Phil Gillam: A chilly subject that warms my heart

By Peter Kitchen | Phil Gillam | Published:

Now, whenever people complain that the weather has turned a bit chilly, I will generally stop them in their tracks with a nugget of wisdom passed down to me from our dear mother.

The lives of creatures in Antarctica such as penguins will be told by an exhibition coming to Shrewsbury

She used to say: “Well, it’s easy enough to get warm in the winter, but it’s not so easy to keep cool in the summer.”

By which she meant this – If it’s cold you simply wrap yourself up in a favourite cardigan and pop another log on the fire. If it’s a hot summer’s day, it can be difficult to avoid the heat.

Yes, yes, yes – I know – this is a sweeping generalisation. But (broadly speaking) I do tend to go along with this philosophy, explained to me one day while I was watching Leslie Crowther and Peter Glaze performing one of their ridiculous slapstick routines on Crackerjack.

You see, just like our mum, I do very often find hot sunny days really quite uncomfortable and will always be on the look-out for a nice bit of shade. And then of course you also have, during the summer months, all those pesky insects and … oh, don’t get me started.

Having said all this, I DO have my limits, and although I might be more temperamentally suited to November than to August, there are lines I will not cross.

For example, I’ve never had the slightest inclination to visit Antarctica.

If one should ever find oneself anywhere near the South Pole, I doubt that a favourite old cardigan and an extra log on the fire would do much good.


But that’s not to say I’m not interested – indeed fascinated – by this extreme environment.

And this is where, ladies and gentlemen, our friends at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery come in. Because they’re hosting an exhibition on this very subject from June 5 through to September 17.

Entitled Antarctica: Life In A Hostile Land, the exhibition has come about through our museum working with several organisations including the British Antarctic Survey and the Scott Polar Research Institute as well as people from Shropshire who have visited the Earth’s most southern continent.

It looks at how this land has been opened up by intrepid explorers, how life can be lived in extremely adverse conditions and how scientific research conducted there is of profound importance for the whole planet.


Athena Dinar, spokesperson for the British Antarctic Survey said: "We’re delighted to be involved in the new Antarctic exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery and to have an opportunity to explain the science and operations we undertake in Antarctica to new audiences. Whilst the history of polar exploration never fails to enthuse the public, it’s a great opportunity to also explain what British Antarctic Survey is doing in the Antarctic today.”

And Jonathan Walton, a Shropshire resident who has worked in Antarctica for 44 years, said: “It’s really exciting that Antarctica is coming to Shrewsbury this summer. The exhibition about many aspects of that amazing continent will last from early June to early September – do not miss it. It is only 120 years since humans first stayed for any length of time on that continent.

"Over 100 years of that time span will be represented directly at the exhibition, including a full size Nansen Sledge and Pyramid tent, so familiar to all those like myself and my dad who have spent considerable time depending on these two items on and off for the last 70 years.

“I am really pleased to be involved with the exhibition and look forward to sharing my 44 year old love affair with Antarctica with many others.”

Features in the exhibition include a 360 degree virtual reality experience of Halley VI - the UK’s second largest research facility in Antarctica, original film footage, equipment from Antarctic expeditions, an outfit worn by a member of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic 1914-17 expedition and photographs from celebrated wildlife photographer Ben Osborne.

It should be a great exhibition …. and not a single old cardigan in sight, I wouldn’t mind betting!

Peter Kitchen

By Peter Kitchen
Content Manager - @pkitchen_Star


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