The Antarcticans

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01Unveiling Antarctica2011121220130506

To mark the centenary of Roald Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole (to be followed a month later by Captain Scott), this series of The Essay is presented by professionals who have lived and worked in Antarctica.

David Drewry's Essay "Unveiling Antarctica" describes the extraordinary human feats undertaken to measure the depth of the Antarctic ice cap and what lies beneath it.

Working with the Americans under the newly ratified Antarctic Treaty, David pioneered the use of airborne radar to measure the fluctuating thickness of the ice sheets that cover the continent.

"What we did was to fly a radar transmitter in an aircraft, bouncing radio waves downwards through the ice. By measuring the time taken for their return we could calculate how thick the ice was. Because we sent thousands of radio pulses a second, we were able to build up a continuous profile of the ice sheet. And by flying regular tracks across the continent we began to construct a map of the land lying beneath the ice - unveiling the real geography of Antarctica".

The deeper the ice, however, the lower they had to fly to measure it. One sortie, accompanied by the infamously steely-nerved flight engineer -Bones- is graphically retold. They flew at 250 knots whilst the ice flashed by just 25 feet below.

David's work helped to reveal completely unexpected lakes of water deep under the ice. Even today it's not known what primeval creatures may lurk there.

Professor David Drewry is a glaciologist, the former director of The Scott Polar Research Institute and British Antarctic Survey and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He has a mountain and a glacier named after him.

Producer Chris Eldon Lee

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 3

First broadcast in December 2011.

David Drewry's Essay "Unveiling Antarctica" describes the extraordinary human feats undertaken to measure the depth of the Antarctic ice cap and what lies beneath it.

"What we did was to fly a radar transmitter in an aircraft, bouncing radio waves downwards through the ice.

By measuring the time taken for their return we could calculate how thick the ice was.

Because we sent thousands of radio pulses a second, we were able to build up a continuous profile of the ice sheet.

And by flying regular tracks across the continent we began to construct a map of the land lying beneath the ice - unveiling the real geography of Antarctica".

The deeper the ice, however, the lower they had to fly to measure it.

One sortie, accompanied by the infamously steely-nerved flight engineer -Bones- is graphically retold.

They flew at 250 knots whilst the ice flashed by just 25 feet below.

David's work helped to reveal completely unexpected lakes of water deep under the ice.

Even today it's not known what primeval creatures may lurk there.

Professor David Drewry is a glaciologist, the former director of The Scott Polar Research Institute and British Antarctic Survey and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He has a mountain and a glacier named after him.

Glaciologist David Drewry on his adventurous efforts to survey Antarctica's landscape.

02Adelies And Obsession2011121320130507

To mark the centenary of Roald Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole (to be followed a month later by Captain Scott), this series of the Essay is presented by professionals who have lived and worked in Antarctica.

In "Adelies and Obsession" writer and historian Meredith Hooper talks about penguins, past and present. To the men on Scott's expedition, small Adelie penguins were amusing, neatly packaged fresh food.

"A penguin yielded two delicious breast steaks. Fricasseed or in a stew, their flesh was considered as good as beef. Fresh penguin meat was thought to help ward off scurvy. And, if necessary, penguin blubber could be used for cooking".

One hundred years later, Meredith was given privileged access to the private lives of these complex little birds which provide crucial evidence of climate change.

"Records were showing a temperature rise five times the global average. A rise of almost 3 degrees centigrade during the previous 50 years. 30 years of seabird data now seem to link the lives and fates of the local Adelies with climate change"

The penguins' plight causes Meredith to re-examine her own relationship with their habitat and Antarctica's place within her soul.

Meredith Hooper has been on four Antarctic adventures, resulting in four books about the continent. She is a visiting scholar at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Trustee of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and holds the Antarctic Service Medal. She's a key contributor to the Natural History Museum exhibition about polar conquest and recently became famous as the mother who persuaded her son Tom to make the film "The King's Speech".

Producer Chris Eldon Lee

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 3

First broadcast in December 2011.

In "Adelies and Obsession" writer and historian Meredith Hooper talks about penguins, past and present.

To the men on Scott's expedition, small Adelie penguins were amusing, neatly packaged fresh food.

"A penguin yielded two delicious breast steaks.

Fricasseed or in a stew, their flesh was considered as good as beef.

Fresh penguin meat was thought to help ward off scurvy.

And, if necessary, penguin blubber could be used for cooking".

"Records were showing a temperature rise five times the global average.

A rise of almost 3 degrees centigrade during the previous 50 years.

30 years of seabird data now seem to link the lives and fates of the local Adelies with climate change"

Meredith Hooper has been on four Antarctic adventures, resulting in four books about the continent.

She is a visiting scholar at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Trustee of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and holds the Antarctic Service Medal.

She's a key contributor to the Natural History Museum exhibition about polar conquest and recently became famous as the mother who persuaded her son Tom to make the film "The King's Speech".

Writer Meredith Hooper witnesses the plight of penguins affected by climate change.

03The Last Huskies2011121420130508

To mark the centenary of Roald Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole (to be followed a month later by Captain Scott), this series of the Essay is presented by professionals who have lived and worked in Antarctica.

In the mid-1990s John Sweeny was a Field Assistant at Rothera Base on the Antarctic peninsula when fate decreed he should drive "The Last Huskies" ever to romp across the continent. The recently-signed Antarctic Treaty dictated that all "non-indigenous species" had to be removed.

"In the past, drivers had been ordered to shoot redundant huskies. I'd done this myself. A bullet to the back of the head for the dog - and a lifelong sense of guilt for me at such a heartless betrayal of trust. But now the eyes of the world were upon us and a more sensitive scenario had to be found."

Realising it would be decidedly un-British to put the dogs down, a plot was hatched for John to take his team to a new life with an Inuit community on the shores of Canada's Hudson Bay.

He recounts their last big adventure north which tragically transformed into a life and death struggle for the huskies.

The words of Amundsen's companion Helmar Hansen speaking a century earlier, echo in his head:

"Dogs like that - who share man's hard times and strenuous work - cannot be looked upon merely as animals. They are supporters and friends. There is no such thing as making a pet out of a sledge dog, these animals are worth much more than that."

John Sweeny is now a forester in Snowdonia.

Producer Chris Eldon Lee

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 3

First broadcast in December 2011.

In the mid-1990s John Sweeny was a Field Assistant at Rothera Base on the Antarctic peninsula when fate decreed he should drive "The Last Huskies" ever to romp across the continent.

The recently-signed Antarctic Treaty dictated that all "non-indigenous species" had to be removed.

"In the past, drivers had been ordered to shoot redundant huskies.

I'd done this myself.

A bullet to the back of the head for the dog - and a lifelong sense of guilt for me at such a heartless betrayal of trust.

But now the eyes of the world were upon us and a more sensitive scenario had to be found."

"Dogs like that - who share man's hard times and strenuous work - cannot be looked upon merely as animals.

They are supporters and friends.

There is no such thing as making a pet out of a sledge dog, these animals are worth much more than that."

John Sweeny on his desperate efforts to find a new home for Antarctica's last huskies.

04How Not To Make Ice Cream In Antarctica2011121520130509

To mark the centenary of Roald Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole (to be followed a month later by Captain Scott), this series of the Essay is presented by professionals who have lived and worked in Antarctica.

A scientist who still regularly spends time on the icy continent, Jane Francis has found direct correlations between the geology studied by Captain Scott 100 years ago and her own work today.

Jane describes her normal geological field day in Antarctica:

"I am preoccupied with three things: the rocks and the geology that I am there to study; the risk of snow storms; and what we are going to have for dinner!"

Food is an obsession for ever-hungry field geologists, so planning innovative ways of serving up exciting meals from the rather dull contents of a field ration box is a constant challenge.

Special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas demand extra inventiveness.

Long hours trapped inside a tent during a blizzard are perfect times for experimentation.

"Nothing is ever a failure because it all gets eaten anyway, but one particular recipe sticks in mind - the ice cream that would not freeze."

Jane Francis is Professor of Paleoclimatology at Leeds University.

In 2002 she was awarded the Polar Medal for her contribution to British research in the Polar Regions, her work on fossil plants, and the ancient climates of the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Producer Chris Eldon Lee

A Culture Wise Production for BBC Radio 3.

Paleoclimatologist Jane Francis discusses her in the Antarctic.

"I am preoccupied with three things: the rocks and the geology that I am there to study; the risk of snow storms; and what we are going to have for dinner!"

Food is an obsession for ever-hungry field geologists, so planning innovative ways of serving up exciting meals from the rather dull contents of a field ration box is a constant challenge. Special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas demand extra inventiveness. Long hours trapped inside a tent during a blizzard are perfect times for experimentation.

"Nothing is ever a failure because it all gets eaten anyway, but one particular recipe sticks in mind - the ice cream that would not freeze."

Jane Francis is Professor of Paleoclimatology at Leeds University. In 2002 she was awarded the Polar Medal for her contribution to British research in the Polar Regions, her work on fossil plants, and the ancient climates of the Arctic and the Antarctic.

First broadcast in December 2011.

05 LASTMaking The Rules For Antarctica2011121620130510

To mark the centenary of Roald Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole (to be followed a month later by Captain Scott), this series of the Essay is presented by professionals who have lived and worked in Antarctica.

David Walton's professional life has seen him tread an unusual, and often delicate, path between botany and international politics. In his Essay he explains how he progressed from studying the lifecycle of small woody plants on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia to sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with world leaders, trying to create the laws required to protect the continent from human activity.

"When Scott went "South" a century ago, the only laws he had to concern himself with were those of survival. Now, with more than 30 countries following in his wake, legislation to protect this most pristine part of our planet is vital."

Inspired by the lectures of Sir Raymond Priestley (the geologist on Scott's expedition) David went "South" himself in 1967 to conduct his own scientific research. But a chance meeting with a charismatic seal biologist hauled him out of the world of intricate biological research and into the global political arena.

"Perhaps the most difficult period was when the United States delegation insisted on blocking every discussion on climate change, regardless of the evidence, just because George Bush Junior did not believe in it."

David Walton is Emeritus Professor at the British Antarctic Survey and Visiting Professor at the University of Liverpool. He is Editor in Chief of the journal "Antarctic Science" and has contributed to, compiled and edited, six books on research in Antarctica.

Producer Chris Eldon Lee

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 3

First broadcast in December 2011.

David Walton's professional life has seen him tread an unusual, and often delicate, path between botany and international politics.

In his Essay he explains how he progressed from studying the lifecycle of small woody plants on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia to sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with world leaders, trying to create the laws required to protect the continent from human activity.

"When Scott went "South" a century ago, the only laws he had to concern himself with were those of survival.

Now, with more than 30 countries following in his wake, legislation to protect this most pristine part of our planet is vital."

Inspired by the lectures of Sir Raymond Priestley (the geologist on Scott's expedition) David went "South" himself in 1967 to conduct his own scientific research.

But a chance meeting with a charismatic seal biologist hauled him out of the world of intricate biological research and into the global political arena.

"Perhaps the most difficult period was when the United States delegation insisted on blocking every discussion on climate change, regardless of the evidence, just because George Bush Junior did not believe in it."

David Walton is Emeritus Professor at the British Antarctic Survey and Visiting Professor at the University of Liverpool.

He is Editor in Chief of the journal "Antarctic Science" and has contributed to, compiled and edited, six books on research in Antarctica.

David Walton on the tricky legal struggle to protect Antarctica from humans' activity.