Public Talk

Last Tuesday, 5 July, I have been invited to give a talk at the Probus Club Fendalton, Christchurch, on my time as tutor in the Antarctic. It was a lovely atmosphere between the women. Approx. 60 women were present and they very really interested in my presentation. I presented some slides and had everyday items we use in the Antarctic to show them. Lots of good questions were asked. Many women came to me afterwards and told me that they were astonished how much Christchurch is involved in the Antarctic business and that they have not known before about that. It seems that from now on, more people will know about this connection.

My next talk is at 8 August. The Rotary Club in Halswell invited me for a similar talk.


A relaxed tutor is reading in front of the tent on Christmas Day 2015


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).

Somerfield School

Thanks to Angus (in the picture left with the book) and Ethan (on the right), 2 bright year 5 pupils from Somerfield School, Christchurch, I had the opportunity to talk about Antarctic history.

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I was invited by the pupils and their teachers to give them information on Robert Falcon Scott for their project on leadership and heroes. Scott is their first character they work on, but I have seen some other heroes on their pin board such as Edmund Hillary. It would be interesting what they find out about him. I got also an certificate as thank you for my presentation. The children were already well prepared what they wanted to know. They collected their thoughts on a mind map and I am glad that my presentation matched their expectation.


77 children participated, were communicative and had very interesting questions. It was inspiring.

It was a great event with wonderful young people.


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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

Back again

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


Modern clothing provided by Antarctica New Zealand



Picture taken from the plane on the way back to Christchurch: From the Antarctic Mountain Range  –  glacier flow visible.



This course introduces early Antarctic exploration and its link to New Zealand which played an important role at that time.  Pressing scientific questions demanded collaboration between different countries.  Of greater public interest, however, was the touch of adventure.  World War 1 brought Antarctic science to a halt, with the exception of the epic Endurance expedition, led by Ernest Shackleton, in which a New Zealand captain played a crucial part.  This course will shed light on all these aspects and much more.  Dr Ursula Rack is an Adjunct Fellow at Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, and has training and experience in environmental and social history.

Starts 1 November, 10 am – 12.30 pm, at the WEA, 59 Gloucester Street, 2 Saturdays, $20

For further information or to enrol, please phone the WEA at 366 0285, email: or go online to: