Antarctic Science. Edited by D.H.W. Walton with Contributions by C.S.M. Doake, J.R. Dudenay, I. Everson, R.M. Laws FRS and D.H.W. Walton, British Antarctic Survey … with an Introduction by Sir Vivia
First edition. Providing an overview of the history of Antarctic exploration, beginning with the earliest forays into Antarctic territory, the expeditions of the ‘Heroic Age’, and the foundation of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in 1944, Antarctic Science highlights the international developments in Antarctic exploration and science from the groundbreaking International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957/1958, through the Cold War, and up to 1987. At the centre of late twentieth-century Antarctic science was the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 which resulted from the IGY (the text of the Treat is reprinted as Appendix 1 on pp. 266-269), and, as Sir Vivian Fuchs explains in his introduction, the purpose of Antarctic Science is to demonstrate ‘that Antarctic science is no longer a backwater but an important area of research’, and that Antarctica ‘has become a continent for science and also plays a significant role in international relations’ (p. 3).
The book is divided into five parts written by BAS experts: the first section on ‘Geology, Politics and Science’ was written by the editor, the ecologist Professor David Walton, who worked as a scientist at the BAS from 1967 onwards, represented the scientific community at the annual Antarctic Treaty meetings, and would, in 2006, receive the Scientific Community of Antarctic Research Medal for International Scientific Coordination. The second part, ‘Life in a Cold Environment’ was written by the fish ecologist Dr Inigo Everson, and focuses, among other things, on Antarctic food webs and the exploitation of Antarctic fisheries. The third section on ‘Antarctic Ice and Rocks’, including the ‘Glacial and Climactic History’ and a very interesting pre-history of Antarctica as the ‘keystone’ to the original supercontinent Gondwana, was written by Dr Christopher S.M. Doake. The fourth, on ‘The Antarctic Atmosphere’, presents not only detailed discussions of the Antarctic climate, but also forays into ‘Space Research from Antarctica’, and was written by the ionospheric physicist Dr John R. Dudeney, who received an OBE for his services to science in 2005.
The final part, ‘Cooperation or Confrontation?’, with a focus on ‘Science, the [Antarctic] Treaty, and the future’ (including environmental solutions and the future of Antarctic science), was written by the former owner of this copy, the distinguished Antarctic scientist Dr Richard Laws CBE, FRS, who, having served as biologist at the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey from 1947 to 1953, devoted most of his life to the study of marine and polar environments. In 1969 he was appointed head of the BAS’s Life Sciences Division and in 1973 he was appointed Director of the BAS, holding the position until 1987. Laws succeeded Sir Vivian Fuchs, ‘who had led the Survey through its pioneer days and gained government support for a central headquarters in Cambridge, as well as for an effective field organisation with five research stations, two support ships and supporting aircraft. Laws aimed to consolidate BAS’s reputation as a leading multidisciplinary research institute’ (obituary of Laws, The Daily Telegraph, 27 October 2014). Despite budget cuts and the consequent diminution of resources, the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, the capture of King Edward Point (where the brand new BAS facility had only been occupied for a few days), and the deportation of the British team to Argentina determined the future of the BAS once South Georgia and the Falklands had been recovered by Britain: ‘Margaret Thatcher decided it was in Britain’s interest to remain a major presence in the South Atlantic and Antarctica and that one of the routes to achieving this should be in science. She directed that the BAS’s operating budget be doubled and a major programme of capital investment be carried out. As a result, by the early 1990s BAS had been transformed into a highly professional organisation, leading the world in Antarctic science. A key result of all this activity was the discovery, in 1984, by the BAS team of atmospheric scientists at the Halley Bay base, of the depletion of the ozone layer over the South Pole – a discovery which jolted the world into a new awareness of man’s potential to wreck the planet’ (loc. cit.). Amongst Laws’ numerous honours and awards were the Polar Medal, which he was awarded in 1976 (a clasp followed in 2001).