Dates: Apr 8th - Oct 9th
National Maritime Museum Cornwall new exhibition On Thin Ice: Pioneers of Polar Exploration brings the Arctic and Antarctic to Falmouth.
Developed in partnership with the Polar Museum in Cambridge, the Maritime Museum’s new six month exhibition takes visitors sub-zero as they journey around three dedicated galleries called North, South and Base Camp; giving a chilling insight into Britain’s polar heritage.
At the end of the 19th century, Antarctica beckoned to explorers; it was the earth’s last great terra incognita. The quest to reach the South Pole was spurred by a potent mixture of personal ambition, national glory and scientific endeavour.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott said in his diary at the South Pole on 17 January 1912: “Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority.” Beaten to the South Pole by Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen, Scott’s party perished on their return journey in March 1912.
The new exhibition features a historic collection of artefacts from the tragic Terra Nova expedition of 1910-13 including Scott’s snow goggles, a compass, pony snow shoes, man-hauling harness, journal wallet and letters.
Shackleton’s vest sits alongside Leonard Hussey’s banjo with fragments from the James Caird in a powerful union, honouring the pioneering voyage, aboard Endurance, of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17, that became an epic of survival. Binoculars, snow boots and goggles from the expedition are also on display.
It is the cold that defines the Arctic, shaping life and landscape and challenging explorers. It is a region of frozen seas, permafrost, midnight sun and unending polar nights.
Wally Herbert, the first man without doubt to have reached the North Pole on foot and the last of the great polar pioneers, has his fox fur parka, seal skin mittens and polar bear fur boots and stockings on display. This is truly a breath-taking look at animal fur from the poles being used to warm man.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes refers to Herbert as “the greatest polar explorer of our time” and yet Ran himself is referred to as “the world’s greatest living explorer” by the Guinness Book of Records. Comparing Ran’s clothing and expedition kit worn on his epic Transglobe expedition 1979-82, where he became the first man to reach both poles by surface travel, and that of Herbert’s, Scott’s and Shackleton’s, it is clear to see how modern technology is changing the face of polar exploration.
Pen Hadow, the first Briton to walk without re-supply to the North and South Pole, says: “It’s enormously difficult to communicate to anyone who hasn’t been to the Poles what life is like at the extremes. This exhibition is like a Who’s Who of polar explorers and it’s an honour to be part of it. As a West Country man, I’m very proud that Britain’s polar heritage is being celebrated in Falmouth’s Maritime Museum, the fit couldn’t be more perfect.”
Ben Lumby, Exhibitions Manager at the Maritime Museum says “Some might say that Falmouth couldn’t be further away from the poles, but this exhibition ensures you get as close as you can without actually being at -45 degrees. Taking you into the past and the present of polar exploration, the exhibition is an important reminder of the intensity of isolation and hardship the poles present and of the grit and determination of the men and women who make it their goal to get there.”
Shackleton said it all in his advertisement when planning his Nimrod expedition: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s On Thin Ice exhibition says it all as well with a beautifully illustrated and curated exhibition offering you the chance to experience the highs and lows of the Polar world.
On Thin Ice: Pioneers of Polar Exploration runs from 8 April to 9 October 2011.