6 January, 2012

The Polar Medal has been awarded to three members of staff almost 100 years after the great British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his men reached the South Pole. Congratulations go to Vehicle Engineer Ben Norrish, Deputy Project Manager Paul Cousens and former Field Geologist Dr Michael Curtis.

The Polar Medal is a medal awarded by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. It was instituted in 1857 as the Arctic Medal and renamed the Polar Medal in 1904.

The first polar award was called the Arctic Medal which was presented twice in the 19th century. Firstly to the men who engaged in a search expedition to discover the fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew who were lost while looking for the Northwest Passage in 1847. The second presentation of the Arctic Medal was to the crews of three ships exploring the Arctic in 1875–76.

In 1904, the Polar Medal was inaugurated for members of Captain Scott’s first expedition to Antarctica. Subsequent medals were also awarded to members of Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions in 1907–09 and 1914–17.

Until 1968, the Polar Medal was presented to anyone who participated in a polar expedition endorsed by the governments of any Commonwealth Realms. However since then the rules governing its presentation have been revised with greater emphasis placed on personal achievement, Polar Medals are now only awarded to British subjects for their extreme human endeavours in Arctic and Antarctic conditions or to expedition members and those permanently-manned Antarctic bases for their contribution to the “acquisition of knowledge of Polar regions”. Ten years of service at the North or South Pole is also now considered for the Polar Medal.