Thursday, 1 September 2011

With Scott to the Pole

In 1910 Captain Robert Falcon Scott set out for the Antarctic. He never returned. Having reached the South Pole, Scott and his fellow adventurers died on their return journey just 11 miles from the safety of a supply depot. This autumn Aberdeen Maritime Museum will host an exhibition of historic photographs held by the Royal Geographical Society of this ill-fated expedition. Interesting about this exhibition is that it reveals the seeds for two ostensibly contrasting attitudes to wildlife. Scott and his fellow adventurers set out to discover the South Pole and its resources, but as adventurers they were also keen to document it.
The story of Scott has much in common with the story of whaling that started a century earlier. While whale hunters sailed to the Arctic to kill whales, sailors also made detailed documentation of the wildlife encountered. In the end, this led to the conservation of these species. The 19th-century demand for blubber led to the rapid decline of the Greenland whale. Meanwhile the detailed documentation of beast was of great interest to naturalists who eventually promoted the protection of this beast.

Harpoons after a display in Arbuthnott Museum in Peterhead
Folksongs express the experiences and thoughts of the communities they stem from. Whaling songs are no expectation. The whaling songs we sing nowadays celebrate the killing of whales. The exhibition With Scott to the Pole may be a good opportunity to reconsider these traditional whaling songs in the light of the conservation debate. In the workshop Rewriting Our History we will express our feelings towards this dilemma by writing new songs.

The exhibition With Scott to the Pole will be at Aberdeen Maritime Museum from 24 September 2011 to 8 January 2012. Rewriting Our History is a workshop for adults that will be held on Saturday 24 September from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm. To book a free place phone 01224 337714.

Copyright text Aberdeen Maritime Museum and Petra Vergunst
Copyright image Petra Vergunst

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