A Polar Exploration

I write fresh and still buzzing from a most interesting, revealing and encouraging study day on ‘Polar Exploration – from Past to Present’.

Interesting because I was learning terminology, facts and history that I had at the very least forgotten from my schooldays but very probably never heard before. Throughout the day there was that balance of past (exploration from over a hundred years ago), with how in relatively modern times nations have been able to use the polar regions both for defence but also for monitoring the reality of climate change. The speakers – all three of whom showed talent in clarity, anecdotes and making what could have been factually boring, extremely palatable – were top notch; I don’t remember a single ‘um’ or ‘er’ and their fluency coupled with knowledge of subject was second to none.

Revealing because many of us were periodically shocked by some of the astounding facts of the Polar missions – distances, days with little food, stamina, endurance, camaraderie, leadership – and also, in the nuclear age, the compact, claustrophobic conditions aboard the submarines for days on end; those that have both defended our country and at the same time carried out worldwide studies of marine life. All credit for three of the talks must go to the speakers from the ‘Scott Polar Research Institute’ in Cambridge.

Encouraging because, in the afternoon, we heard first hand of a modern expedition by two young people (aged 23 and 19 at the time) who had set goals beyond the norm and had tested their very sinews to achieve feats that will go down in history. We sat rivetted by Alex Hibbert’s account of beating the world record of polar travel distance on skis. His ‘matter of fact’ story telling of how they overcame obstacles such as lack of food, sleep, frostbite and a broken ski demonstrated how our next generation can be prepared to seek the unknown barriers and, when the time is right, go for it!

The day was lubricated by a trusty band of volunteer caterers who gave up their opportunity to listen and put on a fantastic buffet lunch.

Thanks are due to Margaret Sherrington, the organiser. This was a showcase of U3A ideals at its best – volunteering, learning, working together with a simple affordable budget for a great day out.

If you have taken part in a U3A Study Day, please let us know and submit a story above