Daerwynno Bio-Bingo

BSW17RGBHI_APINK-920x591Yesterday was our British Science Week event at the Daerwynno Outdoor Centre – and what a fun day it was too! British Science Week is a celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths and so we took the opportunity to share our passion for wildlife.

School children from Perthcelyn Community Primary School, Abercynon community primary school and a group from Gofal joined the Mary Gillham Project, SEWBReC, the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative and Glamorgan Fungus Group on a mission to explore some of the wildlife found around the Activity Centre.

IMG_1510We went and explored the pond where frogs had spawned and we also found newts, beetles, nymphs and snails. Beneath logs and stones were an assortment of centipedes, Granny Grey’s [woodlice], slugs, pupae, eggs and other minibeasts.

Back inside in the ‘laboratory’ we looked at some of our finds under a microscope which we also projected onto a big screen, we looked at the natural history collection of snake skins, exuvia, shells, mermaid’s purses, nuts and skeletons. A varied day indeed!

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Thank you to all of the participants as well as all of the the staff and volunteers from each of the organisations – together you made the day one to remember.

British Science Week is a project of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the British Science Association

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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Mary, museums, science and students

Lucy, BSc Natural History student at the University of South Wales and Mary Gillham Project volunteer

When I first heard about Mary Gillham I knew very little of her or her work. Maybe this is because I grew up outside of Wales and knew nothing of her legacy. It was when I attended a Wildlife Trust event that I saw the Mary Gillham Archive Project were looking for volunteers to help with the digitisation of her records. As I am interested in a career in science communication I thought the project would be a good opportunity for me to get a little voluntary experience under my belt, but it has now become a much bigger part of my life than that.

After a few weeks of volunteering I was soon getting to know Mary and her work, and after a chat with Al (Mary Gillham Project Officer) we realised that she could be the subject for my final year project at university. I was immediately excited – what an amazing person to research! I definitely had the best project out of anyone on my course! However, I soon realised it wasn’t going to be as easy as first thought.

Mary’s work has spanned over many decades and reached many parts of the world and so deciding what to focus on for the project was a difficult task. After a number of meetings Al, my supervisor and I decided I would create a small museum-style display that would take a biographical look at Mary and her most influential achievements.

To create this display I am researching museum displays and the methods behind them, particularly when looking at someone’s life and work. The project has been very lucky recently, as they acquired some of the specimens that Mary collected, mostly consisting of varied shells from around the world. This made me particularly pleased, as some can now be included in my project. I want to make the exhibit as interesting and engaging as possible.

Just some of Mary’s teaching aids.

As Mary’s archive also includes thousands of photographs I am also going to trawl through these to find some to use as part of the display, to highlight the changes in some of the places that Mary visited such as Forest Farm and elsewhere.

Wynn Thomas: Aberdare canal. 1973 and the man who excavated it.

Once I have finished the project I hope that it will be a useful tool to educate and engage the public, not just about Mary, but her work too. I am confident that the display will compliment the other work taking place and help the project to tell the story of this remarkable naturalist.

Any thoughts on what makes an engaging and interesting display welcome! Post your thoughts below or contact the project through Facebook, Twitter or email!


The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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Walking in the Footsteps of Mary: March, St Gwynno woods

Walks with Mary ’ is back after a winter break! In this series we provide you with details of surveys Mary (and her colleagues) undertook, the species she recorded, and encourage you to visit sites and record what you can see.

This month we’re in St Gwynno woods which are situated in the mountains between the Rhondda and Cynon Valleys. A forestry plantation with its own reservoir, nearby Llanwonno has a lovely pub and a church where Guto Nyth Brân is buried… it has also been used in Dr Who!

Download Mary’s species list here!

Mary visited this large wooded area on many occasions with colleagues, her extramural class and during guided Cardiff Naturalist Society walks. An excellent spot for a diverse array of fungi, multiple horsetail species as well as Parsley Fern (Cryptogramma crispa) on the pennant sandstone cliff near to St Gwynno’s church. In March (1971) and April (1990) Mary and her colleagues recorded 45 different species within the St Gwynno although a broader search through Mary’s archive pulls up a further 377 species recorded in and around the woodland.

Download Mary’s species list here!

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There are many species missing from Mary’s list though and so plenty of scope for you to add to the tally!

picture1We also have downloadable resources to encourage recording in beginners!

The car park for the woodland can be found at ST032958 and here on Google Maps. There are entrances at ST02689571 and ST03229587.


Submit your records at www.sewbrecord.org.uk/Mary_Gillham or send them in a spreadsheet to dedicated.naturalist@sewbrec.org.uk. You can download a template spreadsheet from the Walks with Mary Gillham page on the SEWBReC website: www.sewbrec.org.uk/a-dedicated-naturalist/walks-with-mary.page.

Notes about Walks with Mary Gillham:

  • Please take a common sense approach to recording at these sites. We do not advocate any form of trespassing, and please do not take any risks with regards to your own health and safety.
  • All records are welcome, even the most common of species!
  • For a record to be useful, we need the following information: recorder’s name; date recorded; location name; grid reference (ideally 6 figures or more); species name. Please feel free to include extra information or photos.

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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Mary Gillham Project at the Gwent-Glamorgan recorder’s forum

In late January, SEWBReC organised their annual Recorder’s Forum where people and organisations involved in wildlife recording, management and conservation get together to discuss the important topics of the day.

There was an interesting and diverse mix of speakers and subjects ranging through plants, birds, molluscs, bees through to landscape-scale management and members of the Mary GIllham Project talking about what we have achieved so far.

One of the project volunteers also captured some of the day on film and produced this lovely little video.

The forum also provided a welcome opportunity to chat with other biophiles and also hear stories about our very own Mary Gillham. If you would like to find out more about recorder events, take a look at SEWBReC’s event page and if you’d like to chat about Mary Gillham you can send us an email to alan.reeve@sewbrec.org.uk.


The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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A new lease of life

As part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2017, we’re telling the story of Mary Gillham’s teaching collection and how, 30 years after Mary’s retirement, it is being put back to work…

One of the few examples of pressed flowers we have in the archive.

When we started the Mary Gillham Archive Project we knew that, whilst we inherited a huge volume of materials, there were gaps in it… Where were the international travel photos? Where are her negatives? Where are the disks with the text of Mary’s books (including the 6 unpublished manuscripts we have found in her archive)? Where is Mary’s natural history collection?

We’re still to work out the answers to the former questions but a chance discussion has answered the latter … at least in part!

We have recently started talking with Mary’s colleagues and friends to help tell the story of her life and work. Last week Dr Madeleine Havard came into the office to chat … Madeleine knew Mary through her work with environmental organisations such as the Glamorgan Wildlife Trust (as was, now the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales) and Cardiff Naturalists, but primarily by taking over the reins of the natural sciences Lecturer in Extra Mural Studies at Cardiff University vacated by Mary herself. It was while chatting with Madeleine that we heard about the boxes of teaching materials which, on retiring, Mary had left in the old Extra Mural building at 38/39 Park Place.

Despite Mary leaving a few years previously, there were still boxes and boxes of items that she had collected on her travels, as well as boxes and boxes of slides, which were all stored in what became the science lecturer’s office in the department.  They remained there for at least the decade that I used that office, and although not drawn on often, the contents provided subject interest for odd lectures and Open Days” Madeleine told us.

Despite the Extra Mural department having moved (and been renamed at least twice!) since Mary’s retirement, Madeleine was pretty confident that the University wouldn’t have thrown them away, and so put us in touch with current Director of Continuing & Professional Education at Cardiff University, Dr Zbig Sobiesierski to see if he could shed some light on where they might be now.

We were not to be disappointed by an almost immediate response from Zbig. Yes Mary’s teaching collection is still in the here, would you like to come over and see it?

Quick as a flash the Mary Gillham team went to the department’s new digs on Senghennydd Road to see this lost treasure. Zbig led us to a room and presented to us a shelving unit with 50 dusty boxes of shells and other artefacts that had survived their long-haul journeys to Cardiff, and, somewhat miraculously, a couple of moves within Cardiff itself. Covered in dust and with itchy noses we excitedly carried the boxes into our office to pore over the delights within.

Predominantly shells (with a sprinkling of driftwood, bones, seaweeds and rocks), there was material from across the globe: Norway, Kenya, Greece, Spain, Jamaica,  Zanzibar, New Zealand, the Seychelles, Bahamas, UK and USA, with some dating back to the late 1950s.

Whilst enjoying the presence of Gillham foraged shells and a sense that we had reunited two parts of the archive we realised that we need some guidance as to the actual archival value of the collection. So we contacted Dr Ben Rowson and Anna Holmes, are curators in the Mollusca department in the National Museum Wales, who gleefully came over to see the collection for themselves.

Ben takes up the story.

As fans of Mary’s work we were eager to acquire something from her for the mollusc collections at the Museum, but this collection held a few surprises. Whereas we’d expected a little more in the way of voucher specimens for Mary’s local records, there were instead many beach-collected curios from her overseas travels. Among the usual Indo-Pacific seashells were a few specimens less commonly seen in collections, such as some Giant African Land-snails from the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar and Mafia, and a juvenile shell of Syrinx, the Australian Trumpet Snail, an enormous adult of which has become one of our most widely seen props in recent years. The juvenile shows repaired damage, perhaps incurred by a crab, nicely illustrating how the early years are often the most dangerous times for such large animals.

An intact shell of the delightful Spirula or Ram’s-horn Squid (a staple of zoological teaching as one of the very few cephalopods to have a shell), was taken along with a fine string of egg-cases from Busycon, a Channelled Whelk from the USA. Some of these will be now be “re-born” as display or handling material once again, and used in our exhibitions, teaching and other activities (the theme of animal eggs being an annual favourite!). Others will be accessioned into the permanent collections, so that the National Museum will always have a few shells bearing the label “leg. & det. M. E. Gillham” to help remember her by.”


That wasn’t the end of it though; Teresa Darbyshire (Assistant Curator in the Marine Biodiversity section of the Museum) continues the story.

After their perusal of Mary’s mollusc collection, Ben and Anna sent me some photos of the non-mollusca specimens they had found in her collection. There seemed to be some interesting and potentially very useful specimens there so I too went over to SEWBReC’s offices to look through the large, dusty pile of boxes to see what I could find. What I did find was a surprising collection of specimens not just from around the world but also from shores on our own doorstep, including examples of tropical calcareous worm tubes, sponges and sea urchins.

Coincidentally, I have searched our own collections in the last year trying to find examples of barnacle and worm tube-encrusted rocks or shells to use during outreach events with the public but surprisingly, sometimes it is these simple, highly visual and tactile objects that we don’t have as we concentrate on collecting individual specimens or the larger item is lost by virtue of the removal and identification of the individuals that make it up. Mary obviously collected and used such objects for exactly the same purpose as I am hoping to use them for now.

There were also some really nice, large examples of British sponges that will again be very useful for both outreach and display and are not items that are easily collectable. These specimens will now continue Mary’s legacy of teaching and education, hopefully helping us to enthuse the general public about the wonders of the marine world.


Finally, Katherine Slade, a specialist in Lower Plants (e.g. algae mosses and liverworts) came for a look…

Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales holds at least 350 botanical specimens of Mary’s that we know of, but only one marine algae specimen (Wireweed, Sargassum muticum), so I was keen to see what seaweeds were in the collection of such an enthusiastic naturalist. Of the ~10 algae specimens in the collection, almost all are calcareous algae (incorporate calcium carbonate into their cells). In terms of storage in the herbarium, these hard seaweeds are ones that you would usually preserve in boxes or in fluid, as they would not easily press onto card.

For education, I took some Kenyan seaweeds that beautifully show the range of branching patterns and shapes that calcareous algae can create. I also took a specimen of Maerl that Mary had collected from Galway in 1979. Maerl beds are formed by a range of calcareous algae species, and are a fragile habitat that is now very rare in Britain and Ireland.

Mary donated botanical specimens regularly to the Museum from the 1950s to the 2000s, including ferns, gymnosperms, flowering plants, fungi, mosses and algae, reflecting her wide ranging interests. Given the extent of her marine collection, it surely seems likely that she would have kept a herbarium of her own as well – perhaps including some pressed seaweeds”.


So, in the space of a week we went from being unaware of the existence of Mary’s shells, to collecting them and having some of them enter the National Museum’s collection. Swift work indeed! The Mary Gillham Project will use the rest to help illustrate Mary’s life and showcase the diversity of natural history at SEWBReC events. We are glad that, after a near 30 year break, some of Mary’s finds will once again be used as educational and research tools… Now we just need to find Mary’s herbarium.

List of species taken by the museum:

Sponges/sea fans (Caribbean) – 1 large box
Spones (S. Wales) – 1 large box
Worm tubes & bored rocks – 1 large box
Sea urchins: P.miliaris/P. lividus – 1 small box each
Encrusting barnacles/worm tubes – 1 small box each
Worm tubes (Seychelles) – 1 small  box
Seaweeds (Kenya) – 1 large box
Sand dollars (Kenya) – 1 large box
1 spec. Nemertesia antennina (bryozoan)
Approx 30 lots of marine and non-marine shells
1 lot of egg capsules of Busycon
1 lot of wood bored by Teredo

Images by Annie Irving, Katherine Slade and the Mary Gillham Archive Project

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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Women in Antarctica



At the tail end of December in 1959 Mary Gillham and 3 other female scientists became the first British and Australian females to join a research trip in the Antarctic. Today is our last blog about this trip as Project Volunteer Annie Irving reflects on Mary, Isobel, Susan and Hope’s legacy of opening the door (although just a crack) to female Antarctic researchers…


As I began to write this blog, I was horrified to read news articles detailing the incredibly sexist statements (that women vets are worth two fifths of men) by the Chancellor of Massey University, where Mary worked as an exchange lecturer in 1957. The Chancellor has since resigned but his statements served to highlight, if such was necessary, the obstacles women face when choosing the sciences as their career option.

As a woman beginning her career as a scientist in the 1950s, I’m sure Mary Gillham was even more aware of these obstacles. As we’ve noted in the introduction to this series of blogs, Mary and her three female colleagues were the first (two) British and (two) Australian women to be included in a research trip to the Antarctic region, a situation so previously untenable that their involvement was refused several times before the Australian Acting Minister for External Affairs finally made the decision to allow the women to join the expedition just three weeks before they were due to sail.

Though drunkenness and ribald behaviour was tolerated in the male expedition members, the performance and behaviour of the four women came under intense scrutiny, by the media, by their fellow ANARE crew members, by government, university and other institutional officials. If they had not acquitted themselves with complete decorum and undertaken their scientific research in an exemplary manner, it’s highly likely the future involvement of women in similar scientific expeditions would have been greatly hindered and delayed.

Sixty years on, sexism remains a major issue for women determined to make a career in science. Though more women now choose science as an option for university study, they remain under-represented in senior positions in the discipline; they continue to be paid much less than male counterparts with the same skills and qualifications; and only 15 women have won the Nobel Prize in a scientific discipline since the award was established in 1901.

In the field of Antarctic and polar research, women like Mary and her fellow female expedition members provided inspirational role models for women hoping to follow in their footsteps. In subsequent years, Isobel Bennett returned three times to Macquarie to conduct further research but it wasn’t until the 1970s that women spent more than a couple of weeks on the island: medical practitioner Zoe Gardner was the first to spend a year there in 1976.

Nowadays, women polar scientists regularly join expeditions in the Antarctic region and frequently over-winter on Macquarie Island and at the various research stations on the continent, though their presence can still surprise. As Jaimie Cleeland wrote at the end of her recent stint on the island, older visiting tourists are still ‘astonished to see so many women working on the island’.

The role of women involved in polar science remains under-recognised, so much so that a group of female scientists last year organised a Wikibomb to create and update ‘more than 100 biographies of high achieving women in Antarctic science’. As organiser Dr Jan Strugnell explained ‘some 60% of early career Antarctic researchers are women, with strong reputations in the scientific community, but only about 10% of awards, prizes and papers at scientific conferences were presented to, or given by, women’ so a ‘greater online presence of female Antarctic science role models is important and long overdue’.

The list of Antarctic women is long and impressive but the fact that a Wikibomb was even necessary in 2016 speaks volumes about the progress of women in science, or the lack of it, sixty years after Mary Gillham’s pioneering journey to Macquarie Island.

For an ‘on-site’ summary of life in the Antarctic with muses on the experiences of females en route to today’s ‘enlightened’ times, you’ll struggle to find a better read (and some glorious and less glorious pictures) than Eat Sleep Freeze Repeat’s blog: Girl Power in Antarctica.

So, that’s it for the Macquarie blogs! Thanks for joining us over the past three weeks, the project continues and we shall be writing more very soon!

Reference material and further reading:

Thanks to John Wilkins (MGAP volunteer) for coordinating this series of Macquarie blogs.

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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Macquarie After Mary

At the tail end of December in 1959 Mary Gillham and 3 other female scientists became the first British and Australian females to join a research trip in the Antarctic. The likelihood of females joining future research trips would depend on the success of these ground-breaking women. We’re retelling Mary’s tale and talking more about Macquarie Island where this was all to take place…

In 1971, the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service came into being and, as a result of this, Macquarie Island became designated a conservation area.

In 1972, the island’s designation was upgraded to State Reserve under the Tasmanian “National Parks and Wildlife Act” of 1970 and, in 1978, it became the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve.

Want to see what Macquarie looks like right now? Check out the Macquarie Island Station webcam!

From 1997 until its withdrawal in 2011, Macquarie island held status as a “biosphere reserve” under the “Man and the Biosphere Programme”.

Macquarie Island was granted World Heritage status in 1998.

One of the largest earthquakes ever recorded (measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale)  hit Macquarie on 23 December 2004. Despite the magnitude of this quake (which “rocked the island to its roots”), it caused very little damage. This “event” took place exactly forty-five years to the day after Mary Gillham first set foot on the island. (So no direct link to her then. Or was there?)

Check out an interactive timeline of Macquarie’s history

From the very start of man’s arrival on Macquarie, rats and mice inadvertently brought by their ships prospered and multiplied due to the lack of predators. As a consequence,  cats were introduced in an attempt to prevent those rodents from eating the humans’ food stores.

c1870, both rabbits and wekas were brought to the island by sealers who intended that the creatures would breed and thus provide them with a ready supply of fresh meat. And breed they did. In fact, one might say, they bred like rabbits doing so with such success that, by the time a century had passed, in 1970 there were estimated to be more than 130 000 of them on the island!


Feral cats introduced to the island had a such a devastating effect on Macquarie’s population of seabirds with that they made an estimated 60 000 kills per annum!

Between 1985 and mid 2000, therefore, a programme was undertaken in an effort to save the seabirds from their feline predators and this was ultimately successful with the last of approximately 2 500 of them being culled by June of the programme’s fifteen year span. Consequently, the seabird population soared (pun intended) but widespread environmental damage still continued to be caused by wekas, mice, rats and rabbits.


As might be expected, with the culling of the cats, rabbit numbers multiplied rapidly but were reduced to c10 000 when myxomatosis was introduced in the early 1980s though, by 2006, the population had again grown to more than 100 000 with their nibbling of the grass layer leading to soild erosion and cliff collapses that destroy seabird nests as they did did in September 2006 when a large landslip at Luisitania Bay also destroyed a significant part of the breeding ground of an important penguin breeding colony.

On 4 June 2007, the Australian federal government announced that it and the Tasmanian state government were to jointly fund the eradication of rodent and weka pests on Macquarie. This project, estimated to cost $A24 000 000, was to be based on initially mass baiting the island with this to be followed by the use of dog for hunting remaining pests.


Despite a temporary suspension of the programme due to the unexpectedly high levels of bird deaths due to the baiting being carried out, it was reported in February 2012 that wekas had been and that rabbits, rats and mice had almost been erradicated from the island. The measures continued and, by July 2013, it was reported that no further rabbit signs had been found.

On 8 April 2014, Macquarie Island was declared officially to be “pest-free” this coming after some seven years of concerted conservation efforts with its achievement making it the largest successful island pest-eradication programme ever attempted anywhere in the world.

The Australian Antarctic Territory postage stamp issue shown here was released to recognise the work of dogs in the eradication of the animal “pest” problem on Macquarie Island.

In September of this year (2016) the Australian Antarctic Division confirmed it was to close its Macquarie research station in 2017 but the Australian government  responded swiftly to this (and to widespread protest from the Australian people) by announcing that it would make available funding that would enable the upgrading of existing infrastructure and allow the continuation of operations on the island.

Macquarie Island isthmus after a snowfall. By Hullwarren – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Read on tomorrow!

Reference material and further reading:

Thanks to John Wilkins (MGAP volunteer) for coordinating this series of Macquarie blogs.

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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New Year’s Day 1960

At the tail end of December in 1959 Mary Gillham and 3 other female scientists became the first British and Australian females to join a research trip in the Antarctic. The likelihood of females joining future research trips would depend on the success of these ground-breaking women. We’re retelling Mary’s tale and talking more about Macquarie Island where this was all to take place…

Mary’s diary for 1 January 1960: We were up betimes and on deck to see the docks around Williamstown gliding past. Then down below for a 7:00 am breakfast, continental style from the “cold table”.

We docked at 8:00 am, welcomed by a summery crowd on the quay. We leaned over the rail of the upper deck watching the men who had been isolated  –  even from mail  –  greeting their loved ones after 13 months. Television cameras whirred and press reporters darted hither and thither making the most of their opportunities. It was not long before they got around to us and we certainly stole the thunder from the men in all 3 of the local newspapers   –  altho’ we’d already had our turn on the way out.

Both “Sun” and “Age” produced good photos of us and the “Age” produced a very creditable article, mostly about what they called my “research tour” (See below for a copy of the “Age” article.) We performed again for TV but I didn’t see this, nor did I hear what was said in the news.

The Age’s report on Mary’s ANARE trip. Published 02/01/1960

Hope went to collect her car & while waiting for her to return to give me a lift home to Minette’s I chatted with Mr. Brazenor & one of the out going party. From the latter I found that the Macquarie party’s only real objection to our visit was that they had had to watch their language & could no longer be free & uninhibited in conversation. This, as I pointed out, a very good rehearsal for returning to civilisation. This was apparently only a minor, and mostly imaginary worry, however, as we had had innumerable apologies for words spoken which were supposed to be impolite but which struck us as being very little different from what we heard in the normal course of events. No one had worried about having to give up their toilet accommodation & the first question when they heard we were going was “How old are they?”. From reactions on New Year’s Eve it had seemed that the question of age mattered very little.

Poster for the film Mary and Pat went to see on New Year’s Day 1960. A 1958 film starring Alec Guiness with a plot described in Halliwells film guide as: “An obsessive painter is a liability to his friends” and with the review “Thin but fitfully amusing light study of a social outcast, with a background of London river and streets. Too slight for real success”. So, for Mary, a somewhat humdrum end to an adventurous and eventful fortnight.

Back at Park Street  –  to a strangely quiet house vacated for the holidays  –  I went through a big pile of mail & then adjourned to the botany department with my grass plants for Beth Gott. Much chattering with Garth Everson, the only botanist on deck, & then back to gather up some food, only just in time, as the last shop shut for the weekend.

 Just as I was finishing lunch Pat Worham appeared at the door, eager for news about her husband she would not see for another year. So we spent the afternoon nattering and dined from chops, peas & pumpkin and biscuits & cheese & coffee.

In the evening we took ourselves to town to see the film “The Horse’s Mouth”  –  a not particularly good comedy about an old artist  –  and a fairly good supporting “who dunnit”.


Read on tomorrow!

Reference material and further reading:

Thanks to John Wilkins (MGAP volunteer) for coordinating this series of Macquarie blogs.

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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New Year’s Eve: From Mary’s Diary

At the tail end of December in 1959 Mary Gillham and 3 other female scientists became the first British and Australian females to join a research trip in the Antarctic. The likelihood of females joining future research trips would depend on the success of these ground-breaking women. We’re retelling Mary’s tale and talking more about Macquarie Island where this was all to take place…

Thursday, 31st December 1959

Sunny and  blue at first and again later but a fog around midday as we came through Banks Strait and past (but not near) the Furneaux Group. Still miraculously calm. Entertaining in our cabin most of the morning, chiefly the Captain and Stefan.

Schnapps causing much merriment at lunch and being taken like medicine for the after effects. Roast turkey for New Years Eve dinner. Rodondo & Wilson’s Prom passed us by to starboard in the early afternoon and we were scheduled to reach Port Phillip heads at midnight and dock at 8:30 am next year (to avoid 6 months payment of income tax by incoming personnel).

New Year’s Eve dinner was a riotous affair, as we perceived it might be when we saw the table laid with 4 glasses apiece and groaning under fruit, nuts, sweets etc. The turkey came in lumps  –  great blocks of chest with the honeycombed bones chopped through, and one ate steadily until one could eat no more.

We retired at length after much merrymaking and impromptu speechifying, Hope and Isobel to play bridge and Susan and I to the cabin.

At 11:30 pm, while Susan was gazing from the open porthole at the lights of civilisation and I was on the last few pages of a “Who dunnit” we were invaded by 2 of the dukw crew informing us that this was New Year’s Eve and our presence was required. They tried cajoling, entreaty & force but I finally persuaded them to give me 5 minutes to find out who dunnit. In 5 minutes one was back and I was led to a group of merrimakers on deck. A beer was thrust into my hand, in spite of my protestations, but two sips was sufficient to tell me that Danish beer was no more palatable than British or Australian. Down eventually to the saloon where I was tried unsuccessfully with other alcoholics until finally the punch was brought in and the company began to arrive in various states of sozzlement.

The next hour was hectic in the extreme. O.I.C. Dick, very merry, mounted the table and said a few words, Captain Hans Peterson – still on his feet – said a few more and then everyone, ship’s company included, shook hands with everyone else. Never do I hope to be kissed by so many beards again, particularly the curly ginger variety, but it can be said that it was a New Year’s Eve with a difference. Hope had made a hit with a radio man who had a monopoly, so she missed most of the beards. It seemed a good time was had by all.

We slipped away eventually and were just in time to see the pilot come aboard at Port Phillip heads. The mother ship drew alongside in a blaze of lights and a boat took off with a trilby-hatted, over-coated city gentleman on board. I am always surprised when I see pilots come aboard up the Jacob’s Ladder thus attired, though I should be used to the sight by now.

And so we entered haven and our last night in bunks which didn’t send one ricocheting around like a pendulum all night.

Read on tomorrow!

Reference material and further reading:

Thanks to John Wilkins (MGAP volunteer) for coordinating this series of Macquarie blogs.


The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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The fauna and flora of Macquarie Island in December 1959

At the tail end of December in 1959 Mary Gillham and 3 other female scientists became the first British and Australian females to join a research trip in the Antarctic. The likelihood of females joining future research trips would depend on the success of these ground-breaking women. We’re retelling Mary’s tale and talking more about Macquarie Island where this was all to take place…

The lists of flora and fauna that appear below are taken from Mary Gillham’s book describing her time on Macquarie Island in December of 1959.

The first image shows the cover of the above bookwhich was published in 1967 (i.e. some seven years or so after Mary’s Macquarie “expedition” ended).

Note – the pages of lists are interspersed with images (drawings and photographs) created by Mary during her time on the island.




Mary’s book was reviewed – favourably – by the Antarctic News Bulletin in 1968. Take a look for yourself! The review is on page 59…

Read on tomorrow!

Reference material and further reading:

Thanks to John Wilkins (MGAP volunteer) for coordinating this series of Macquarie blogs.

The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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