Oral history of British science
Thomson, Janet (Part 6 of 8). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, North Yorkshire
Thomson, Janet, 1942- (speaker, female)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 6: Story of journey to Antarctica on ‘Hero’, 1977, including New Year in Buenos Aires, sea-sickness, sighting SOI, anchoring at SI, first landing on CI. Comments on first impression of scale of Antarctic landscape. [06:21] Story of meeting tame penguins on CI. Negative comments on walking through penguin rookeries; effect of penguins on geological work. [10:46] Story of use of BAS petrology laboratory to make thin sections of samples taken in 1977. Mentions co-written papers. Positive comments on working atmosphere BAS, 1977-1978, including coffee room used by each discipline in turn, female assistants/administrators (no female scientists). Story of recruitment by CS to help female DOS mapping assistant Liz Flemming [LF] with geological aspects of maps of Antarctic Peninsula [AP], part-time, March 1978. [17:49] Description of process of preparing maps, including use of satellite images, addition of geological detail using data procured from RA by CS, PC and MT. [20:51] Comments on CS’s character; shared office with LF. Description of process of drawing maps on layers of film on light table, using specific pen and crayoned, internationally agreed colours. Comments on variable faith in observations of particular geologists; use of archives; use of question mark next to less reliable, binocular observations. [26:11] Mentions appointment of archivist Joan Smith [JS]/development of archive, late 1970s/early 1980s. Comments on awareness of RA’s material in office or garage. [27:18] Comments on involvement in ‘Fuchs’ Fund’ [FF], promoting fieldwork for disadvantaged children. Mentions effect on JT’s invitation to FF annual dinner of Lady Fiennes’ membership of Trans-Globe Expedition. Mentions VF’s welcoming comment at dinner. Comments on experience of being only female diner at subsequent dinners. [33:23] Comments on diminishing male opposition to opening of BAS to female scientists. Story of Dick Law’s [DL] view of JT’s attendance on ‘Hero’ trip, 1977, suggesting conservative opinion. Comments on awareness of Joseph Farman [JF] at BAS. [36:15] Comments on extent and timing of attempts to go to Antarctica with BAS, 1978-1983; preoccupation with mapping until early 1980s. Story of geologists claiming use of John Biscoe research ship, 1983, but short supply of geologists, leading to JT’s membership of 1983-1984 geological cruise along AP. Mentions related decision to allow on near future Antarctic cruise, four female BAS administrators/assistants, including Ann Todd [AT]. [44:30] Comments on BAS stipulation that JT should not camp overnight; members of 1983 expedition: group leader John Smellie [JS], Alistair Moyes, Phil Marsh, field assistant Simon Fraser, responsible for gravimetric recording. [48:28] Comments on own impression of differences between geologists and geophysicists; SF’s collection of gravimetric readings. Description of gravimeter. Mentions geophysicists’ interest in geological situation of measurements; BAS geophysicists: Geoff Renner, Cambridge and Peter Barker, University of Birmingham. [54:10] Description of geological aims of geological cruise with landings from John Biscoe along west coast of AP; process of landing from ship to islands; method of investigating geology on land; food; work conducted after dinner on ship. Comments on value of making fair copy of field notes; personal dairies kept. [1:06:48] Story of sharing diary of 1977 ‘Hero’ cruise with mother. Comments on sister’s view of JT’s Antarctic experience. Comments on father’s death, early 1970s; contact with father while at university. Description of father’s character. Story of meeting with father and female friend, including father’s keenness for JT to drink alcohol. Mentions father’s gift of coal; possible feelings about JT’s choice of career; attendance at graduation.
Life story interview with geologist Janet Thomson