THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY HONG KONG
"Scott of the Antarctic"
Thursday, 23 April 2009
The British Consulate General
1 Supreme Court Road, Pacific Place, Admiralty
by kind permission of Her Majesty's Consul General
Lecture 1: Drinks Reception 5.30 pm; Lecture 6.30 pm
Lecture 2: Drinks Reception 7.30 pm; Lecture 8.30 pm
We are delighted to welcome to the Royal Geographical Society in Hong Kong Julian Bickersteth, curator of the huts of Captain Robert Scott on Antarctica. In this lecture, Mr. Bickersteth recounts the story of one of the greatest explorers of all time, through his early expeditions, to naval commands, to the fateful race to the South Pole. Mr. Bickersteth also gives an account of his own work on the restoration of the huts and of the preservation of the 15,000 artifacts that still survive from the great era of Antarctic exploration, including those of both Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Captain Robert Scott, CVO, was born in Devonport into a navy family and became a cadet at the age of 13. He soon attracted the notice of the Royal Geographical Society, which appointed him to command the National Antarctic Expedition of 190104. The expedition reached further south than anyone before them and Scott returned to Britain a national hero. He had caught the exploring bug and, by 1906, was planning an expedition to reach the South Pole.
By then a famous naval officer, Captain Scott was appointed to command the legendry Terra Nova Expedition, 191013. The whaling ship Terra Nova sailed from New Zealand in November 1910 and the expedition set off from a base camp on Antarctica the following October, with mechanical sledges, ponies and dogs. However, the sledges and ponies could not cope with the conditions and the expedition carried on without them, through appalling weather and increasingly tough terrain. In mid December, the dog teams turned back, leaving the rest to face the ascent of the Beardmore Glacier and the polar plateau.
In 1912, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January, only to find that they had been preceded by Roald Amundsen's Norwegian party in the legendary unsought "race for the Pole". Yet, as the Norwegian team had ridden by dog sled and Scott's party were the first to trek to the Pole, the "race" was widely perceived as a draw. The Norwegian team's expedition report most charitably said "it is no disparagement of Amundsen and the rest of us when I say that Scott's achievement exceeded ours…….I do not believe men ever have shown such endurance at any time, nor do I believe there ever will be men to equal it".
Mr Bickersteth is the Director of The Antarctic Ross Sea region historic hut conservation programme. The Royal Geographical Society played a fundamental role in supporting the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton to the Antarctic. The legacy of these expeditions lives on in the form of the huts the explorers built and the over 15,000 artefacts that still survive from the era. Over the last five years a major conservation program has been underway to conserve these extraordinary relics of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. Mr Bickersteth has been coordinating the artefact conservation programme, and talks about the huts and the artefacts in the wider context of the stories of the expeditions, richly illustrated by slides of the stunning Antarctic terrain.
Julian Bickersteth was educated a Marlborough College and Christ Church College, Oxford. He moved initially to Australia to work at the Timbertop Outward Bound School. He returned to England to train in conservation, before returning to Australia to take a position at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Since 1987, he has been Managing Director of International Conservation Services, which has conducted conservation projects throughout Asia. Mr Bickersteth has achieved worldwide acclaim for his work on the Scott and Shackleton huts and artefacts.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend these lectures, which are HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others.