About the Author: Jenny Turton is the education and outreach head on the UKPN committee. She co-ordinated the UKPN role in the Antarctica day flag activity. She is a third year PhD student with the British Antarctic Survey and the Univeristy of Leeds. Her research focuses on Foehn winds over the Antarctic Peninsula, and how they impact on the surface of the Larsen ice shelf.
Antarctica Day 2015
December 1st 1959 marks the day when 12 countries signed the Antarctic treaty. The Antarctic treaty is an internationally recognized legislation that protects and promotes the natural environment of the Antarctic and the surrounding Southern ocean. Similarly the treaty regulates international actions including nuclear explosions, and gives freedom to scientific investigations.
In more recent years, December 1st is now acknowledged as ‘Antarctica Day’ to celebrate the signing of the treaty, and to promote the continued political friendship surrounding the pristine continent. Antarctica Day was established and is organized by ‘Our Spaces’ which is a ‘Foundation for the Good Governance of International Spaces’. This charity focuses on advancing education and promoting research within the Polar Regions, and also coordinates events for Antarctica Day, directed by Dr Julie Hambrook Berkman.
In 2015, the UKPN had the pleasure of being involved with a big part of the promotion and celebration of Antarctica Day. Being part of the education and outreach team within UKPN, I had a large part in co-ordinating a particular event for the day; the Antarctic flags.
For the last 5 years, an event has been coordinated internationally for school pupils and students to design flags for the Antarctic. The task can form part of the school curriculum, be carried out as additional homework, or form part of a visit to the school from scientists and researchers. A number of the UKPN committee visited schools and highlighted this exciting opportunity. One school in Egypt had the chance to Skype with a lab technician and past Antarctic winter meteorologist, Richard Warren.
As a group, school or class, the pupils were asked to design and create a flag for the Antarctic. The pupils were encouraged to try and capture some of the features of the Antarctic treaty, the environment of the Antarctic, and the species living there (including visiting humans!). Similarly, bright colours were encouraged, to highlight the variety of colour within the Antarctic, and to produce a stand-out flag
My role was to communicate with interested schools, contact schools that may be interested and send information to teachers. As part of the event, Our Spaces provided teaching resources and booklets in numerous languages to send to the interested schools. Many members of the UKPN committee reached out to their previous schools, teachers, friends and family to engage as many schools as possible. This event was not just a UK wide event. Designing flags for the Antarctic was an international event, with many countries taking part.
Designing the flags was not the final step in this event. These flags were about to embark on a 10,000 mile journey (if travelling from the UK) to the Antarctic.
Once the schools had the resources and knowledge, it was back to the UKPN committee to find flag-bearers. The flag-bearers were volunteer researchers, scientists, engineers, winterers (staff who remain on the Antarctic bases during the harsh winter months) and other Antarctic travellers who would shortly be leaving their warm homes and travelling to the Antarctic. These people kindly offered up their precious luggage space to pack in the (sometimes 80+) flags, and take them to the Antarctic.
When the flags were designed, they were sent to myself, Julie (ourspaces) or TJ (UKPN Co-President) via post or scanned email attachments, and assigned to travelling flag-bearers. As the flags arrived at different times, and the flag-bearers departed at various times, it became quite an organizational effort to ensure that all flags were sent south.
As not all flag-bearers were travelling to the same place in the Antarctic, the flags have been distributed around a large proportion of the continent from Port Lockroy on Wiencke Island, to the UK’s Halley research station, to the American McMurdo station, and deep in the field. One set of flags is even circumnavigating the continent on the JCR ship travelling around the Southern Ocean, as this blog is posted!
Once the flags had arrived at their destination and been unpacked from their bearer’s luggage, they were displayed at the various locations. The flags were hung with pride around the various stations, attached to posts in the deep snow and even plunged into the freezing waters (after being thoroughly waterproofed of course!). A selection of photographs below show some of the amazing flag designs and their distribution across the Antarctic. Not all flags have yet reached their destination, but by March 2016, all designed flags will have been to the Antarctic
Along with the flags, the flag-bearers were provided with certificates for each school that participated. These certificates provided proof of the flag travel, and gave information on their end destination, the traveller who kindly took the flags and the name of the school. These certificates will be making their way back to the schools once the researchers return.
In total over 40 schools were located, had flags designed and were assigned flag-bearers by myself and other members of the UKPN. These schools include 18 from the UK, 8 from America, 5 from China, as well as flags from Australia, Vietnam, Spain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, South Africa and France. All these schools gave a grand total of 284 flags, and those were just on the UKPN side of things!
This has been such an exciting and important event, and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to help promote Antarctica Day, and encourage participation from so many young people. This was the largest number of flags this event has seen, and we want Antarctica Day 2016 to be even bigger! So spread the word, December 1st is Antarctica day!
If you would like to get involved with the Antarctica day events for 2016 please email me at email@example.com. We would love to hear from potential flag-bearers, volunteers to help with the organization and promotion of the event, and schools/teachers with an interest in having their flags sent to the Antarctic.