26 February, 2015 News stories

The Antarctic Monument remembers Britons lost in Antarctica

A monument dedicated to Britons who lost their lives in the service of science in Antarctica was unveiled on the waterfront at Stanley, Falkland Islands on 25 February 2015. It is the Southern part of a unique two-part sculpture; the Northern part of the sculpture is sited 8000 miles away in the grounds of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

Since 1948, a total of 28 men and one woman have died in the British Antarctic Territory, one of the most extreme, inhospitable and uncharted places on Earth. All those who died travelled through Stanley on their way South and it is fitting that their contribution should be recognised in the Falkland Islands – the gateway to Antarctica. Many Falkland Islanders have worked in the Antarctic for British Antarctic Survey, and its predecessor the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, since Britain’s first set up a permanent base at Port Lockroy in 1944.

The Northern sculpture of the Antarctic Monument is constructed of two three-metre high pillars carved from British oak with a needle-like negative space created between them. This sculpture represents the mould from which the Southern sculpture, a highly polished stainless steel needle has been cast. The mirror finish reflects the water and clouds around the historic Dockyard Point on which it is situated representing both the human intrusion into the environment and the need for study and understanding.

Together the two sculptures symbolise the scientific link between Britain and the Antarctic, whilst at the same time reflect upon the emotional and physical separation experienced by explorers and their families left behind in Britain.

The bronze plinth of the Southern sculpture is inscribed on two faces with the names of the men and woman who died. Another face of the plinth has a map of the Northern and Southern hemispheres and the latitude and longitude of the two parts of the monument with the statement “Together in distance and time.” The main inscription is on another face “For those who lost their lives in Antarctica in pursuit of science to benefit us all.” This is the same inscription which is incised in stainless steel on the base of the Northern sculpture. It is also carved in Welsh slate on the Antarctic Memorial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, dedicated in May 2011.

The two-part sculpture was designed by the distinguished sculptor Oliver Barratt who has been responsible for a number of public sculptures including the Everest Memorial to those killed on the mountain. The plinth was designed by Graeme Wilson. The stainless steel needle and the bronze plinth were made by the art foundry Pangolin Editions, Chalford, Gloucestershire using advanced 3D printing to create the precision for the maps and lettering on the plinth.

The Southern part of the monument was dedicated on 25 February 2015 at 17.00 by Bishop of the Falklands, The Rt. Rev. Nigel Stock in the presence of The Governor of the Falkland Islands, HE Colin Roberts, The Hon Jan Cheek, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Roderick Rhys Jones Chairman of the Trustees, and Brian Dorsett-Bailey representative of the bereaved families and a Trustee.

The trust invited all those in the Falklands who have served with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on the stations, in the Stanley office or on BAS ships. In addition there will be 85 people who are travelling on board mv Ushuaia, amongst them are colleagues of those who did not return as well as many Fids who have served in the Antarctic and others who are supporters of the trust including Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, Finns, and French. Following the dedication, the mv Ushuaia sails for South Georgia, Signy Island and the stations of the Antarctic Peninsula where the party will be visiting the graves and memorials of those who did not return.

The work of men and women in the British Antarctic Territory has contributed to our understanding of many vital phenomena including: the way continents drift apart; the formation of polar ozone holes; global links between weather systems; climate change reflected in ice cores; and the affect of fishing on marine ecosystems.

British Antarctic Monument Trust is a registered charity set up to promote good citizenship by honouring those explorers and scientists who have carried out hazardous duties in the pursuit of scientific knowledge in the British Antarctic Territory particularly ‘those who did not return’. It is advancing education by increasing the understanding of how their exploration and scientific work has contributed to our knowledge of the natural environment, such as our climate and the movement of continents.

Brian Dorsett-Bailey, Trustee, who lost his brother Jeremy in 1965 in a crevasse accident says, “Jeremy was a pioneer of ice-depth radar, a technique used for plotting the profile of the Antarctic terrain thousands of feet below the surface of the ice. His loss was devastating. His body, like so many others, was never recovered. The work of the Trust to commemorate and recognise those who never returned has helped families to come to terms with their loss and assist in providing some closure. ”

Roderick Rhys Jones, chairman of the BAMT, who is spearheading the project says, “I was a surveyor on an expedition from the BAS’s Research Station Halley Bay in 1965, when three of my colleagues, including Jeremy Bailey, were killed when their tractor fell into a crevasse. I have never forgotten them and wanted to create a lasting monument to them and the others who lost their lives in the pursuit of science in Antarctica. The response has been overwhelming from families, friends and colleagues of those who died.”