Tag Archives: Exploration

Visualising History: Geography, Art and Exhibitions

by Fiona Ferbrache

Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater (oil painting by Gordon Frickers, (www.frickers.co.uk/art/home-page/) reproduced with his kind permission).

Many different forms of representation have provided inspiration to geographers: works of literature, art, photography, political analysis, tutorials and journal articles, to name a few.

Recently, I had the opportunity to view some paintings produced by marine artist Gordon Frickers, which provide detailed insight on geographies of the modern and ancient marine world.  Frickers’ paintings are underpinned by comprehensive research of written texts, photographs and objects to produce a visual portrait that is as accurate as possible.  One of his scenes Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater, is an illustration of emigrants departing Plymouth in the 19th century¹.  This particular painting reveals a largely forgotten business at a time of significant historical migration, and invites the viewer’s curiosity.  It seems clear that geographers cannot understand the world without paying attention to such visual forms of representation.

In 2009, the RGS-IBG hosted an exhibition: Hidden Histories Made Visible.  Its aim was to bring into full view those people who have been only partially visible in other representations i.e. photographers, Sherpas and cartographers who made expeditions possible but who remain in the shadow of explorers such as Livingstone and Mallory.  The exhibition is the subject of Felix Driver’s paper in TIBG.  He illustrates the way in which the exhibition challenges assumptions about the history of exploration and geography – in this case celebrating the role of the supporting team rather than the individual explorer.  Driver demonstrates how the exhibition’s choreography conveys this message, and reminds us that any representation of the world – even an exhibition – is always partial.  For anyone organising an exhibition, this is a useful read.

After viewing Frickers’ work and reading Driver’s account of Hidden Histories, one is reminded of the value to geographers of paying critical attention to visual forms of representation.  In conjunction, a number of recent and current exhibitions might inspire geographers with alternative perspectives:

The Robinson Institute by Patrick Keiller at the Tate Modern

Writing Britain: wastelands to wonderlands at the British Library

Geographical blueprint: the art of the handcrafted globe at the Royal Geographical Society

Felix Driver, Hidden histories made visible? Reflections on a geographical exhibition,Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00529.x

Gordon Frickers’ website provides further information about his paintings and associated research.

¹ The Port of Chester was also a significant point of departure for emigrants, albeit less so than the major ports of London, Liverpool and Plymouth.  Frickers’ The Port of Chester (1863), shows this port at its busiest period.

RGS-IBG New Content Alert: Early View Articles (25th May 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Soil hydrodynamics and controls in prairie potholes of central Canada
T S Gala, R J Trueman and S Carlyle
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01103.x

Paying for interviews? Negotiating ethics, power and expectation
Daniel Hammett and Deborah Sporton
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01102.x

Domestication and the dog: embodying home
Emma R Power
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01098.x

Adapting water management to climate change: Putting our science into practice

Runoff attenuation features: a sustainable flood mitigation strategy in the Belford catchment, UK
A R Nicholson, M E Wilkinson, G M O’Donnell and P F Quinn
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01099.x


Geography, libertarian paternalism and neuro-politics in the UK
Mark Whitehead, Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Marcus Welsh
Article first published online: 21 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00469.x

Subaltern geopolitics: Libya in the mirror of Europe
James D Sidaway
Article first published online: 11 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00466.x

Original Articles

Faith and suburbia: secularisation, modernity and the changing geographies of religion in London’s suburbs
Claire Dwyer, David Gilbert and Bindi Shah
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00521.x

Mobile nostalgias: connecting visions of the urban past, present and future amongst ex-residents
Alastair Bonnett and Catherine Alexander
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00531.x

Dalits and local labour markets in rural India: experiences from the Tiruppur textile region in Tamil Nadu
Grace Carswell
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00530.x

The Korean Thermidor: on political space and conservative reactions
Jamie Doucette
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00528.x

‘Faith in the system?’ State-funded faith schools in England and the contested parameters of community cohesion
Claire Dwyer and Violetta Parutis
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00518.x

The short-run impact of using lotteries for school admissions: early results from Brighton and Hove’s reforms
Rebecca Allen, Simon Burgess and Leigh McKenna
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00511.x

Learning electoral geography? Party campaigning, constituency marginality and voting at the 2010 British general election
Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00527.x

Hidden histories made visible? Reflections on a geographical exhibition
Felix Driver
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00529.x

‘Read ten thousand books, walk ten thousand miles’: geographical mobility and capital accumulation among Chinese scholars
Maggi W H Leung
Article first published online: 15 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00526.x

Exploring Geography

by Fiona Ferbrache

Captain Scott in 1911

The Royal Geographical Society (-IBG) has a strong historical association with exploration.  Famous explorers such as David Livingston, Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edmund Hillary are part of our subject history (also see Sacks‘ post below).  This year marks the centenary of the ill-fated Antarctic Terra Nova expedition (1910-13), led by Captain Scott (Lewis-Jones, 2007).  The centenary will be marked through a variety of events, including RGS talks and presentations, and a commemorative exhibition at the Natural History Museum, which runs until September.  While we celebrate and commemorate such adventurous feats, what does exploration mean for Geography?

Scott’s link to the RGS was established when he was selected by then President, Sir Clements Markham, to lead an expedition to Antarctic in 1901.  At that time, little was known about the frozen continent, and the legacy of their southern adventures, including Terra Nova, is one of scientific discovery and understanding.  In other words, exploration was valued as a desire to know and understand more about the world’s places, environments and peoples.  In a similar way, professional geographers were among those invited to Buckingham Palace when the Queen hosted a reception in honour of exploration and adventure last December.

In connection with the RGS Medals and Awards ceremony, which celebrates contemporary geographical research, fieldwork and photography, Michael Palin (in Palin et al. 2011) draws attention to the symbiosis of exploration and geography and highlights links between earlier geographical exploration and its modern counterparts.  He writes about a shared spirit of enquiry and a desire to keep asking and trying to answer questions to satisfy a need to know geography (and geographically).  In all these feats, receptions and commemorations, the people involved appear to share a desire for scientific investigation, discovery and greater understanding.

The theme of exploration will be developed in my next post (8th May) through discussion of a group of urban explorers seeking to know and remap the city in new ways.

  Lewis-Jones, H. (2007) Review: Scott of the Antarctic: A Life of Courage and Tragedy in the Extreme South. The Geographical Journal. 173,2. pp.188

  Palin, M., Earle, S., Livingstone, D., Elden, S., Lowe, J. & Owen, L. (2011) Honouring geographers and contemporary exploration: from the archive to the ocean at the RGS-IBG Medals and Awards Ceremony 2011. The Geographical Journal. 177,3. pp.279-287

  RGS-IBG What’s On guide

  Captain Scott centenary marked at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Crossing the Gender Divide

Eileen Healey filming in the Alps, 1950s. Courtesy The Daily Telegraph.

Benjamin Sacks

This month, as the Royal Geographical Society marks the centenary of Robert Scott’s tragic expedition to the South Pole, it is all too easy to view exploration as ‘a man’s sport’. We conjure images of Scott, Shackleton, Hillary and Norgay, and Fuchs, bravely fighting the elements in their attempts to overcome the earth’s extremes. But women’s vital roles in the history of exploration has received considerably less attention. In the most recent issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Katherine Brickell and Bradley L Garrett (Royal Holloway, University of London) sought to address this discrepancy. Their article chronicled the work of women in filming expeditions during the great age of Himalayan mountain-climbing (c.1930-c.1960). Acknowledging the important use of film in nineteenth and twentieth century exploration, Brickell and Garrett recalled the experiences of Eileen Healey, ‘a visionary British female mountaineer and amateur filmmaker’, who died on 8 September 2010 at 89 (1).

In the summer of 1959, Healey joined nine other women, led by Claude Kogan, a French swimwear designer-turned-alpine climber, on a expedition to the Himalayas. They hoped to climb – and film for all to see – Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak. The expedition, which began amid tremendous media furore, horribly ended when an avalanche killed Kogan, the Belgian Claudine van der Stratten, and two male Sherpa guides. After the disaster, she kept her 16-mm film stored in her house; according to The Guardian, it was not publicly screened until a half-century later, in 2009.

Healey’s self-deprecating, humble style belied her true cinematographic abilities. She borrowed her husband’s portable movie camera, and began the film with a plate reminding the audience that she had no prior experience. Yet her work, as Brickell and Garrett articulated, was talented, insightful, and ultimately ‘a rich resource for geographical [and cultural] research’ (2). Their focus on Healey served two key motives: (1) to remind geographers of the critical role women have played (and will continue to play) in geographic exploration, research, and documentation; (2) a general request for geographers and explorers alike to begin filming their experiences again, and not to solely rely on internet blogs or ‘sensationalist media’ (2-3).

 Katherine Brickell and Bradley L Garrett, ‘Geography, Film and Exploration: Women and Amateur Filmmaking in the Himalayas‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series (2012): 1-5.

 Ed Douglas, ‘Eileen Healey Obituary‘, The Guardian, 22 November 2010, accessed 18 April 2012.

 In 2009, an all-female Commonwealth expedition successfully skied to the South Pole. Find out more at the Kaspersky Commonwealth Expedition.

A View from Above: Geography explores the outdoors

by Fiona Ferbrache

The scientific method has close connections to ideas about progress and innovation.  In 2010, a question was posed in the Guardian: “Can a human break the sound barrier?” This question may well be answered later this year when skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, will free fall to earth from the edge of space.  Taking a balloon to roughly 37km above the earth’ surface, the skydiver is expected to be the first human to break the sound barrier during his ten minute return flight.  Baumgartner’s adventure will be facilitated by a range of technical apparatus including oxygen tanks and a special suit designed to withstand temperatures of -94ºF.

The theme of adventure and exploration in this sky diving story connects with Area’s special quarterly section Exploring the Outdoors.  Celebrating the multiple ways in which geographers engage with outdoor spaces, the papers in this collection address activities such as climbing, mountaineering, mountain rescue and fieldtrips.  Each paper contributes to our knowledge of the outdoors, but the strength of this collection emerges in the co-construction of the multiple relations that link science and adventure, from both human and physical sides of geography. As Couper and Yarwood (2012) emphasise in the introduction to this collection, ‘outdoors’ provides a conceptual field from which to transgress this geographical boundary.

Providing an overview of this collection, Couper and Yarwood also acknowledge its limitations. They note, among other things, that “it remains predominantly land-based in its consideration of outdoor-spaces” (p.5).  With this in mind, Baumgartner’s upcoming adventure may offer some alternative approaches for geographic engagement with the outdoors.

  Skydiving from the edge of space: can a human break the sound barrier?, The Guardian

  Sky diver to break sound barrier with jump from edge of space, The Telegraph

  Pauline Couper & Richard Yarwood, 2012, Confluences of human and physical geography research on the outdoors: an introduction to the special section on ‘Exploring the outdoors’, Area 44 2-6

Area Content Alert: Volume 44, Issue 1 (March 2012)

The latest issue of Area is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

Continue reading

Geography as a modern subject

Dr Sylvia Earle receiving the Patron’s Medal from Michael Palin. ©RGS-IBG/Howard Sayer

by Madeleine Hatfield

The discussion about which subjects students will be studying when the new school and academic year starts is an annual affair in the British media. This year’s news coverage featured Michael Palin, President of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), on geography. Michael said that ‘geography students hold the key to the world’s problems’, a statement not to be underrated in a world continually shaken by environmental, economic, political and social events.

The September issue of The Geographical Journal has further detail about this in papers currently free to access online, including Michael’s Presidential Address to the RGS-IBG at its AGM and an account of its 2011 Medals and Awards bestowed on geography’s ‘contemporary explorers’. This shows the continuing relevance of geography to world issues and the significance of contemporary geographical research, such as Dr Sylvia Earle’s on the future of the oceans and Prof. Stuart Elden’s on geopolitics. Michael’s introduction and the acceptances speeches could inspire geography students young and old, whatever their geographical interests.

Palin, M. 2011. Michael Palin on Geography: Presidential Address and Record of the RGS-IBG Annual General Meeting 2011. The Geographical Journal, 177: 275–278.

Palin, M., Earle, S., Livingstone, D., Elden, S., Lowe, J. and Owen, L. 2011. Honouring geographers and contemporary exploration: from the archive to the ocean at the RGS-IBG Medals and Awards Ceremony 2011. The Geographical Journal, 177: 279–287.

Palin, M. 2011. Michael Palin: geography students hold the key to the world’s problems. The Guardian, 18 August 2011.