The British Antarctic Oral History Project is the result of a collaboration between the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), BAS Club, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT), and Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI). The project’s aim is to capture and preserve the recollections and memories of those dedicated individuals who have worked in Antarctica, with a particular focus on those who worked for, or closely with, BAS and its predecessors, Operation Tabarin, 1943-45 and Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS), 1945-61.
Although the official history of these organisations is well documented by original records held in the BAS Archives Service, this project has provided an opportunity to capture first hand insights into the relationships, culture, decisions and policy that shaped the scientific research in the region at the time. The resulting recordings, many of which are now available on the BAS Club website reveal a fascinating history of life in Antarctica that will be preserved and made accessible for generations to come.
Allan Wearden, co-ordinator on behalf of BAS Club commented: “I’m delighted to see the project live on the BAS Club website, with open access for all to listen to the growing collection of Antarctic stories; many of which have never been heard before!”
The main collection phase, between 2009 and March 2014, prioritised interviews with the older generation. Opportunities for collection were also maximised via reunion events and as diverse a range of experiences as possible were recorded. So far, more than 280 interviews have been collected – with service dates ranging from the 1940’s to the present day – all of which are catalogued and held permanently by the BAS Archives Service. Digital Nomads worked with the project’s partners to make the archive accessible on a range of devices, including mobiles. The transcription process continues, and as more interviews become available both the recording and transcription will be added to the BAS Club site.
Bringing the project together required a huge, co-ordinated effort on behalf of the organisations involved. In addition a fantastic team of dedicated volunteers has also worked tirelessly to bring the project to fruition.
Ieuan Hopkins is Archives Manager at BAS;
“The British Antarctic Oral History Project is a rich, valuable and engaging resource, revealing so much of the human side of the British endeavour in the Antarctic over the past 70 years. It’s tremendous that these fascinating interviews are being made so easily accessible.”
Financial assistance for the project was kindly provided by the BAT Government, Capital Group, the South Georgia Association, BAS Club and UKAHT. Here Ben Hodges, who worked at a number of different stations, describes the incredible bond that he had with his dog teams.