Ice Coffee: the history of human activity in Antarctica (History)

John Rymill picks up where Gino Watkins' death left off and leads the most efficient Antarctic expedition to date. 
Lots of new discoveries, competent seamanship, sledging and flying ensue. 
The BGLE set the mold for safe and competent operations in the high southern latitudes.

Direct download: 096_The_British_Graham_Land_Expedition_01.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:35pm EDT

Lincoln Ellsworth's money returns to Antarctica with new pilots, no meteorologist and Norwegians all but ready to throttle him. 
Job's a good 'un, though, in spite of the lack of oomph, patience and skill the money bags brought with him. 

Herbert Hollick-Kenyon nails one of the best put downs in Antarctic history while puffing on his pipe, munching on boiled sweets and reading westerns. 

Lots of penguins, seals and Swedes in the aural background.

Still holding off on throwing the switch on the Patreon account as there's one more episode in the offing, this month.

Direct download: 094_Ellsworth_triumphant_but_still_a_jerk.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:23am EDT

Ellsworth's money gets it into its head to be the first to cross Antarctica.
Wilkins, Balchen, Braathen and another polar pig get tangled up in his weak sauce Ahab routine.

Soundscapes featuring Port Circumcision and the waters just off Two Hummock Island, which I'm sure is the British Hydrographic Office's cleaned up label for a rude sailor name originally given that land mass by some sailors who'd been at sea for a really, really long time or who knew a woman with really unusually shaped breasts.   

Direct download: 093_Ellsworth_at_his_best.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 11:54pm EDT

In an epic episode spanning an hour and a half and featuring a singing leopard seal, blowing humpbacks and the tuneless honking of the penguins the residents of Little America and Bolling Advance Base and the various dog and half-track teams reconvene and get out of Dodge aboard the Jacob Ruppert and the Bear.

Direct download: 091_Little_america_Two_Finale.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:02am EDT

Byrd gets exactly what he asks for, what he deserves, and then saved, spoiling the symmetry of an otherwise well mapped story of hubris and punishment in the Greek myth mold. 

Direct download: 090_Little_America_two_part_three.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 11:22pm EDT

Byrd's second expedition re-colonises Byrd's first expedition's digs after lots of digging. 
Gentoo penguins under the hut floor provide ambience. 

Direct download: 089_Little_America_two_part_two.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:34am EDT

Two episodes in two days. 
Take that, incomprehensible download statistics.  Let's see me make sense of you now. 

Byrd returns south to finish...    something...  something brave and stirring and laudably scientific and humanitarian, no doubt.  Prolly work it out in payroll.  Or in a post-hoc rationalisation that will remain in publication for half a century. 

More importantly, I get to share music I love with you.
Egoism's song "What are we doing" rounds out this episode and I hope you're inspired to check out their offerings, available at

Direct download: 088_Little_America_two_part_one.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 7:14pm EDT

Jeff Maynard returns to the dive hut to discuss the non-voyage of the Nautilus and we receive a visitation from the ghost of an Antarctic feline.
Then the sustained influence of James Wordie and the efforts of Gino Watkins get some attention to set the scene for further British efforts in the south. 
Oooh, foreshadowing and ghosts.  Woooooooooooo!

Direct download: 086_Wilkins_Watkins.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:41pm EDT

Lars Christensen funds extensive coastal exploration in concert with his whaling exploits.  A decade of Norwegian effort gets compressed into a single chagrined episode. 

Direct download: 085_Norwegians.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 7:23am EDT

The best acronym in Antarctic history draws to a close and Sir Douglas leaves the southern continent for the last time. 
Similarly the Discovery makes its final transit of the Southern Ocean.  |
Some errors of fact that warrant addenda pass into your ears. 

Direct download: 084_BANZAR_Mawson_comes_in_out_of_the_coaled.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:27pm EDT

The first BANZARE voyage plays out with much tension, flying and coal.

Direct download: 083_BANZARE_Mawson_needs_a_gin.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 5:24am EDT

Byrd and Wilkins are done in Antarctica for the 1920s and head north, leaving many loose ends in the snow next to the dog corpses. 
With the depression changing the playing field it would fall to the primo fund raisers and the independently wealthy to pick those loose ends up in the 1930s but I'll get to that after covering some Australian and Norwegian 1929 action and knocking out some interviews I picked up in my travels through the austral summer. 
Victor the vostoknicchi coming your way in episode 078.

Direct download: 077_1929_Coda.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 10:00pm EDT

Wilkins returns to the arena, negating the worth of the winter spent at Little America.
Byrd gets his pole flight and drunk.

Direct download: 075_Byrd_and_Wilkins_1929.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Sly grogging among a large company of over winterers makes Byrd's winter on The Barrier a very different experience to that of previous expeditions.

I set up a paypal account for anyone who wants to support the series.  You can flick me some bucks for books, hosting services and travel expenses at

Direct download: 074_Little_America_mid_winter_toast.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:56pm EDT

The first of the on site recordings for this Austral summer, episode 072 examines the preparations made to finally take aviation south and the echoes of Scott and Amundsen that resonate through the stories of Byrd and Wilkins. 

Direct download: 072_1928_part_01.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:52am EDT

A look at practical, political and ecological developments arising as the whaling fleet, largely comprising Norwegian vessels and crews, set about the business of ridding the Southern Ocean of those pesky cetaceans. 

I'm none too fond of the booze culture of my home nation, the other nations I've lived, and Antarctic bases, but Nicholas Johnson's legacy warrants light, so I recorded one of the articles missing from the resurrected Big Dead Place website for inclusion in this episode. 

Direct download: 069_Whaling_update.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 2:03am EDT

Bringing to a close the trilogy of Arctic aviation episodes, this episode ties up loose ends sufficient to fully set the aviation scene for the first flights in Antarctica. 
I've really enjoyed putting these episodes together. 

Recent Tasmania adventures get some sizzle but the content won't reflect my time in Hobart until later this month.

Direct download: 067_Arctic_aviation_part_3.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 10:56am EDT

Flying in the Arctic posed a dodgy prospect but faint heart never ended up dead on a tundra. 

Direct download: 066_Polar_aviation_part_two.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:09pm EDT

With aircraft offering opportunities to keep the feet dry and singalling a possible end to the miseries of sledging in all its forms, key players were keen to get flying. Efforts in the north require some attention as the experiences in the Arctic shaped the approach those key players took when they brought flying machines south.

Direct download: 065_Arctic_aviation.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:07am EDT

Two episodes in quick succession.
Weren't expecting that, were you?
I was too excited about sharing the story of Lester and Bagshawe to wait a month to get this out and so trebled the five buck monthly outlay on the hosting service to service my need to let you know about the two and the dogs. 
The most disarmingly charming chapter in Antarctic history. 

Direct download: 061_Lester_and_Bagshawe.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:01am EDT

Many Antarctic veterans served in the First World War.  This episode I outline the military service of several of those veterans who will make return appearances in the south.
The Great War also affected the political landscape of Antarctica and that gets some attention, too.

How long's it been since I published a short episode?
You'll be halfway through some task or errand and you'll hear me making the house keeping announcements, but don't freak out.  You haven't gone blank or nodded out  I'm just keeping things in their lane as much as I can.  Likely that won't last long as I can see multiple concurrent expeditions looming and with radio keeping them in touch and influencing outcomes where previously everyone operated in isolation it's likely that my discrete expedition/episode strategy is going to come to grief. 

Direct download: 060_Antarctica_War_and_its_wake.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:48am EDT

The various parties of the ITAE come in out of the cold and most of them immediately head off to war. 

Direct download: 059_ITAE_closer.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 10:13am EDT

Frank Worsley knocks it out of the park, navigating across eight hundred nautical miles of open ocean with four sextant shots.  Tom Crean breaks through thin ice for the final time in our saga.
Shackleton tries to get back to Elephant Island and the fourth time's the charm.

Direct download: 058_James_Caird_where_would_have_quit.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:27am EDT

The Endurance sinks.  Plans form, change, re-form, change again, get discarded, get reinstated and re-form after changing.  Hoosh is the only constant.

Direct download: 057_Boat_outta_Weddell.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 1:20pm EDT

The Ice eats The Endurance.
Plans form, change, re-form and change again as the Weddell Sea gives Shackleton's team a thorough stuffing about.

Category:History -- posted at: 12:23pm EDT

Sir Ernest Shackleton returns to Antarctica, this time in the Weddell Sea, where the two preceding voyages got stuck.  Guess what happens.  Go on, guess.

Direct download: 056_Into_the_Weddell.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 7:46am EDT

The Ross Ice Barrier claims its final victim of the Heroic Age as Joyce, Richards and Wild struggle to get the depot party back to safety, then McMurdo Sound takes two more lives when a gamble on the weather goes against Mackintosh and Hayward.

Direct download: 054_Ross_Sea_Party_part_two.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 7:26am EDT

Hubert Wilkins makes his first appearance in the Ice Coffee narrative, albeit as a supporting character in someone else's nightmare in the Arctic, and I give you the good oil on sticking to tablets and behavioural responses to motion mediated nausea. 
The first episode recorded in Antarctica.  Muy excitamento.  Many spanglish. 

Direct download: 052_Mixed_bag.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 7:45am EDT

The Cape Denison denizens get their science on and prepare for the spring sledging carnival.
The brown stuff gets closer to the whizzy-bladey thing.

Direct download: 050_Mawsons_Trek.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:03am EDT

Prussian Army lieutenant Wilhelm Filchner led Germany's second expedition in the early 20th century.  While the government stayed largely hands off the expedition committee put their oar in enough to see der Deutschland sail under a syphilitic commander whose antics placed everyone's lives in danger and gave us a really good example of the sort of problems split leadership can cause in a high latitudes project. 
Suspected suicide, suspected fake appendicitis and very definite mania and toastiness characterised Filchner's time in the south.

Direct download: 047_Filchner.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:28am EDT

In April 2017 I reprised my take on William Speirs Bruce's role in our present day understanding of Antarctica at the Spotted Mallard.  The audience were teh awesomes so I let them eat cake.

Direct download: 046_Laborastory.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 10:25pm EDT

Dogs make all the difference in getting to the South Pole and back.  With Amundsen's triumph, no-one would ever bother going to the Pole agai...
Why are people still heading overland to the pole?
Have they not heard of aircraft?
Do they not heed the reports that the pole is cold and that the view is boring?
Turns out being first at the pole was only the first in a long string of polar firsts to follow in the next century, and I'm expecting a pogo-stick based expedition to be announced at any second.

Direct download: 045_The_Norwegian_and_the_Pole.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:41pm EDT

Roald Amundsen returns to the narrative and takes pole position, showing the world what you can achieve if you don't give a stuff about science or people. 

Direct download: 044_Amundsen.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 3:14pm EDT

Scott's 3IC, Lt. Victor Campbell, fares poorly on every front except the important one.  Little came of the BAE's Eastern Party's efforts in terms of geology, geography, biology, but everyone survived the challenging circumstances that British decorum and crook weather placed them in. 
Oops.  Spoilers.
Don't read this until you've listened to episode 040.

Direct download: 039_BAE_Eastern_Party.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 9:02pm EDT

Ernest Shackleton heads south in a dodgy ship, short on funds and with a flea in his ear from Scott, but manages to get a lot done and get everyone home safely. 
Lots of firsts but the south pole remains unclaimed and, with two teams alleging they made it to the north pole, becomes even more alluring.

Douglas Mawson, Aenaes Mackintosh and John King Davis make their Antarctic entrances while Frank Wild and Ernest Joyce make their second forays south. 

Professor Philip Samartzis of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology becomes the first artist interviewed for the series and discusses why and how he headed south for the sake of his art. 

Direct download: 031_Shackleton_Nimrod.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:58am EDT

Never heard of Nordenskjold?
You have now, and he's pretty darn spiffy.
Likely the reason Nordenskjold isn't better known is that Shackleton and Mawson's later tales of survival against stacked odds drew attention away from the challenges faced and bettered by the Swedes who sailed to the Antarctic aboard the Antarctic. 
Carl Anton Larsen makes a repeat appearance, reprising his role as competent Norwegian ice pilot.
I'm all outta coffee and counting down the minutes until resupp.

Direct download: 026_Nordenskjold.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 11:33pm EDT

Carsten Borchgrevink adds to his track record as a git and gets on everyone's nerves in the first winter spent ashore in Antarctica.

Direct download: 024_Borchgrevink.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 8:46am EDT

British pride is a'stirring and Germany hankers for some long, hard sciencing but it's the Belgians out in front, showing everyone how it's done if getting trapped in the pack and going mad is the goal.
Some notes about navigation notes presage some future episodes about spurious claims on fruitless firsts but the real appeal of episode 023 is the interview with Peter Cleary, who discusses leopard seals and dog teams.

The interview is another outing from the non-event that was Radio Tuna.  Recorded in 2004, not 2005 as noted in the episode.  I can tell, because it features Dr Paul Brewin in the Scott Base ambience.
Again the Minidisc recorder adds its clicks and whirs but je ne regrette rien, only with better French pronunciation than I can bring to the table.

Little Antarctic exploration occurred in the decades immediately after the French, American and British race south that rounded out the 1830s. 
American, German, British, Scottish and Norwegian visitors did turn up looking for whales and in the course of the invention of oceanography. 
This episode takes the series up to the 1890s and sets the scene for the voyage that would kick off the Heroic Age of antarctic exploration in all its capitalised glory. 

Direct download: 021_Cooper_Dallman_Challenger_Dundee_Larsen.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 3:10am EDT

The last gasps of British sealing efforts in the South and a brief profile of a dynasty of ship owners who paid for a lot of the exploitation of marine resources in the sealing and whaling boom times. 

Direct download: 014_Foster_Enderbys_Biscoe.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:03am EDT

Hear me mix and match pronunciations as my brain fights it out between what it knows is correct and what it's accustomed to.
James Weddell - the explorer who went sealing in an age of sealers going exploring.  New record holders for southernmost expedition, the Beaufoy and the Jane sail into what we now know as the Weddell Sea and find vast expanses of no ice, leading to incredulity and ridicule.  James Weddell didn't sign up for the standard early death in poverty deal, but that's what he got.

Direct download: 012_Weddell.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 7:54am EDT

Powell sets a new benchmark for "Who?"
Sealer, navigator, measurer and cartographer, that's who.

Direct download: 011_Powell.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT

Connnecticut sealer sails a tiny tender, finds fame.

Direct download: 010_Palmer.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:06pm EDT