Bringing the Arctic and Antarctic to Falmouth, National Maritime Museum Cornwall opens its new exhibition On Thin Ice: Pioneers of Polar Exploration today (Friday 8 April).

Bringing the Arctic and Antarctic to Falmouth, National Maritime Museum Cornwall opens its new exhibition On Thin Ice: Pioneers of Polar Exploration today (Friday 8 April). 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. - ENDS - Notes to Editor: Interviews are available with a number of polar explorers, descendants of polar explorers and with the representatives from National Maritime Museum Cornwall as well as curators at the Polar Museum in Cambridge, Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Please contact Tamsin Loveless or to arrange. Please find a summarising biography below on some of the explorers highlighted within the exhibition and the objects on display in association with them: Robert Falcon Scott, 1868-1912 Scott reached the South Pole on his second expedition, in January 1912, accompanied by Edward Wilson, Lawrence Oates, Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans. He was beaten to the prize by his Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen. Scott’s party perished on their return journey in March 1912. Elevated to heroic status by the public at home, Scott’s achievements as an explorer have been unfairly questioned in recent years. He was a tough and capable leader, as well as a sensitive and affectionate husband. A talented torpedo officer, Robert Falcon Scott was plucked from obscurity in 1901 to lead the first British Antarctic expedition for over fifty years. Unlike so many of those who travelled with him, he was not obsessed by the polar regions. He was honest enough to admit that he only began reading polar books a few months before he left for the south. The Discovery expedition, 1901-04, was a great success, its pioneering work making a lasting contribution to the scientific knowledge of Antarctica. Scott, accompanied by Edward Wilson and Ernest Shackleton, made a southern journey, but on this occasion did not reach the Pole. On his return Scott was promoted to Captain in the Royal Navy. Objects on display of Scott’s and associated with his Terra Nova 1910 – 13 expedition include: Snow goggles used by Captain Scott; an aneroid barometer; sun compass; man-hauling harness; journal wallet; pony show shoe and letters from the Terra Nova expedition. Sir Ernest Shackleton, 1874-1922 Born in 1874 in County Kildare, Ernest Henry Shackleton first visited Antarctica in 1901-04 with Scott, and then led the first of his own expeditions in 1907-09. Nimrod was a hugely successful expedition, reaching the South Magnetic Pole, achieving the first ascent of the volcano Mt Erebus and a march by Shackleton that came within 100 miles of the Pole itself. He returned home to huge fanfare. When Amundsen announced his conquest of the Pole in 1912, Shackleton turned his attention to another challenge, writing, “There remained but one great main object of Antarctic journeyings – the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea”. The result was the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17, aboard Endurance; a pioneering voyage that became an epic of survival. His ship was crushed, forcing his men to take to the ice before reaching a remote lump of rock called Elephant Island, from where he embarked on the 800-mile journey to South Georgia in an open boat to find help. Not a single man was lost. Undoubtedly a great leader – known as ‘The Boss’, and beloved by his men - Shackleton’s ambition was unrelenting, but the years had taken their toll. After the First World War, joined by many who had served with him on previous adventures, he led a final expedition to Antarctica. He died of heart failure in 1922 at the South Georgia whaling station of Grytviken, where he was buried by his shipmates. Objects on display of Shackleton’s and in association with the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17 include: Shackleton’s vest; Leonard Hussey’s banjo signed by Shackleton, Wild, Hussey and Rickinson, Frank Wild’s binoculars; snow boot; snow goggles and fragments of the James Caird Sir Wally Herbert 1934-2007 Sir Wally Herbert, Britain’s preeminent polar traveller and the last of the great polar pioneers, died in June 2007. His achievements brought him limited fame during his lifetime, and his impact on the landscape of exploration is still to be fully appreciated. Not only a man implausibly tough and experienced, in a rare combination of abilities he was also a talented writer, intensely spiritual and a gifted artist. Herbert made history in 1968-69 when, equipped with dog sleds, he led the Trans-Arctic Expedition from Point Barrow, Alaska, to the North Pole, to become the first man without doubt to have reached the Pole on foot. Then, supported by airdrops, he continued across the ice to reach Spitsbergen, thereby completing the first traverse of the Arctic Ocean. Though this formidable achievement was overshadowed by the 1969 Apollo moon-landing, it stands today as one of the greatest British expeditionary journeys of all time. During the course of 40 years Herbert travelled over 23,000 miles through the polar regions, mapped large swathes of unknown Antarctic territory and spent several years among the Greenland Inuit, accompanied by his wife and young daughter. In his final years he continued to enjoy painting and offering advice and support to many later adventurers, most wishing to emulate his achievements on the ice. Sir Ranulph Fiennes campaigned for many years to secure him a knighthood, with eventual success in 2000 in the Millennium Honours List. Herbert was, according to Fiennes, “the greatest polar explorer of our time” and a man whose determination and courage, according to The Prince of Wales, were “of truly heroic proportions”. Objects on display of Herbert’s include his parka made from fox fur with seal skin mittens and his boots and stockings made from polar bear fur. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 1944 - described as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’ by the Guinness Book of Records. He was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel, during the epic Transglobe Expedition, 1979-82, and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar Medal for both the Antarctic and the Arctic Regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions, including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth. Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, known as ‘Ran’ to his many friends, inherited a baronetcy after the death of his father, a Lieutenant Colonel, in action at Monte Cassino in 1943. He was educated at Eton and later joined his father’s cavalry regiment – the Royal Scots Greys – before being seconded to the SAS. After numerous escapades, and becoming disillusioned by his British Army service, Fiennes turned his attentions to exploration and adventure. In recent years he has combined a career as a best-selling author and public speaker, with wide fundraising activity. His support for Marie Curie Cancer Care, for example, has raised over £3 million and he continues to be an inspiration to a global audience. Objects on display of Fiennes’ include clothing and expedition kit worn by Fiennes on the Transglobe Expedition, 1979-82. Pen Hadow 1962 - first Briton to walk without re-supply to the North and South Pole Rupert Nigel Pendrill Hadow, known as ‘Pen’, is one of the leading polar adventurers of his generation. In 2003 Hadow became the first man to sledge 478 miles from Canada to the North Pole unsupported– a feat of athleticism thought as hard as climbing Everest solo without oxygen. It had taken him three attempts and over fifteen years training to achieve his goal. In 2004 Hadow guided 63 year old businessman Simon Murray to the South Pole, becoming the first Briton to walk without re-supply to both Poles, and all inside twelve months. In 2009 he and two companions, Ann Daniels and photographer Martin Hartley, journeyed across the Arctic Ocean to survey the state of the sea ice. Hauling a sledge towing an innovative ice-penetrating impulse radar (SPRITE), it was planned to uplink raw data from a central onboard sledge computer, via the Iridium Satellite network, to scientific partners based at the University of Cambridge. Problems arose when the batteries froze and the Catlin Arctic Survey, a gruelling 10 week expedition to measure the thickness of sea ice, came to a premature end. The expedition recorded an average ice thickness of 1.774m, calculated from 1500 measurements taken manually by using an ice auger to drill down to water - roughly one reading for every 300m of the 432km the team travelled. Objects on display of Hadow’s include clothing and expedition kit worn by Hadow on his solo expedition to the North Pole in 2003 including: tent, sledge, clothing, sleeping bag, ski and ski poles, compass, leatherman, camera and the map he plotted each days walking as well as personal letters, his children’s photos, toy ‘tent floor sweeping’ car and hand-prints Available for interview: Alexandra Shackleton Ernest Shackleton's only grand-daughter; her father being Edward Shackleton's youngest child. Alexandra did not of course know her grandfather who died in 1922 aged 47; but there has been such an upsurge of interest in him & his leadership since the 1990s that she has been asked to speak about him in many countries. Antony Jinman, Leader of the International Scott Centenary Expedition (ISCE), The International Scott Centenary Expedition (ISCE) is heading to Antarctica, to Scott’s final campsite in January 2012 to mark the Centenary of Captain Scott and the Polar Party. The ISCE expedition involves a sledging team who will make the arduous journey to Captain Scott's final resting place, where relatives from all five families of Scott's Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913) will fly in to be part of a memorial service for the nation. Not only will the expedition relive the memory of Scott and party, it will also provide an inspiring focus for an education and outreach programme, developed in partnership with Education Through Expeditions (ETE). Antony has received medals from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, been endorsed by the Royal Geographical society and in 2010, was the UK’s sole representative at the International Polar Year Teachers Conference in Oslo Kari Herbert, daughter to Sir Wally Herbert. Kari first started travelling at the age of ten months when her father, pioneering explorer Sir Wally Herbert, took his family to live with a tribe of Inuit for over two years on a remote island off the coast of Northwest Greenland. She has had a deep connection with the Arctic ever since. As a writer and photographer, Kari has had her work published in leading magazines and newspapers, including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, and Geographical among many others. She has had several solo photographic exhibitions. Her first book The Explorer’s Daughter, published by Viking Penguin, was chosen as 'Book of the Week' by BBC Radio 4 and has been published in English, Italian, Dutch, Danish and Polish. Her second book Heart of the Hero: The Women Behind Exploration is to be published in Germany by Piper Malik in September 2010 and will be released in the UK in 2011. Kari regularly appears on radio and in the press, and is a popular public speaker. Falmouth based and available for interview: Anthony Ward & Sally Newman, Father-in-law and Grand-father was Lewis Raphael Rickinson, 1st engineer for Shackleton on the Endurance expedition