Antarctica in Leeds

Yesterday was the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s arrival at The South Pole on his ill-fated journey in Antarctica.

The day the boiler broke down at The Leeds Library just happened to be the day that they were hosting an Antarctica Evening!

Here is the programme :

Antarctica Evening – All Welcome

Tuesday 17th January 2012 at 17.00

17.00 Welcome, refreshments and a chance to browse the exhibition of books, artefacts and photographs 1911-1912

18.00 ‘Antarctica’ a talk with slide show by John Whitley (Leeds Library member)

19.00 ‘Why read books on Antarctic exploration’ a brief talk by John Bowers (Leeds Library member)

During the event there will be a chance to talk to the Leeds Library Staff about the Library’s holdings and their interest in the Scott-Amundsen story.

There will be a charge of £5 per person with proceeds being split equally between the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and The Leeds Library.

The talk and slides took us on a wonderful journey where we could see the icebergs and the rough seas and only shiver slightly in the chilly room.  At the end John reviewed his trip in the light of what he had seen and pointed out his Top Five which included the penguins, the icebergs, the whales.

We came away from the second talk with our own annotated bibliography of Antarctica ‘must reads’ and a fascinating and revealing comparison of secondhand book buying and book prices between the late 1950s and 1960s when John and his wife were starting their collection and if one were to start a similar collection today. These days many of the books  turned out to cost less when purchased via Amazon mainly because there are more popular, cheaper editions and reprints available.

Of the books on the list I have read only one: Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s excellent “The Worst Journey in the World“. John rounded off his talk with a quotation from “Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer” by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell. He said ‘Shackleton’s leadership was so exceptional as to be deemed a worthy subject by management specialists’.

But there’s one book I’ll be looking out for (I hope it is in the Library Catalogue!) and that is “Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat” by Caroline Alexander. She was the only female member of an Antarctic Expedition at the time.

An addition was made to the programme and another speaker, Jane Francis of Leeds University, talked briefly about her own expeditions to the South Pole (10 in all) and showed us sample fossils (glossopteris) that she had collected.

Finally there was a Q&A session when we were able to question the speakers and a member of the library team on all manner of related topics not least the differences between the Scott and the Amundsen teams and methods.

This evening reminded me again of my visit to the Scott-Polar Research Institute in Cambridge last February.


9 comments on “Antarctica in Leeds

  1. Rhona says:

    Enjoyed this, Barbara, and I just loved the photo of the old paperbacks. Penguins wherever you look! Rhona

  2. So many anniversaries this year it’s hard to keep up with them all. Love the thought of you all experiencing the chill factor too. Scott was a son of Plymouth so we have the local museum exhibition still to do.I read the Worst Journey too and needed a hot water bottle. Mrs Chippy one of the books brought along to our Endsleigh Book Group when the theme was Courage. The person who had read it had us all in tears, we often mention it even now …’remember the Mrs Chippy night’

  3. Mike says:

    Hi there. Came across your blog recently and have enjoyed reading it.

    On the topic of “Mrs Chippy”, I’m pretty certain that it was actually male. The Endurance’s carpenter, McNish, was so devoted tothe cat that the crew began to joke that it was like it was his wife. So there were no female members of the exhibition I’m afraid.

    • Thank you, Mike. Oh dear, what a pity, so no females on the early expeditions at all. That’s a shame but as I said above I’ve reserved a copy at the library so will read the diary for myself.

  4. Lyn says:

    Mrs Chippy is wonderful. She was indeed a male but there’s a lovely photo of her/him on the shoulder of a young member of the crew, I had it as my PC wallpaper for a while. It’s a gorgeous book and, for a cat lover, so true to a cat’s nature. Her teasing of the expedition dogs will make you laugh & the ending will make you cry. The perfect book, really! I really must read Worst Journey. This week would be appropriate as it’s going to be hot for days on end & I fancy a little Antarctic chill.

  5. I’m looking forward to reading this, Lyn. As mentioned to other Lynne, it’s being brought up from the library stack for me. I shall try to brave!

  6. […] More recently, of course, I had read Cherry’s ‘The worst journey in the world’ and visited the Polar Research Institute in Cambridge and attended the Antarctica talks in January at The Leeds Library. […]

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