Janet Thomson: first impressions of Antarctica

Janet Thomson recalls her first impressions of Antarctica during a 1977 American expedition on research ship 'Hero'.

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We eventually anchored off Signy Island, which is where the British have their Scientific Station, and I began to get a feel for the sort of general topography. But I don’t think it was actually until I made a real landing on Coronation Island, where we did most of our work, that the true impact of the height of the cliffs and the peaks that I had been looking at on photographs really, erm, sort of I began to appreciate it. Because, you know, a small 3x3 inch photograph is not going to give you very much feel for the detail and the scale of things. So I was a bit overawed by the height of the cliffs and the mountains. And it was, er, and the amount of snow and ice, although I’d seen again those photographs it still, when you see it for real, you realise the difficulty in working around in that terrain, that all these men had been trying to do a reconnaissance survey when it was very difficult. And … it was, erm, yes it was a, sort of a wonderful thing to be there and to be part of it. I think the first actual landing was on quite a low lying little headland, and we were looking at the rocks and the snow came down quite close by, and I heard a crunch in the snow behind me. And I turned round, sort of thinking well there’s only two of us here, and there were three little penguins that had come to investigate us. And they were very curious and they stayed on the snow and just sort of bobbing their heads from side to side, trying to work out what these big [laughs] penguins were like. But they were so trusting. Yeah, that was my first interaction with the penguins and the wildlife in general there, and they’re just so unused to humans that they don’t realise there’s a danger there, or potential danger. So they stood and looked at us, and I stood and looked at them [laughs]. That was, that was lovely, being able to be so close to them. So, erm, those are some of the sort of initial memories I have of that first few days working in the Antarctic.

  • Interviewee Janet Thomson
  • Duration 00:02:48
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 5/27/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/20
  • Keywords

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