there are so helpful and it is amazing how they work there with such a calmness and precision. In comparison to the old huts or the life on the ships, when trapped into the ice, it is very comfortable to stay at the station but it has its restrictions – still. The weather is unpredictable and can be merciless and the daily comforts are very vulnerable as we have seen with the water supply.
I hope that was not my only trip to the ice and the next time, if there is a next time, I hope I can see the huts (Terra Nova Hut and Shackleton Hut). As historian it is an extraordinary experience to see the huts with your own eyes. The Discovery Hut is so much smaller than it appears in photographs and it was quite cold in there.
Now I have been there, I am hungry for more…..
Dr. Gazert (Drygalksi Expedition 1902 – 1903) with his fellows in their polar clothing
Picture taken from the plane on the way back to Christchurch: From the Antarctic Mountain Range – glacier flow visible.