Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Images from polar trips go online

A relief party 1912 British Antarctic Expedition
The archive features pictures, reports, letters and diary entries

An archive of 20,000 images depicting the history of polar exploration are set to go online for the first time.

The Freeze Frame archive belongs to the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Some of the images have not been seen for many years as they are too fragile to be handled.

They have now been digitised, meaning modern-day scientists can use the explorers' work for research into subjects like global warming.

The negatives, daguerreotypes and lantern slides were digitised in a programme funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee.


Snapshots from the archive include Captain Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition from 1910 to 1913, which saw his five-strong team perish in the South Pole.

Images feature other figures including Scott's contemporary Sir Ernest Shackleton and more recent explorers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Making the material available to all will help with further research into scientific studies around global warming and climate change
Polar explorer Pen Hadow

Extracts from diaries, expedition reports, letters and other personal papers of expedition members are also available.

Heather Lane, librarian and keeper of collections at the Scott Polar Research Institute, said: "The digitisation of these historic photographs allows the Scott Polar Research Institute's resources to reach a wider learning community than ever before."

She said without the project there was a risk that some of the most fragile items would be lost forever.

Modern-day polar explorer Pen Hadow, who is leading the Catlin Arctic Survey to determine the likely meltdown date of the ice cap, said: "The Freeze Frame archive is invaluable in charting changes in the polar regions.

"Making the material available to all will help with further research into scientific studies around global warming and climate change."

Alistair Dunning, digitisation programme manager at JISC, added: "Freeze Frame will provide an unparalleled record of the living conditions and scientific findings of the explorers which can be used by learners today studying everything from photography and nutrition to global warming and glaciology."

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