Cold Feet

A Teacher's Tale

A Final Summary and Update

  • Anyone coming across this site will see that it has been undisturbed for some years now. This is the last entry that I will attach to the site in this form but I will leave it available to all those interested parties who might come across it when investigating Antarctica or the Fuchs Foundation.

The Science:
In the Autumn of 2008, Dag Øvstedal identified at least 12 distinct varieties of Antarctic lichens from the samples that I collected in the Ellsworth mountains. There were three or four additional samples that did not carry the features necessary to make a confident identification. I had understood that there would be the opportunity to study the lichen samples further when they returned from Norway; so that it might be possible to properly characterise the Tardigrades found in them. I’m hugely grateful to Sandra McInnes for the trouble that she took to help me but I also feel slightly frustrated that this then seems to have been put aside. I later discovered that further visits were made by members of the British Antarctic Survey back to the Ellsworth mountains in the sites that we had explored, so we had obviously stimulated the professionals to have a good look. This, at least, we can attribute to Amy and my efforts.
Later inquiries made by me, via one of the Fuchs Trustees, were politely deflected. There seem to have been some political sensitivities that made it difficult for the Scientists involved to acknowledge our role in all this. I can only guess at what lay behind this and it doesn’t seem particularly helpful to speculate. Meanwhile, I have used the idea of a water bear hunt several times in teaching young students using the microscope and you can find my worksheets on the page marked: For Schools

Telling the story:
I have told the tale to many schoolchildren of all ages. These talks are usually accompanied by a chance to try on Antarctic clothing and see the kit that makes it possible to go to Antarctica and return with all your fingers and toes. It’s a great opportunity to show the pictures, too. I’ve spoken to a few Adult groups and I gave a series of lectures to the Buntingford Adult Learning For Fun (B.A.L.F.F.) group in the Autumn of 2008. In spite of their title, this was the most knowledgeable group to whom I have ever spoken. Several demanding questions coming from individuals who had attended some of the original lectures by Sir Vivian Fuchs! I seem to have become a yearly fixture at Henrietta Barnett school, adding novelty and first-hand experience to their Year 9 work on Antarctica and chatting to the Sixth Form Geographers. I’ve really enjoyed both my visits.
If any school in the North London Area or Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire orbit would like a visit then please contact me and I will do my very best to come. It will cost you a modest donation to the Fuchs Foundation.

The People:
Carl and Carolyn have supported both subsequent full-blown FF expeditions. The second was a sledge crossing of the Greenland Ice Cap in 2009 and then there was a return to the Union Glacier in the Antarctic summer of 2010. Follow the Fuchs Foundation link to find out more about these expeditions (as well as our own). Both female teachers have married and started a family and every one of us has changed jobs. I’m not sure what that says about us or the expedition. We are all still in regular contact and hoping to help the Foundation continue its great mission to inspire teachers and the children that they teach.

This experience has remained one of the most extraordinary of my life but it may be hard for someone coming to it “in cold blood” to fully appreciate what it means. The podcast of the Three Counties Radio interview with Lorna Milton may be better at conveying just what it was like better than anything else here (Blog entry on the 24th January 2008). It still makes me laugh hearing it. My undisguised enthusiasm obviously amused Lorna.
The other major source of understanding are the television programmes made by Brook Lapping for Teachers’ TV. Follow the link on this site. Teachers TV programmes

My best wishes to all you explorers out there, especially the teachers. Do go to the Fuchs Foundation site and Steve Bull’s Precision Expeditions site (Links page) to catch the flavour of all the stuff that has happened since and all that is still going on.