Chris Turney: scientist, adventurer, storyteller

Scientist and storyteller, what a magical combination from  Chris Turney, author of 1912, the year the world discovered Antarctica. His session at  The Press Christchurch Writers Festival was a delight for this most non-scientific of librarians.

Clearly 1912 was a crucial year for Antarctic exploration and research, with five expeditions in the Southern continent, four trying to reach the pole and one exploring the western Antarctic. In 1912 little was known about Antarctica, scientists were not even sure it was one continent. The Scott/Amundsen race is iconic of course, but how many of us know about the homicidal Germans, the unlucky Japanese and the combined Australian/ New Zealand team lead by Sir Douglas Mawson.

In 1912, the adventurer had to persuade both the scientific establishment and the general public to back an expedition, there was no government support. Mawson, who was only 28, was clearly a super fundraiser, netting over $20million US in today’s money.

Scott’s dedication to science lead to his team hauling 16kgs of rocks back from the Beardmore Glacier, even as they struggled to survive. They ditched equipment but not the rocks. This tale was supported by many others during Chris’s lively session and you could do no better than read the book  and look at his website which has lots of resources including film from the early expeditions. He even has his own YouTube channel so there is a feast for science and Antarctic junkies.

Chris is inspired by the fundraising skills of the early explorers and is involved in the privately funded Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014. Marking 100 years since Mawson’s expedition the aim is “Taking a team of 30 women and men south, the new Australasian Antarctic Expedition will set out for two remote parts of Antarctica – Heard Island and Enderby Land – both of which have seen relatively little exploration over the past hundred years and for which we have few scientific measurements.” Anyone can join in supporting this.

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