Message from Mariska Wouters, President, Antarctic Society
On the 8 October 2017, we pay tribute to those Antarcticans who are there this season, and to those who have gone before – the past and the present.
And looking to the past, we see our future. In 1933 a group of New Zealanders met ‘to discuss the future of Antarctica’. Out of that meeting the Antarctic Society was born. To connect Antarcticans – whether you’ve been to Antarctica in person, or in spirit.
Over 85 years we’ve been active in creating public and political support for New Zealand’s involvement in Antarctica, for the protection of its unique values, and for protection of its heritage, so that future generations can value it too.
Unlike the Society’s early days, there are now many organisations speaking for aspects of Antarctica. We are delighted with that.
Yet the Society still sees one of its key roles as keeping the Antarctic spirit alive, and to be that connection to strengthen New Zealand’s modern and historic links to the region.
We still ask ‘what is the future of Antarctica?’. And ‘how can the Society best contribute to this future?’.
Like the Scott Statue, reinstated on its plinth, stronger than before, 100 years old, the Society too is looking forwards to the future, so that we too can celebrate our 100th anniversary. We hope that you’ll be part of that journey.
Shirley Russ, Christchurch Branch Chair, on the Wreath-laying Ceremony
On 8 October 2017 distinguished guests, Antarcticans, New Zealand Antarctic Society Life members and members, colleagues, friends, and visitors gathered together at the base of Captain Scott’s statue in Christchurch to share in a ceremony dedicated to all those who travel south to Antarctica to extend our understanding of the region, and its importance to humanity, at a personal, community, or international level.
Four wreaths, with individual significance, were laid at the feet of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, this tangible evidence of our Cantabrian connection with explorers to Antarctica, blessed by Father Dan Doyle, who was for many years the Antarctic chaplain and the last catholic priest in the Chapel of Snows in 2015.
The first wreath, laid by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, is from the city at the heart of our province, Christchurch, Canterbury. Through the endeavour, leadership and innovation of Cantabrians in the past and present, we recognise today Cantabrians have the opportunity to strengthen and deepen these attributes in our connection with Antarctica.
Through the second wreath, we observe the importance of history and tradition, and highlight the strong and continuing links with Antarctica through multi-disciplinary research. This statue, a gift to Christchurch from Kathleen Scott, links the history of exploration with the science undertaken by the early explorers.
We remember all those who have gone before us to Antarctica, including those who have lost their lives there. Antarctica today challenges each individual who travels there as it did the heroic explorers – the same environmental challenges, and the same remoteness, softened today by improved stations, impressive scientific support, improved access, improved ships and almost real-time communication. Such improvements in conditions and the resulting environmental awareness are a result of building upon the experience of people who have gone before us and who have developed best practice based on sound research. Our New Zealand connection is often embodied by the work at Scott Base, established in the 1950’s in support of the International Geophysical Year at Pram Point, Ross Island, and permanently occupied since then without a single day of interruption.
The second wreath was laid by Dr Dan Asquith, Great Grandson of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, representing the explorers and Peter Beggs, the CEO of Antarctica New Zealand, representing the strong science support that all of the national Antarctic programs provide in support of peace and scientific endeavour in the Antarctic region.
Our third wreath is from the New Zealand Antarctic Society members. Formed in 1933, the Society was instrumental in the New Zealand government becoming involved in Antarctica in the 1950’s. Many of our members played a vital role in exploring the Ross Sea Region in the early days of modern exploration. Since then our Society continues to keep this part of history alive, by acting in the present to build awareness of the Antarctic challenges and opportunities we face now and for the future. In the 1950’s, the Antarctic was the realm of men. Today, we are pleased that men and women live and work in Antarctica side by side to deliver New Zealand’s Antarctic research programme.
Recognising New Zealand’s female connection in the Antarctic, Margaret Bradshaw, long-term vice-president of the New Zealand Antarctic Society South Island, and Mariska Wouters, the National Chair of the New Zealand Antarctic Society laid the third wreath. It was noted, that with this third wreath, we also would like to remember members of the Society who passed away this year, especially Flight Officer Bill Cranfield of Christchurch.
The Chilean Ambassador Rodrigo Espinosa and the Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Marcelli laid the fourth and final wreath in recognition of the strong international collaboration that is at the heart of Antarctica. First collaborative international attempts in exploring the Antarctic were made in 1901-05 when England, France, Germany, Scotland, and Sweden, set up, with incredible foresight, coordinated observations in meteorology and many other disciplines. Cooperative efforts have continued including the Fourth International Polar Year, known as the International Geophysical Year in 1957-1959, which led to the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. We especially recognise the support of US Rear Admiral George John Dufek, Admiral Byrd’s successor and commander of Operation Deep Freeze, in establishing New Zealand’s Scott Base.
There are many stories of international collaboration in the Antarctic. As the Antarctic community grows and as science continues to become more complex and multidisciplinary, international cooperation is more important than ever. This is recognised by the long-serving partnership between New Zealand, the United States of America, and Italy, who have been working in collaboration in the Ross Sea Region for many decades. We also acknowledge the contribution of more nations into the international effort, including the Republic of Korea, China, and Germany and we recognise the role of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, coordinated from Christchurch.
Father Dan Doyle gave the final blessing and the ceremony was closed by Shirley Russ, “I close by looking to the future when we gather again here at Scott’s Statue to celebrate all of the connections southward from Christchurch to Antarctica and northward from Antarctica to the rest of our world.”