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Friends Soiree: Antarctica - hazards and honours in the name of science

Tuesday 1st March 2016 @ 18:30


Roderick Rhys Jones, Chairman of Friends, Chairman British Antarctic Monument Trust, Imperial Alumnus

One dictionary definition of soiree is an elegant evening gathering, usually at someone's home.

Friends soirees feature in-depth, rich conversation and exploration of their subject matter. They are much smaller than lectures and are held in the prestigious Solar Room at 170 Queens Gate, Imperial College London.

At this soiree, Rod will recount his experiences as a surveyor with the British Antarctic Survey in the ‘60s, talk about the importance of Antarctic science, why he set out to create memorials “to those who lost their lives in Antarctica in pursuit of science” and his return on a voyage to remember in Antarctica.

The Antarctic is the highest, coldest, and windiest continent: remote, hostile and uninhabited but for a handful of scientists. Yet it is a key part of the fabric of the Earth linking the continent inextricably to ourselves. Processes taking place in the Antarctic affect the world’s climate, the discovery of the ozone hole was discovered by British scientists, its snows have recorded the vicissitudes of our climate for centuries, lakes thousands of feet below the ice will shortly reveal their secrets. Have they sustained life?

Rod joined the British Antarctic Survey as a surveyor when he graduated in Civil Engineering from Imperial College London and, after a period of training on Epsom Downs and updating maps on the Falkland Islands, spent a year at Halley Bay, the most southerly of British bases where the sun disappears below the horizon for a three and half months each year.

In the spring he joined a ten man, three tractor, three dog team expedition to the Tottanfjella, a range of mountains several hundred miles from base where he discovered leaf fossils that contributed to the unravelling of the continental drift theory. Tragedy struck when three of his companions were killed in a crevasse accident.

Since the British Government established the first permanent research base in Antarctica in 1944 at Port Lockroy, twenty nine Britons have died in the pursuit of scientific knowledge.  In 2007 Rod set up a charity, the British Antarctic Monument Trust, to commemorate the achievements of these explorers.

The Trust has placed a memorial tablet in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral and has created a monumental sculpture, part of which is installed outside the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University and part of which is sited on the waterfront, Stanley, Falkland Islands - gateway to the Antarctic.

The Trust ‘chartered’ the mv Ushuaia for a three week voyage for Antarctic veterans, relatives and supporters including twelve members of Friends to the Falkland Islands for the dedication of the monument and hence on a voyage to remember to South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Rod will be talking about his personal experiences of working in Antarctica, comment on some of the early explorers and their contribution to science, some elements of more recent science, and his experiences of organising the memorials to “those who died in Antarctica in pursuit of science to benefit us all.”

The timetable for the evening is as follows:

18.15 - arrival for 18.30 start
Registration and welcome with a glass of wine or soft drinks.

18.30 - 19.25
Antarctica - hazards and honours in the name of science

Roderick Rhys Jones, Chairman of Friends, Chairman British Antarctic Monument Trust, Imperial Alumnus

Rod will recount his experiences as a surveyor with the British Antarctic Survey in the ‘60s, talk about the importance of Antarctic science, why he set out to create memorials “to those who lost their lives in Antarctica in pursuit of science” and his return on a voyage to remember in Antarctica.

19.25 - 19.35

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London

Martin will be talking about his work with the Lake Ellsworth Consortium that is exploring a large subglacial lake beneath the ice of Antarctica.

19.35 - 19.50

Questions and discussion

19.50 - 20.30
Wine, soft drinks, evening canapes and conversation.

View the display of fossils and landscape paintings that Rod accomplished during his recent voyage.

Venue: 170 Queens Gate, Imperial College London

Campus Map reference 24
on the Imperial College London Map