Tales from the Ice – WORD Christchurch

With the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival winding down, this was an event to cool our heels on.

Matt Vance, Alok Jha, Rebecca Priestley, Simon Wilson
Matt Vance, Alok Jha, Rebecca Priestley, Simon Wilson

Dispatches from Continent SevenTales From the Ice was brought to us by Dr Rebecca Priestley (VUW NZ) – Dispatches from Continent Seven; Matt Vance (NZ expedition leader) – Ocean Notorious; Alok Jha (ITV science corresponder) – The Water Book and chaired by Simon Wilson (Metro magazine). These books collect experiences of the fragile, beautiful, brutally unforgiving Antarctic Southern Ocean, and the element that makes it all possible; water.

From explorers Captain James Cook  and Robert Falcon Scott, early and modern scientists, to modern writers from the Artists to Antarctica Programme such as Bill Manhire and Gregory O’Brien, Dispatches from Continent Seven makes fascinating reading with a scientific flavour.

Ocean NotoriousIn Ocean Notorious Matt Vance shares his own experiences of lonely Southern Seas and the Islands and of taking refuge there. Along the way he gathers tales of heroic explorers, sailors, wartime coast-watchers, wildlife and conservationists.

Alok Jha shared the incredible fact that water on Planet Earth originated from meteorites crashing here. By default all life on Earth is Alien!

This panel conveyed a real sense of adventure from the sunny warmth of my festival seat.

Last words:

“Run the World like we run Antarctica – a co-op.” – Matt Vance.

“Stop (Antarctica) melting. There is still time…” – Rebecca Priestley.

“Help me get back there!” – Alok Jha.

WORD Christchurch

Frank Worsley – a local hero

It is just over a century since Frank Worsley, Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean reached a whaling station on remote South Georgia following a daring 16 day voyage to alert the world to the loss of Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition‘s ship Endurance. Because of this journey the rest of the crew – stranded on Elephant Island – were all saved.

Worsley was born in Akaroa in 1872 and the New Zealand Antarctic Society has republished an epic poem about him ‘Worsley Enchanted‘ written by New Zealand-born poet Douglas Stewart and illustrated by Myra Walton. The poem takes readers through his experiences on the Endurance Expedition – which has become legendary – and reflects on his relationship with the rest of the crew.

Frank Worsley. Smythe, P :Photographs of Frank Worsley. Ref: 1/2-182002-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22778293
Frank Worsley. Smythe, P :Photographs of Frank Worsley. Ref: 1/2-182002-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22778293

Find out more

Science fiction newsletter – April 2014

Here’s a selection of titles from our bi-monthly science fiction newsletter for April.

Cover of Red Rising Cover of Archetype by M D Walters Cover of The Martian by Andy Weir Cover of Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear Cover of Dust by Elizabeth Bear Cover of Orbus by Neal Asher

Subscribe to this and our other regular newsletters online to receive them direct to your email inbox every month (n.b. some titles are bi-monthly).

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.

National Geographic Image Collection

National Geographic Image Collection cover A delicious book of stunning photographs to pore over.

National Geographic’s photography collection spans decades and a multitude of topics. A publication of these collections has landed on our shelves : National Geographic Image Collection.

This stunning selection of photographs has been chosen from over 11 million images in National Geographic’s Archives, and is showcased in four major sections, Exploration, Wildlife, People & Culture, and Science & Climate Change.

Continue reading