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Antarctica Calling

Gilbert White & The Oates Collections met up with pupils from Selborne CE Primary School for a once in a lifetime chance to speak with researchers in Antarctica on Thursday 1st December 2016.

To celebrate Antarctica Day children from Otters Class came to the Gilbert White Field Studies Centre to talk to Sarah Reed, a marine biologist from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), live from the Rothera Station in Antarctica.  Each child asked Dr Sarah Reed, who has been in Antarctica for a year, a question such as “Which species of animals have you seen?” or “Does the heat of the lab affect the ice and how?” each question was answered engagingly by Sarah as she spoke to the class over the telephone. The class were astonished to learn that Antarctica which is in the height of summer was experiencing very similar temperatures to Selborne in winter, this being a particularly chilly morning at -7 degrees celsius.

‘I really enjoyed it,’ said eight year old Jamie, ‘I enjoyed being able to ask questions.’ One of the students, Conrad, wondered what it would be like to live in Antarctica. After the call, eight year old Holly said, ‘Sarah Reed inspired me to go to Antarctica when I am older.’ Other pupils agreed. They found it interesting to find out what it would be like to live in a climate like Antarctica. Sarah Reed described what Leopard Seals were like, and the children were surprised to hear that Emperor Penguins approached the stations inhabitants.


The phone call was a wonderful experience for all and the class were joined by teachers, parents and governors as well as the education team at the Gilbert White Field Studies Centre. Sarah Reed the BAS researcher was very impressed with the questions asked by the children and the conversation they had covered everything from eating lasagne to talking about tectonic plates.  Selborne CE Primary School was one of only 9 schools in the country to have had the chance of speaking with BAS, and it was a wonderful to be able to host the phone call at Gilbert White & The Oates Collections who have a great partnership with both the school and with British Antarctic Survey.

The pupils have been learning about Antarctica at school and had recently attended the Field Studies Centre’s South Pole Science session, where they learnt more about the life of Lawrence Oates and his team mates on the 1910-1912 Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole. They tried on Antarctic equipment and clothing from BAS, tried their hands at outdoor cooking and orienteering. Otters Class are now hoping to meet an Antarctic researcher in the future.

The class is in luck, as over the next few months The Gilbert White Field Studies Centre will be hosting a series of Antarctic themed events, which features three Antarctic scientists visiting to give talks. On the 23rd February Dr. Phil Trathan will be presenting a talk on ‘Penguin Ecology and Biology’, on March 30th Prof. Klaus Dodds will be giving a talk on why Shackleton and Scott matter, and on the 27th of April Prof. David Vaughn, director of science at BAS will be revealing the secrets below the ice in his talk ‘The Hidden Antarctica’. For younger Antarctic enthusiasts the Field Studies Centre is planning a South Pole themed February half term with penguin crafts, and a chance to become an Antarctic Explorer for the day.