Thursday, April 23, 2009

Innocents in the Dry Valleys An Account of the Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition 1958-1959

by Colin Bull - Victoria Unversity Press - $50

Nearly every expedition to the Antarctic had been either a national expedition or a large private one, like Admiral Byrd’s ventures. I wanted to take a little expedition from our University, decide where to go, what to do, what to eat! Obviously we couldn’t be completely independent, because we had to cadge our transport to and from New Zealand to our field area. We also borrowed most of our equipment, and we begged our boots and our food. Our two months in the ice-free valleys of south Victoria Land cost us less than $1000, produced at least 8 published scientific papers immediately, and has generated 50 annual Antarctic expeditions from that little University, so far.

In 1958–59 a physicist, a biologist and two undergraduate geology students from Victoria University of Wellington spent a summer examining the Dry Valleys of Victoria Land, Antarctica. This expedition, known as VUWAE 2, began what was to become an annual and very fruitful Antarctic research programme for the university over the next fifty years.

These days such expeditions are coordinated by the internationally respected Victoria University Antarctic Research Centre. They cost many thousands of dollars and involve the use of highly specialised equipment and staff. Colin Bull (the physicist) and his companions, Dick Barwick, Barrie McKelvey, and Peter Webb managed to spend two months doing research in Antarctica for under $1000!
With wry humour, Bull recounts the adventures of these four hardy and resourceful scientists, who seemed to thrive on the adverse conditions, lack of funding and battles with bureaucracy.

Dr Colin Bull, geophysicist and glaciologist, was a senior lecturer in the Victoria University Physics Department at the time of his expedition to the Dry Valleys. He later became the Director of the Institute of Polar Studies (now the Byrd Polar Research Centre) at The Ohio State University 1965–69, and was Dean of the College of Math and Physical Sciences there from 1972 to 1986.

Since retirement he has co-edited a biography of Sir Charles Wright, and written an account of his 1951 Birmingham University Spitsbergen expedition, Innocents in the Arctic (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2005). He has also acted as a guide and lecturer on Antarctic cruises. Bull Pass in Antarctica is named after him.He lives in Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington, USA.


Unknown said...

Colin Bull here. I just wanted to report that the radio session with Kim Hill was most enjoyable, and nearly as much fun as I had, while writing "innocents in the Dry Valleys". That, in turn, was nearly as enjoyable as carrying out the sundry labours and chores that nade up the Expedition.

Colin Bull said...

Colin Bull here. I just wanted to say that I had nearly as much fun taking to Kim Hill as I did in writing the book, "Innocents in the Dry Valleys". And that, if my 50-year memory serves me correctly, was nearly as enjoyable as carrying out the labours and chores that made up the Expedition.