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Tuesday, 25 April 2023

The Antarctic Heritage Trust

 For our March talk, Camilla Johns talked about the work of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, and specifically about conditions in Antarctica, and its importance. Their aim is to 'preserve historic buildings in Antarctica to help current generations discover, understand, value and protect this precious wilderness'. There's lots more information, videos etc on their website about Port Lockroy, Base A. I'll add some photos taken during the talk and also some information gleaned during the talk.

Antarctica was discovered 200 years ago; 90% of the world's ice is found there, if the ice melted, there would be a 58metre rise in sea level. It's the windiest place on earth, with 200mph winds, and the biggest mountain ranges. The impact of climate change is seen here very clearly, with rises of 3 degrees in average temperatures over the last 50 years.
The wildlife is fantastic with 9000 species found. Penguins are at home in this environment.
Exploration of Antarctica began in the 1700s Captain Cook circumnavigated the world and saw penguins, seals and whales and the emphasis was on exploitation of the natural resources, and by 1830 fur seals were wiped out because so many had been caught. 
Things improved in the early twentieth century when Amundsen, Shackleton and Captain Scott were examples of the heroic era and collected scientific data. Camilla recommended we read Shackleton's amazing story  'Endurance'.
There are between 1-4000 people working in Antarctica at the moment, and in the winter, they are stuck there for 4/5 months because of the ice. There has been lots of wrangling over land in Antarctic, the big whaling stations and factory ships being an example of how not to do things. The land at Port Lockroy is British Crown Land.
This poster was produced during 1943 when there were concerns about German U boats. Since then there has been a treaty signed by 56 countries to ensure Antarctica is a collaborative, special place.
Above are photos of the 6 bases which are protected sites and monuments
A map of Antarctica showing the position of Port Lockroy
Above a photo of inside some of the buildings showing workshops, and some chains
This old photograph shows the sort of supplies people used to take to the base, tins and tins.
There's a Post Office which amazingly still issues stamps, and has 7000 postcards sent from there to over 100 countries. 
I'd like to thank Camilla Johns once again for her talk which opened up window onto this amazing resource and very special place. To watch the recording of the talk, please click here.