Archive stay at Maritime Museum for NSC-DS project

Since Wednesday (22 March) I am in Auckland to meet Drew Lorrey (my boss at NIWA) to discuss further progress for the NSC-DS which ends for me at 30 June 2017. However, this does not stop me to continue the work in searching logbooks to collect weather data. The Maritime Museum has logbooks but mainly in diary format what is not of use for our project.


NSC Deep South

I submitted my report for the NSC DS. I assessed 46500 images of logbooks, registers, and correspondence to gather weather information. The oldest logbook was from 1770 and the youngest from 1887. The material was partly very poor quality what made the reading challenging. However, there was some information useful for the project. It was an interesting research. I assessed many convict ships on their way to Australia. Gives one an interesting insight of populating the continent by the Europeans.

The next stage is the search for more logbooks here in NZ. Some archives, museums and libraries have material but many I contacted have no logbooks in their collections. That means: searching harder to find what we need.

One little example of the images I worked with:


Back from the Antarctic


Open sea on the way to Antarctica

It is now one month that we have been to the Antarctic. New impressions shaped my picture of Antarctica. But now is time to concentrate on writing and the “normal” work again.

I will submit another Marsden Fast Start proposal and work already on that.

I have started to work as part time employed subcontractor for NIWA for the National Science Challenge. I assess logbooks and have to catalog them for the weather modeling system which is a focus from that project. Logbooks are a valuable source of information on social conditions on board and data such as weather conditions. The material I have to work with are logbooks which were traveling to Australia and New Zealand. I started with the systematic search for data and learned already a vast amount about ships, what happened in the colonies and many more details. The first set of data is dated from the 1840s on.

Another work I will finish soon is a book chapter for the Routledge handbook for Polar Regions. I wrote in a former post about it, but I am close to finish the first draft. Exploring and mapping Antarctica is the theme of my chapter. It is exciting to work on that and it will bring new insight into the history of Antarctic exploration.


Crater Hill in the Antarctic with a wind turbine for Scott Base

History Seminar Talk

Busy times! One of the reasons is preparing talks and lectures for ANTA 102.

I give a talk at the History Seminar series on  Wednesday, 18th March, 12-1pm in Arts Lecture Theater A8 which is only held during the term time.

The talk is on my preliminarily results on the COMNAP project. I was rewarded with an COMNAP research fellowship in 2012/13 and this research is still going on. It turned out that there is so much more material which has to be processed to get a solid database on historic weather data. An article will be published in Juli with some of the results of my research so far in the Polar Journal.


Me with a modern weather station in the Antarctic at the PCAS course 2014/15.


NZ Antarctic Society, Canterbury Branch

NZAS_logoI have just been elected as chair of the NZ Antarctic Society, Canterbury Branch. You can find us on Facebook here.   The New Zealand Antarctic Society was formed in 1933 and has branches in New Zealand’s main centres as well as an international membership. Except for a small recess during World War 2 it has been active throughout New Zealand since 1933. There are currently three active branches in New Zealand

  • Auckland
  • Wellington; and
  • Christchurch

Antarctic – Our journal
The society publishes four times a year our full colour journal (magazine style) which covers a wide range of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic topics, including:

  • Articles cover a full range of international Antarctic and Subantarctic matters, including:
  • News from National Antarctic programmes;
  • Summary of Antarctic Treaty Meetings;
  • Restoration of historic sites;
  • Results from science projects;
  • Private expeditions;
  • Whaling, and fishing news;
  • Antarctic tourism;
  • Historical commentary and essays;
  • Book reviews; and
  • Tributes to those who have passed away.



Report from SCAR workshop Auckland 2014

2004-11-11_15_Filchner-Tagebuch (2)

The report from the SCAR workshop “Connecting the past-present-future: studies and methods in history for Antarctic research and science“., Auckland 2014, is now available. The guest speaker was Susan Barr from Norway, Fram Museum.


SCAR Workshop – Auckland 2014

Workshop: for Humanities, Social Science, Scientists and Artists
Date: 26th August 2014, 18:15 (6:15PM) – 2 hours session

  • Title: Connecting the past – present – future: studies and methods in history for Antarctic research and science
  • Convener: Ursula Rack, New Zealand
    Co-convener: Andrew Atkin, Australia; Susan Solomon, USA

 This workshop is intended for humanities researcher, scientists, social scientists and artists who are interested in interdisciplinary research. Primary sources such as historical records, diaries, letters, reports, and oral and visual documents provide valuable data bases and contextual insights that enhance our knowledge and understanding of the Antarctic. Transcription, translation, and interpretation of these sorts of data by humanities researchers working in conjunction with scientists can provide valuable knowledge for both historians, and scientists.

For example, diaries contain information on weather, social interactions, medical conditions, and observations by expedition members on their long-duration expeditions. But much of this material is written within specific cultural contexts and the researcher has to be aware how to read and interpret this material, in order to draw valuable conclusions and also to understand the opportunities and limitations of such data sources. Scientific programmes today have benefited from the accounts of the past to interpret the present and better predict the future changes in the remote high Southern latitudes. In addition to written accounts and narratives, historical material contains valuable numerous data points (through direct observations and inference) which can be utilised by scientists, using modern software, to enhance existing data sets.

The workshop will explore ways in which historic material and modern digital communications can be incorporated into polar libraries and archives as resources for polar scientists and those working in the humanities.

For more information or to register for the SCAR OSC conference, visit