Press Release November 2020
DESCENDANTS OF SCOTT AND SHACKLETON JOIN MILLION-POUND BID TO SAVE BRITAIN’S ANTARCTIC HERITAGE
UK Antarctic Heritage Trust says unique buildings are under threat due to Covid travel restrictions “Penguin post office” and museum closed as polar tourism collapses, leaving hole in finances Descendents of Scott and Shackleton, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and TV presenter Kate Humble call for support TV presenter Kate Humble and adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, have joined descendents of Britain’s greatest polar explorers to call for support for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT), the body responsible for preserving Britain’s Antarctic legacy.
UKAHT, established in 1994, looks after six sites of historical and scientific significance in Antarctica, as well as running Port Lockroy, Britain’s first Antarctic scientific station and the famed “penguin post office” visited by thousands of eager Antarctic visitors each year. But travel restrictions during the pandemic mean UKAHT may no longer be able to carry out its work.
“Usually at this time of year, a team from UKAHT would be in training for a season in Antarctica,” said Camilla Nichol, Chief Executive of UKAHT . “They carry out vital maintenance work on some of the unusual and unique buildings that UKAHT is entrusted to look after.”
UKAHT’s conservation teams are drawn from maintenance and conservation professionals across the UK, and for some embarking on their work in Antarctica is their first visit to the continent.
Autumnwatch presenter Kate Humble commented: “As someone who has been lucky enough to visit UKAHT’s base in Port Lockroy, I know what a special place it is and how important it is for visitors to Antarctica to help them understand the context of the work that has gone on there and continues to go on; and what has been learnt and is still being learnt about this most fragile and pivotal of ecosystems. UKAHT is the guardian of generations of human knowledge in Antarctica.”
Volunteers play a vital role in running the museum at Port Lockroy, which includes the Post Office. The income raised during the season from the gift shop, post office and donations from visitors, is the single most important source of revenue. UKAHT estimates that lost shop sales and other revenues could mean a shortfall of up to £1m in its budget this year.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, UKAHT’s vice patron, has said it’s vital that public and private institutions and individuals step forward to support the Trust. “The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust does tremendous work in preserving and sustaining historical sites that tell the story of human exploration in Antarctica. It’s hugely important that these sites, which signify the best of human endeavour, are maintained and that UKAHT continues its work.”
Alexandra Shackleton, a descendant of the legendary explorer, has also given her support to UKAHT, saying: “The Antarctic Heritage Trust keeps the legacy of my grandfather and those who came after him alive for everyone. The work of the trust is vital to our understanding of the past, present and future of the awe-inspiring continent of Antarctica - we would be so much poorer without it.”
This was echoed by Dr Dafila Scott, who commented: “Antarctic exploration has inspired so much brilliant science, literature and art. My grandfather, Robert Falcon Scott went to the Antarctic to discover more about this amazing continent and bring his findings to Britain and the world. It is wonderful that UKAHT continues to celebrate the work of the Antarctic explorers by looking after their historic huts and telling the world about the importance of this extraordinary place.”
Next year, a single UKAHT staff member, former Royal Marine commando Declan Kelly, will make his way to Antarctica in order to carry out vital inspections of UKAHT’s properties.
“We hope he can help offset some of the weather damage caused this year,” said Nichol. “Our concern is that next year, without crucial financial support, we may not be able to send a full conservation team - which could be disastrous for the sites.”
Nichol pointed out that the unique nature of UKAHT’s work meant it could be difficult to secure funding: “Because the heritage we look after is overseas and we cover so many bases - historical, cultural and scientific, we are hard to pigeonhole, and often fall outside most fundings schemes. We have always been lucky in that people who love Antarctica have been incredibly supportive, and we hope that will continue. This year, however, is critical for us, with shortfalls in revenue that could have serious consequences for our work. That is why we are making this call for support today.”
UKAHT is calling for urgent support for its fundraising efforts. For more details, go to www.ukaht.org
Notes to editors
Kate Humble and Alexandra Shackleton are available for interview. Please email UKAHT@89up.org or call Padraig Reidy on 07947242476
The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust is dedicated to preserving and promoting Britain’s fascinating history and legacy in Antarctica. UKAHT was born out of a small group’s passion to champion the legacy of all those who went before us in the Antarctic. Since 1993 the organisation has worked to protect this, from conserving the huts left by those first pioneers and managing the historic site of Port Lockroy, to collaborating with other groups to ensure science and tourism on the Antarctic Peninsula are sustainable.