Dear Helen and Rebecca,
As I follow your preparations to go to Antarctica next year, I share your excitement and enthusiasm for what will surely be a life-changing and hugely rewarding adventure. I am sure my father, Thomas Murphy, would have been extremely interested in and supportive of your trip too.
It was actually 60 years ago, from 1956 to 1957, when my dad Tom spent the best part of two years in the Antarctic as Base Leader and Assistant Surveyor for the Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS).
From his base camp in Detaille Island on the Western Antarctic peninsula, Tom would travel with huskies and sleigh to survey the surrounding area and gather details for making new maps of the uncharted regions. Often camping away from the base, he was exposed to extreme temperatures with none of the modern-day clothing or equipment for keeping warm. Helen and Rebecca, I do hope your living conditions and travel arrangements are slightly more comfortable than those Tom and his men had to endure!
Although Tom was a very down to earth and unassuming Scotsman, of great pride to the family is the recognition he received for his surveying work in having an area of the Antarctic named after him – Murphy Glacier. In my conversation with Robert Swan when he visited Bangkok Patana in October, he suggested you might well be travelling very close to this area on your expedition. You might even visit the original base camp which is still standing and was used for some time as the most southerly post office in the world. I’d be fascinated to learn if you actually go here and if you do, please take a photo for me!
As well as being the first man to step foot in the pristine snows of one of the remotest areas of the planet, Tom was also the first person to bring penguins back from Antarctica to London Zoo. I remember one of his main recollections of these fascinating birds in their colonies is that they were ‘awfully smelly!’
In 1957, Tom received a very special visitor in HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, who was on a ‘round the world’ tour. A video clip showing this visit can be seen here with the section when they are together from 0:53 seconds – 1 minute 03 seconds : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT2X2ZoYvl8
Once again, I wish you both the best of luck and Bon Voyage! I certainly look forward to hearing about your experiences when you get back.
With very warm (!) regards,
Secondary EAL Department
Bangkok Patana School
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Image 1 Source: Murphy Glacier https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/studies-offer-new-glimpse-of-melting-under-antarctic-glaciers
Map Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy_Glacier