The British North Greenland Expedition 1952-4

Richard Brett-Knowles G3AAT (sometime G3AAT/OX) presented this lecture to schools, universities and other groups for many years until his death in early 2015.

The BNGE was a major expedition in the Scott tradition, fielded from July 1952 to July 1954, though not all of the 30 members stayed for both years. Unfortunately one did not return.

Its purpose was three-fold: scientific exploration, training of the service members in an Arctic environment, and "Showing the Flag". The Navy and Army sent people, the Royal Air Force undertook the transport of both people and stores to the Arctic, and Denmark lent an army surveyor captain, who was the one fatal casualty.

There were many areas of scientific study, most of them "-ologies", such as glaciology, meteorology, geology, physiology and more, besides surveying, both gravimetric and seismological. Radio wave propagation was also investigated, in conjunction with the Admiralty and Cambridge University. Travel was either on foot, by dog sledge or in a "WEASEL" vehicle.

The speaker, who was an Oxford Graduate and former Royal Navy Officer, participated in the expedition as the assistant to the Seismologist, which involved work with explosives and seismic recording gear, and navigation over the featureless icecap in his "WEASEL". In the second year he undertook responsibility for communications as well. In addition to his specialist work he had to become a jack of all trades, as did the other Servicemen on the Expedition, doing cooking, vehicle maintenance, back packing, first aid and countless other chores. On his return he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Queen.

The hour's talk was not so much about Greenland or the findings of the Expedition, but of life on the icecap, on the trail and back at base during the totally dark winter months. Colour slides were shown for illustration. Some of the equipment actually used was exhibited as well as more modern developments which would have made the task easier. If appropriate for the audience, the radio equipment was actually operated.

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