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1958: Sir Vivian's son remembers

Peter Fuchs was just 14 years old when his father, Sir Vivian, began planning his trans-Antarctic trip.

He is immensely proud of his father's achievements but says when he was a boy they were just part of every day life.

He does, however, have vivid memories of his father's homecoming in May 1958 - four months after he had completed the Antarctic expedition.

I had time off school - it was the end of May. They came back from New Zealand by liner so it took quite some time.

All of us were there to welcome them at Southampton, there was a huge turnout and I remember a motorcade through the streets.

There was a special train that took us all up to Waterloo and then a big civic reception followed by a cavalcade through the streets of London.

For a 17-year-old who wasn't much used to social occasions it was a bit overwhelming - there was I hob-nobbing with prime ministers and bishops.

The Fuchs family lived in Cambridge although Peter was away at school in Yorkshire. He does not recall the family being particularly anxious about Sir Vivian during his many trips abroad.

We always had complete confidence in what he was doing. Maybe that was a bit naive.

And when you see the pictures of their snowcats virtually down a crevasse you begin to realise how dangerous it actually was.

But we didn't know about those dangers so we didn't worry. My father obviously had that attitude as well.

I remember there was an enormous furore about whether the British team would complete the trip as planned.

Well, as far as my father was concerned he was in charge and he was carrying on - there was no question in his mind.

Peter, 62, says his father was very modest about the whole experience even though he had been awarded a knighthood within hours of his successful arrival at Scott Camp.

He was sitting in the bath at Scott Camp when he heard the news that he had been made a knight. I remember seeing the pictures of him emerging with his clipped beard, wearing a white and blue spotted dressing gown. He was Sir Vivian then.

Even after he returned my father never really banged the drum about his achievements - he always left that to other people.

It's different these days but in those days it was a serious scientific journey and there was lots of hard work to be carried out. He always saw it like that.

Since his father's death in 1999 Peter has been making plans to create a lasting tribute to his father, by making his journals and archive material accessible to the public.

He has also enrolled on an Antarctic studies course at Christchurch University in New Zealand which will involve project work in the Antarctic in December 2003.

I really felt I had to understand what it was all about. I think one owes it to my father to make sure that people recognise the contribution he has made to the science of Antarctica.

Peter Fuchs can be contacted at peter.fuchs@pipemedia.co.uk

In Context
Peter Fuchs lives in Leicestershire with his wife Ann.

He spent his working life in the minerals industry but retired five years ago.

He has two children, Caroline and Edward.


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