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Sunday, 4 December 2011

British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 (BSAE2012) Farewell Dinner

Last night, I went to the Farewell Dinner for the British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 (BSAE2012), the companion expedition to the (civilian) ISCE2012. The venue was the magnificent Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, whose baroque firmament of a ceiling was painted by Sir James Thornhill over 17 years. Payment was by the yard; perhaps a precursor to today’s controversial government practice of ‘Payment by Results’...


After dinner, there was a rousing round of toasts and heartfelt speeches, which pithily captured what inspirational figures and endeavours the BSAE2012 will celebrate and emulate. The Director of the Royal Geographical Society, Dr Rita Gardner, reminded us of how Scott and his men were dedicated to research to the last – even as their strength faded, they refused to jettison 14 kg of rock samples that were later used to formulate a unifying geological theory, that of plate tectonics.

The BSAE2012 is logistically complex. 24 men and women from all three military services will land on the Antarctic Peninsula from the sea and split into two teams  which will interweave paths, including a new traverse of Antarctandes. The rich scientific programme will touch on climate change, meteorite compositional analysis and sports psychology/sociology in extreme conditions.

Kathryn, behind the electric candleabra, also came to Norway

The link between the ISCE2012 and the BSAE2012 is strong. When we had our first (ISCE) selection challenge in April, this was hosted by Lt Cdr Paul Hart at the Royal Naval training dry dock of HMS Raliegh. Both expeditions jointly fly the banner of the ‘Spirit of Scott’ and adopt a Tennyson line for their motto which it’s hard to say out loud without sitting a bit taller: ‘To Strive, To Seek, To Find and Not To Yield’.


The evening made me think about just how much work goes into making any endeavour of interest a success. I also felt great excitement for Henry that he’ll have an adventure of his own next year with the ISCE2012. For my part, yesterday’s dinner was an unforgettable coda to this phase of my involvement with the ISCE2012. It’s been a fantastic experience that has sent my life in a Constance Spry spray of new directions. Correctly, the focus must now be on getting Henry & Co. there and back to cap the centenary celebrations in November 2012 – I hope to find a way to contribute to this in a small way behind the scenes, if I can.

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About Me

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Ali is a 28 year old Londoner. He has trained at various things, including tennis playing, biochemistry and bespoke tailoring. He currently works in social housing for a local authority. In his free time, he marinades in Antarctic arcana, runs avidly (middle-distance) and bumbles through music practice. Ali volunteers for the International Scott Centenary Expedition 2012 charity, which aims to honour the legacy of Captain Robert Scott and his four men who died a hundred years ago. Ali is one of ten shortlisted candidates for the final place on the centenary expedition itself.