Oral history of British science
Thomson, Janet (Part 7 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 7: Description of Boxworth village, early 1970s. Story of friendship with neighbour; relations with fellow village incomers; making of cake for village’s 1977 Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. Mentions MT’s BAS display in village. Story of involvement in WI (Women’s Institute); parish clerk work; three year presidency of village WI in 1983-1986. [11:10] Mentions buying car 1981; MT’s motorbike. Story of lifts to and from BAS; cycling. [13:26] Mentions mother’s illness and death, 1981. Story of driving ill mother to visit family members. Comments on mother’s death at JT’s home; mother’s funeral; scattering of ashes; clearing of mother’s home; feelings about mother’s death. [18:22] Story of talks given to WI, including talks on Antarctic expeditions; article in WI’s ‘Home and Country’ magazine, prompting requests from other WI branches for talks. Mentions using dummy with Antarctic clothing as prop. Comments on nature of WI interest in JT’s expeditions; weak relations between WI and feminist movements in 1970s; lack of interest of WI in JT’s status as pioneer. [27:32] Comments on effect of appointment of Liz Morris [LM] Head of Glaciology, BAS, 1987. Mentions BAS committee discussing position of women in Antarctic science. Comments on effect on BAS of new Director, David Drewry [DD], 1987, including positive effect on role of female scientists. [31:51] Story of BAS committee on women in Antarctic science, established Summer 1987, including membership, debates, concern with ‘deep fieldwork’, consultation with wives left behind by male scientists. Comments on correspondence between home and Antarctica; role of personnel officer in stressing concerns of wives and resisting change in rules concerning women in Antarctica. [49:45] Mentions Debbie Armstrong [DA] as first BAS woman to camp a BAS summer expedition, 1989. Comments on evolution of general acceptance of BAS women in field, including possible influence of Dash 7 aeroplane and crushed rock airstrip, Rothera base [1993/94]. Mentions relative remoteness of Halley Bay base. Comments on effect of scientific discipline on chronology of opening of Antarctica to female scientists, biologists first (Signy), atmospheric scientists last (Halley Bay). [56:41] Story of origin of involvement in 1984-1985 United States Geological Survey [USGS] geological expedition, English Coast through American friends/colleague Pete Rowley [PR]. [1:02:26] Comments on seven expedition members, including Tom Laudon, Walt Vennum. Story of journey to USAP (United States Antarctic Program) McMurdo base [MM]; journey to field camp, southern AP. Mentions emergency training. Story of establishing field camp, including pitch dark tent, effects of bad weather, method of exiting ‘pyramid’ tent, communal dining tent. [1:11:58] Comments on exclusion from cooking, due to colleagues keenness not to mirror traditional domestic gender roles. Story of appearing to male colleagues physically stronger/more practical than expected. [1:14:12] Stories of skiing with difficulty, including comments on method of surface travel. Description of ‘snow house’ for equipment; packing crates used for geological samples. [1:21:04] Mentions male colleagues initial caution in having certain kinds of conversation. Comments on aims of expedition; fieldwork. Mentions ‘young’ volcanoes; use of aerial photographs; USGS sketch map; care in taking fossil samples. Story of camping in snowstorm; finding fossils on small outcrop, named Erewhon by JT and accepted as official by UK, officially Erehwon in the US. [1:29:00] Comments on relations with few other female scientist at MM, including one British female Open University scientist, Fiona McGibbon. Comments on military nature of MM. Brief description of MM. Description of nearby New Zealand Scott base [SB]. Story of visit to SB, including meeting huskies, social evening, buying ‘A Women’s Place is in Antarctica’ patch, at suggestion of PR, displayed in BAS office on return.
Life story interview with geologist Janet Thomson