Antarctica in Cambridge, And Gliders in Whyteleafe
Continuing the Antarctic theme for now. November heralds the start of the Antarctic summer.
So a new programme of events gets underway, starting with the AGM of the Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute.
Where it's winter.
So, to keep warm, there's a buffet get-together.
Under a nice warm polar bear skin in the cosy SPRI lecture theatre.
Somewhere in these photos there's a granddaughter of Scott, a granddaughter of Shackleton, a grandson of Frank Debenham (Scott's geologist) and a granddaughter of Scott's Chief Engineer on the Discovery.
And other descendants of early Antarctic explorers.
There's an electrifying enthusiasm for all things Antarctic at these gatherings which gives a great sense of shared fascination.
Afterwards there's time for a visit to the pub. Being in Cambridge, these places are well used by the students.
In this case, it seems, Civil Engineering students.
Practising Newtonian Mechanics.
As the crane driver goes off for his tea break, we end up with a pretty wobbly structure.
Newton's Laws take over and Mike has to leap clear of tons of falling masonry.
Next time, safety helmets will be worn!
Earlier in the day, before the buffet, the AGM was held in a grand Cambridge University lecture theatre across the courtyard from the museum.
There, I spied a few notices imploring the students, "Don't throw your chewing gum in the toilets. Put it in the bins."
Now, I would think the one place in the world where students would not have to be told about the problems of chewing gum sticking to everything, would be Cambridge University's Department of Chemistry, the owners of the lecture theatre!
So I looked at their website. It says,
"We pride ourselves on offering our students an excellent education, and strive to provide an inspiring environment to encourage and enable the best science."
So there you are, they even place revision notes in the toilets.
Now, it's a small world.
On the Clancy Centenary Ride we had a big lunch at the Giant's Causeway Hotel. There I met a local Northern Ireland rider named John who also has an interest in things Polar. He asked me to pass on his regards to Kari Herbert who gave one of the presentations at the Shackleton Autumn School.
Well, Kari was pleased to hear from John, so I said I'd pass her regards back. Which I did. Whereupon John told me he'd seen the video on this blog of Mary Peters switching off the last analogue tv transmissions.
And that he used to work for the BBC, in the 1980s at the Crystal Palace transmitter (I put a photo of that on the same blog posting) and then at the Divis transmitter (where Mary Peters was filmed switching stuff off) in the 1990s and later.
John tells me that in the second half of the youtube video, the transmitter engineer with a large folder of papers and the yellow jerkin is checking the BBC 1 analogue transmitter, that had already been switched off and had large "Do Not Repower" notices hung on it.
So it was poetic justice I suppose in light of my work on Channel Four, that it was the last channel to be switched off, and caught on video.
Pity about the lack of turn-ups.
Back in Whyteleafe, on a particularly sunny morning earlier today, I cycled onto Kenley Airfield as I had an errand not far away. (A new dose of hormone treament - hence the Movember link at the top of this entry).
I attempted a few photos of the gliders taking off, and thought they came out OK so here they are.
A takeoff flying away from the camera and into the sun.
Kenley Control: "Your traffic is an inch in front of your nose."
"Left for Gatwick, right for Heathrow"
(It might be tricky to see the direction here. We're looking at the top of the glider and it's flying upwards and away from the camera. The towing cable about to detach)
I'm getting the hang of the video buttons on my camera. So while the sun was shining I put these on youtube.
The 'Despatcher' on the right is signalling to the winch operator to slowly wind in the slack cable.
If it's done too fast the front of the glider will be ripped out when the slack is taken up.
There are a couple of loops of slack just visible on the ground to the right of the cockpit. When all is wound in the Despatcher signals for full speed.
Heading south from Dublin, the road to Athy passes near to Mondello Park, a motor racing track that hosts some major Irish motorcycle events. But alas, on the day I was passing, a track-day for cars was in progress. Almost a waste of good tarmac.
So some photos for my son Richard who's strictly a 4-wheel man, not two.
More 4-wheel stuff for a moment or two....
Our B&B in Athy was very close to the course of the original Gordon Bennett motor races.
Not too close though, there was never any disturbance during the night.
There's a memorial at the Moat of Ardscull, on the local stretch of the Dublin-Athy road that was part of the circuit. The cars also hurtled through Athy - I bet O'Brien's was packed with handlebar moustaches and leather goggles. Made a change from sledges and huskies I suppose.
I can just imagine a driver outside of O'Brien's not being sure which way the course went. He'd definitely get directions to the South Pole.
Onwards from Athy to Annascaul the route took Mike and me through the town of Adare. So we stopped to make a toast in tea to our own first landfall on Antarctica nearly thirteen years ago, which was at Cape Adare.
There, we had our first lesson in strictly NOT approaching the penguins but sitting still on a rock and letting them waddle up and peck your clothes to bits. We were also able to visit Borchgrevink's hut from his 1899 Southern Cross expedition, the first structure to be built on Antarctica.
Back home after the conclusion of this Irish expedition, there was a sunny day shortly after returning, so I took a stroll to Fickleshole. For lunch.
The seasons change, and with them the scenery, so I took a few different photos along the same route.
With leaves starting to drop, a 'menorah' tree appears - it looked like the candlestick.
Sorry, last bit of TV stuff here.
When that Channel 4 network was being built, it used up the last of the capacity on the route to Brighton. A new microwave link was installed, in good time for the next new TV channel, imaginatively called Channel Five. A mast was needed on the North Downs, and Fickleshole was chosen. (There were already a couple of air-traffic radio masts up there).
And would you believe it? I think that mast has crept into this photo.
Spoils the countryside, does all that TV.
A sunset followed on the evening of the next day. Not for the first time there were good views from my front room.
The fire spread into the trees. or so it seemed. It was 5th November, so that was an OK bonfire.
Hot news from the High Street is that MBT shoes have been saved. Someone bought the company so shopping for shoes comes to a screeching halt. Just in time. It's been taking so long to decide which pair to wear I haven't had time to post this entry.
To cram Family History Research, The Clancy Centenary Ride, the Shackleton Autumn School, and a pilgrimage to the South Pole Inn, all into one little trip to Ireland resulted in what felt like a real epic voyage.
So there are some reflections and contemplations to be mulled over.
On the very first day, I learned the correct local pronunciation of my old family name.
"C'nyon." And slight variations.
On almost the last day, in the South Pole Inn, a family from Dublin was having lunch. The mum was very well-travelled particularly in Africa. But in Ireland as well.
She asked about my family research, and pronounced the name "C'nnahn."
"It'll be 'C'nyon' in the west," she told me, "But 'C'nnahn' here in the east. It's like that for a lot of names. What about 'Rabbit', have you come across that?"
Well, I had. In our B&B just up the road from the pub.
Where I found this:
I feel bits of jigsaw coming together. I found a headstone in the old part of the Tulrohaun graveyard listing three generations of Cunnanes. That graveyard was dangerous to explore. It was completely unkempt with grass a foot high hiding everything including sunken old headstones ready to trip you up. But most effectively, the grass hid the scores of rabbit holes. Deep rabbit holes which swallowed your leg at every other step, needing both hands constantly free ready to steady yourself.
A librarian in Dublin had also mentioned the Rabbit connection.
You never stop learning.
In the same B&B in Annascaul there was a very old map on the wall, which displayed this little gem:
Common myles of Irland. A good old Elizabethan measure. Handy to check that my GPS is getting things right, what with it having settings for statute miles, nautical miles, kilometres, minutes of arc, and heaven knows what else.
For family interest, here's County Mayo from that map. I don't recognise anything. GPS map-making was just a glimmer in Sir Walter Raleigh's eye; satellites in those days disintegrated everytime they were fired from those huge cannons.
Being Elizabethan, West is Up.
Despite having had 'Common myles of Irland', then 'Miliarium Hibernicorum' followed by ordinary English miles, the Republic of Ireland now has 'kilometres' for distances and speeds on the roads.
Such things should stay strictly on the continent I think. After all, there are a lot of towns here called 'Inch'. One famous one is on a spectacular bit of coast in Dingle Bay near the South Pole Inn.
I've never seen a signpost to anywhere called 'Centimetre'.
That sews it up for me.
When you hire a car, of course the speedo is in kph. Which is ok I suppose.
Until you go on the Clancy Centenary Ride with the lunchstop in Enniskillen on the first day.
Or at the Giant's Causeway on the second. Or finishing in Belfast.
Suddenly the speed limits are in mph.
Well, every speedo I've ever seen in Europe has a tiny set of numbers around the outside of the dial to show mph.
Without warning I'm at the mercy of the speed cameras and my mental arithmetic.
And as I've said before, despite all this hormone stuff I'm on, I still can't do more than one thing at a time. And that includes driving and doing sums. (But I do now have a cupboard-full of new shoes - that's another story).
So I potter slowly along the roads in the North looking for a shop to buy a felt-tip, to write my own numbers on the dial. And hope they don't sell shoes as well.
Talking of cupboards of shoes, a long time ago I became hooked on those MBT shoes. The ones that have no heel, just a pivot point underneath the instep so your foot rocks back and forth all the time.
I think they're brilliant. They're supposed to be good for just about everything. Including backs, which is what led the inventor to develop them. I've never had back trouble and still don't so I hope it stays that way.
Well, despite my enthusiasm for them, they never became popular. People look at me as though I'm mad when I describe and demonstrate them. And the inevitable happened. The makers went bust.
It was a Swiss company, and in the classic way, the inventor who did a brilliant job of the design and development never let go of the company to someone who could run it as a successful shoe-selling business.
And MBT shoes suddenly disappeared from the shops. As did some of the shops selling them.
But one or two outlets still had stock so a few enthusiastic types like me decided to fill up their cupboards quickly. And that hormone treatment helped very nicely thank you. I was out there for a while buying shoes as fast as I could find them. Fill yer boots!
Talking of boots, back in Ireland I was wandering around the large graveyard at Bekan (like y' do) whan a local man arrived with gardening gear and boots. He had a few graves to tend, and asked the usual question, what name was I looking for?
Straight away he answered, "Ahh, the O'C'nyons!"
He was the first and only person to put the 'O' on the front. But at least I know now that that form exists.
Followed by, "It's bin a'terrible raining here, I hope the ground's dried out a bit now. I've never heard of any O'C'nyons as far south as Culnacleha but there's a few 'round here. Not that I know them myself now.
There's Mass at 11:30, it could be worth seeing the Priest."
Which I did. But there were no records. Except, "There was a Joseph C'nyarn. He was Archbishop of Tuam until the late eighties. Don't know anything about his family at all."
And Culnacleha is in the parish of Annagh which is in the barony of Costello in the diocese of Tuam in County Mayo in the province of Connacht (or Connaught). Glad I got that straight.
The evening before the start of the Clancy Centenary Ride, I found myself in Bewley's Cafe, where I saw a lot of paintings around the walls, and this notice:
Well, I thought, they may have a lifetime association with Irish art, so maybe it's time they looked at a bit of English stuff. Next time I'm over here I'll bring along a sought-after piece, hot from my hanging at the St Luke's art gallery in arty Guildford.
Over the last few days, I've taken a huge leap into the 22nd century. It might as well be the 22nd century as far as I'm concerned, as I've put my very first video on youtube.
It was a mere 50 years ago that I trundled up to a local radio hobby club having heard that another member would be there with an amateur TV station. Well, I wanted to see that for sure. I had been utterly fascinated by this television stuff since seeing a TV set for the first time about four years earlier, aged about ten. How on earth did a moving picture appear on a screen after travelling through the air from who-knows-where and then along a bit of wire to the aerial socket????
The club member with the TV stuff had spent a small fortune buying a surplus camera set-up from the BBC. He needed a lorry to get it to the school hall, and very nearly a crane to put it in place. Just the camera must have weighed a couple of hundredweight, on a tripod with big wheels of about the same weight. Cables of two inches diameter snaked to a stack of electronics full of hot, brightly glowing valves that would dwarf the sound and lighting gear of a touring band today.
All that to display a dim blurry picture on the tiny round screen of a TV about the size of a sideboard. We took it in turns to stand in front of the camera and wave a hand - just for a moment in case this early incarnation of a Dalek was really a deadly ray-gun.
It was my turn.
The screen showed me and my moving hand, and having shown it, I moved on. And the picture evaporated. A second larger truck would have been needed for all the paraphernalia to record the moment for posterity. Not that any such stuff really existed at the time.
That was before I left school. Now, in what seems like no time at all, I can go to a local shop, hand over not-a-lot of cash and walk away with something that fits in my pocket, films and records an hour or more of HD TV, and sends it over a telephone line to a place where everyone else in the world can see it!!
My mind still boggles. Which is good I suppose as it indicates to me that it's still working....
This is what my mind is boggling at, my first 'youtube'!
The 1922 Henderson in full song.
Dancing pushrods and valve springs exposed to the outside world, just behind the exhausts.
Which neatly brings me to the hot news on the second day of the Clancy ride.
All the analogue TV transmissions across the whole of Ireland (including Northern Ireland) were switched off on that day. Completing the analogue switch-off across the entire British Isles. 24th October 2012.
On the news in Ireland they were asking what happens to the radio spectrum that's now empty.
Well, they couldn't have been paying attention to this blog. I even posted a photo of the phone fitted to the handlebars of the 1922 Henderson. It's a secret prototype that'll go on sale very soon. It may be a bit new-fangled for today's 4G, 5G and 6G mobile phone connoisseurs, but the iMorse Phone is about to hit the shops, with the unique miniaturised morse key.
It's hacker-proof. Once you learn the dots and dashes, no one will have the foggiest idea what you're talking about.
This switch-off of all the analogue TV is big nostalgic stuff for some readers of this blog, my old work colleagues. So the rest of you will have to divert around this anorak stuff, or fall asleep if you haven't already.
Many of those work mates spent a lot more years than me working on the networks that carried all the analogue BBC and ITV programmes. In the 1970s I learned from them what an art it was to link together multiple transmission lines, each 200 miles or so long, with such precision that programmes carried from London appeared in homes in Inverness, and everywhere else, as clearly and as colourfully as they appeared in the studio where the action was taking place.
(Easy to do now, not so in those days).
Part of the art was to be able to stare at the circuit-tester screens for hours and hours, in a little room on some remote hilltop next to a TV mast. And watch the waveforms shown here while making endless adjustments until they met the exact measurements required. The measurements being down to fractions of millionths of a second.
(The website is from the US NTSC system - UK's PAL was similar).
These wave patterns on the screen then became the 'specification record' for the London-to-Plymouth link, or whatever link was being lined up, and a set of detailed photos were taken using huge Polaroid cameras with all those old chemical-filled sachets that leaked in your toolbox.
This morning the sun shone brightly as I left the pool at Crystal Palace. So for old times' sake I took this photo of a place where the 'art' just mentioned above would have been undertaken. Not on a remote hilltop in this case but never mind.
Now, it's best not to have regrets. But I was working once at just such a place somewhere in remote West Wales. The station manager was, like a lot of engineering managers in those days, a WWII veteran and hadn't heard of health and safety. And in the transmitter building he kept all the gear needed for the task he suggested.
Standing right under the four legs of the mast, you couldn't help but look up into the magnificent structure (not as high as the Eiffel Tower but you get the idea). In the nice calm summery weather he suggested, "Why don't you climb up?" All matter-of-fact, like.
Still don't know why I didn't.
There were occasional hiccups in those analogue days.
I had the honour back in 1979 to be the project engineer for the construction of the analogue network to carry the new Channel Four TV service.
On the opening afternoon, 2nd November 1982 (30th anniversary just gone!) there was a real buzz going round the control room in the Post Office Tower. The first welcome announcement was being transmitted from the Channel 4 studios just round the corner in a converted cinema (the old Scala Cinema).
Suddenly, all the screens went blank. The sense of horror that flashed around the room was palpable - all the TVs across the country that were tuned to Channel 4 had also gone blank.
But all those networks were protected with overlays and standbys that were more complex than the networks themselves. So the break was bypassed and made good within a second or so, in time for the start of the first gripping edition of Countdown at 4:40pm precisely.
About a minute later a technician had identified the exact cause. It was in a bit of equipment right there in the control room, at the bottom of a rack in an aisle that was crowded with staff watching the big event on the screens all around the room.
Horror of horrors - in those days some trousers had turn-ups, and the turn-up on one particular pair (not mine, your Honour) had hooked onto a switch low down at floor level, and pulled it....
The horror was that the very few switches fitted to this stuff were supposed to be securely covered up to prevent just such a thing ever happening. Someone had dropped a clanger, but we survived to tell the tale.
So I was very disappointed to see this.
Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters switching off the last UK analogue transmissions just outside of Belfast. At 10:00am precisely.
I mean to say - she's definitely wearing trousers. But used her finger!
All that research we did into using turn-ups - all wasted.
And to add insult to injury, the label at the top of that rack says 'CH4 B'! (See the 'A' rack at 38 seconds in - there are always two)
There's no justice!
This extract from an old journal might help to explain the significance of all this nerdy rambling. Part of 'the article wot I wrote', from International Broadcast Engineer, November 1982.
Plenty of mumbo-jumbo for job titles and department names in those days!
The last time I was here in Annascaul, I didn't quite find the house where Tom Crean was born. I found what I thought was the location, but the track was impassable with churned-up mud. My single pair of shoes had to last me the rest of the visit and RyanAir back to Gatwick.
Substantial wellington boots were needed.
On this visit I still had no boots, but Mike was with me.
He's been here before, and navigated us to the same spot that I closed in on last year.
The path was OK and we found the house.
But is this the house where Tom Crean was born?
There are doubts.
He was born in 1877. Some say that this house doesn't look that old.
Just before reaching the house we found this, down a slope on the other side of the track:
Pretty well inaccessible.
It looks more likely to have been here in 1877. And it's near a stream, which some research suggests was the case.
So this could be a project for another time. Is this the house where Crean was born and brought up?
Mike and I thought we'd now do a mini re-enactment.
In 1893 Crean walked from here to a small Royal Navy base at Minard Castle in Dingle Bay. There he embarked his first ship and started his navy career.
Mike's been there before, but was driven by a local and couldn't be sure of the way. So we guessed.
Just find a lane going south, and downhill as well. It took a couple of goes and then we found it.
A small piece of Dingle Bay with a little slipway tucked over to the right.
Could this winch be 120 years old?
Probably not, but never mind.
There's a sizeable house just above this slipway and below Minard Castle, where the owner confirmed that this is the Minard Inlet recorded in the Royal Navy papers.
Well, we had found this landmark, so then it was off for another re-enactment. Maybe the most important one.
A drink in the South Pole Inn in Annascaul. The pub that Tom Crean built.
Where there was a fire roaring.
And Hallowe'en paraphenalia competing for space with all the Antarctic memorabilia.
This place is stuffed full with photos, memorabilia and ephemera. As well as Guinness and Tom Crean 18/35 Lager as well.
That's to signify the 35 miles Tom Crean walked in 18 hours across the ice, with no life support or water, to get help for Teddy Evans who had completely collapsed with scurvy. Crean had already marched 1,400 miles with the support party before his final push.
This pub really is a place of pilgrimage for anyone caught by the 'Antarctic bug'.
The landlord, Gary, related an anecdote from a few weeks ago.
"Two visitors had been in so far that day, looked around, had a beer and the usual eager chat. Later, another visitor arrived. We got chatting about the pub and Tom Crean, when he said he'd just returned from the actual South Pole. And proudly reckoned that he'd be the only visitor that had done that.
"Unfortunately I had to tell him he was the third that day!"
Gary invited us to the Holy of Holies. The upstairs room.
Part of which, where the fireplace is, used to be Tom Crean's bedroom. Before it was all opened up into a big function room.
Outside, there was a photo-pilgrimage to be made, to the man himself.
Back inside, author Mike had a few copies of his book for Gary to put behind the bar.
The S.S. Terra Nova (1884-1943)
Later on we were lucky enough to have a pleasant chat with the present owner of the pub, Tom Kennedy. Crean's first biography was published in 2000 and since then a number of others have appeared, published mainly in Ireland where his biographies sell in greater numbers.
We discussed a couple of these with Tom, and a few ideas about unexplored areas of Crean's life sprung up. Who knows?
During our couple of days in Annascaul we fitted in a side trip to Dingle, which coincided with plenty of Irish rain and an Irish rainbow over the marina.
We departed Annascaul learning that a major event is in the planning stage for next year, so we'll definitely be back for that.
And there'll be another Shackleton Autumn School as well. So just for good measure we stayed a final night in Athy and visited once again that most Irish of Irish pubs, O'Brien's.
O'Brien's frontage has been untouched for 130 years. So there's a model of it next to a page of Shackleton cuttings, in the refreshment room behind the grocery.
Now we look forward to Dublin Airport for our return home, and '.... honour and recognition in case of success.'
The tents are all erected and sledge parked, ready for the blizzard - of visitors.
This is going to be a name-dropping blog post. And why not?
And a long post as well - a helluva lot happened over the weekend. Feel free to leave whenever you wish.
Shackleton was born and raised close to Athy, in southern County Kildare.
(Remember, it's Irish. So 'Athy' rhymes with 'attire' but without the '-re' on the end. Or try 'at-tie'. Hope that helps).
He is closely associated with the island of South Georgia, hundreds of miles south-east of the Falklands, and is buried there.
Recently, the ashes of his right-hand man, Frank Wild, were taken there and placed next to him.
Frank Wild is remembered as the man that Shackleton left behind in charge of 21 other men stranded on Elephant Island, when the latter sailed to South Georgia for help. It was Wild's task to keep the men motivated and disciplined against the knowledge that they may never be rescued if Shackleton's journey failed.
Shackleton was accompanied on the stormy passage to South Georgia by Frank Worsley, captain of The Endurance. His job was to navigate a route across 800 miles of the Southern Ocean to find help on that tiny lone island, having already navigated around the Weddell Sea to find the even tinier Elephant Island and temporary refuge for the ship's company.
Finding South Georgia whilst sailing the lifeboat 'James Caird', without engine, was a far greater achievement than the simple task of steering Neil Armstrong the quarter-million miles to the Moon. In fact, since the advent of satellite navigation, there is now no journey in Christendom or the Universe that is anywhere near as difficult to steer than that boat voyage. (As an aside, the 15-year-old and very basic GPS device that was given to me when I retired still gives excellent directions, including over here in Ireland).
Anyway, many years ago I happened to meet Lady Alexandra Shackleton, (Ernest's granddaughter) at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. I hadn't long returned from Antarctica and at that time she had yet to visit the continent, despite having been to South Georgia and the Falklands a few times. She was interested in how our voyage went and the little adventures we had on the way. Whereupon she fixed me with a purposeful eye and said, "You just can't leave it at that, sailing to the Ross Sea and Ross Island. You simply must go one day and see South Georgia. It's absolutely stunning. In a different way to the other side of the continent. No excuses now!"
She's quite a charismatic person and I've never forgotten that conversation.
Well, a brand new expedition is about to depart. An attempt to faithfully recreate that voyage of the James Caird across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia, plus the 36-hour climb right across the island over the snow and ice-covered central mountains.
Believe me, this expedition will be considerably more faithful to the original event than our recent re-enactment of Carl Clancy's 'crossing of Ireland'. Something like 99% against our 5%, or less.
Many attempts have been undertaken in the past, but none have succeeded in both the boat voyage and the crossing of the island in one journey.
A replica of the James Caird has been built, named "Alexandra Shackleton" and launched by herself, and is ready to go early next year.
There'll be one acknowledgement to modern ways of doing things. A 'proper' boat will accompany the James Caird replica on its journey.
'Cheating' maybe, but the only way to fund such an undertaking these days is to provide news reports, documentary footage and fly-on-the-wall small talk to a viewing public. The escort vessel will in no way interfere with or aid the passage of the 'Alexandra Shackleton'. But it does have an additional fund-raising feature - bunks for sale to the travelling public.
Well, what to do about that?? It'll be going straight to South Georgia.
A website invited expressions of interest. Then disappeared. Later a new website appeared, with details and prices. Don't remember the prices right now but definitely a king's ransom and a half.
Plus the details. The voyage would be from Punta Arenas to Elephant Island (as near as conditions allow) and onwards to South Georgia shadowing the replica James Caird. Then return to Buenos Aires. A huge circle around the Southern Ocean, on a Tall Ships type sailing boat! (With auxilliary engine).
From the blurb: "Yes, you will be seasick, but don't worry it will subside after a day or so." A day or so!
"If not, there will be qualified medics and a doctor on board." If not!!
There's more. "You will be taken on as a 'ship's hand' and be expected to assist in the sailing of the ship under the crew's roster. Including climbing rigging to set sails for which training will be given before setting sail to Antarctica."
What a way to get to see South Georgia!
I'll be watching this expedition closely. Not only will the voyage of the 'Alexandra Shackleton' be riveting, I'm sure, but also the tales to be told by the 'travelling public' on board the support vessel, the Tall Ship Pelican.
In the meantime, after the Autumn School has finished, I'll be employing my old GPS to steer Mike and me from Athy to Tom Crean's South Pole Inn through the Irish lanes. That'll be quite enough for now.
A few photos from the presentations:
Talk entitled Early Days, Rivalry and Leadership.
Kari Herbert's dad was the renowned polar researcher and explorer Sir Wally Herbert.
She grew up in the frozen far north-west of Greenland with her parents, so has a bit of personal experience of the subject.
Kathleen Scott with son Peter on the left, Emily Shackleton with son Edward on the right
Moving on, a presentation on Antarctic legacies.
About to depart on the 60-mile winter journey. Temperatures down to -56 deg C.
(L - R)Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard on their return, 5 weeks later.
Amazingly, Bowers in the centre looks just like many a biker sat in a cafe after a long-ish ride in the cold. Probably why Scott took him with the party to the South Pole.
Michael Smith talks about the Irishmen in Scott's expeditions.
My arrows show the South Pole (blue), and the destination of the icebreaker in which Mike and I shared a cabin 12 years ago (black, in McMurdo Sound).
Tom Crean, whose pub we'll be visiting (again) in a few days.
It's been rumoured that a notable museum visitor (when this photo was on display) observed, "It would look much nicer if he was scrubbed up."
Tom with his wife Ellen and two of his 3 daughters.
And the last known photo, Tom outside his pub.
A nice anecdote:
Patrick Keohane gained a place on Scott's Terra Nova expedition. His sister sent him a card for St Patrick's day, but he had already left his ship HMS Impulse at Devonport and transferred to Terra Nova.
To cater for this possibility his sister had written "Or elsewhere" at the end of the address. And indeed, the postcard was sent on to Antarctica.
By the time of its arrival Patrick Keohane had departed (in 1913) back to Ireland.
So the card was placed on the mantlepiece in Scott's hut at Cape Evans.
There it rested until an Australian expedition came calling in 1963, and arranged its safe passage to a suitable museum.
Patrick Keohane was one of the party that found Scott's tent, on 12th November 1912 (one hundred years ago on Monday week), with the frozen bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers
The Shackleton Autumn School is held in the Athy Heritage Centre right in the middle of the main square. It attracts an esoteric bunch of enthusiasts and scholars from all over the world. From the US, to Scandinavia, to Japan.
I think the main reason for the choice of the Heritage Centre as the venue is the handy location of a premises, immediately across the road, that serves as Mission Control (all expeditions need one of those), a conference room, refreshment room and grocery.
Inside, I make a new polar discovery. Tea is available in O'Brien's Bar!
Frank O'Brien, the 90-year-old owner of O'Brien's grocery and bar, holds an audience in the Conference Room while he recites The Navigators.
A poem dedicated to Shackleton and the Irish members of his crews, written by a resident of Narraghmore parish.
Aileen, who is off on a voyage to the Antarctic Peninsular in February next year,
persuades Mike to sign a copy of his book, The S.S. Terra Nova.
Escaping the blizzard and Mission Control we ski past the expedition tent, and the stores still lashed to the sledge
and record our arrival at the nearby River Barrow with a photo opportunity.
Some photos from the museum inside the Heritage Centre.
A model of Shackleton's ship, The Endurance.
A selection of Ponting's photos from Scott's Terra Nova expedition.
(A bit like my front room)
Outside once again, there's entertainment in the cloisters of a fine old Athy building.
Now, after a most excellent weekend, Mike and I are ready to set sail for The South Pole.
Shackleton's (1913?) newspaper advert, calling for expedition crew, stated "Safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success."
We hope for the latter.
In the meantime, the website linked above offers US$100 to the first person to find the original copy of this advert. That task is even more difficult, I think, than finding South Georgia in an open sailing boat.
International freight shippers specialising in International Bike / Motorcycle Shipping and more. All countries,
sea or air, multi-bike shipments.
Be sure to mention Horizons Unlimited for the best service!
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Editors note: We
accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever.
You are reminded to do your own research.
Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the
information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.