In my last post, I mentioned my passion for geography despite no longer studying the subject at university. In light of this, I booked a ticket for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Geography Day in Perth, just a twenty minute train ride from Dundee. I was particularly keen to go to this event as the theme for the day was ‘Women in Polar Regions’. Whilst studying geography, glaciology was one of my favourite topics and probably the one I was most interested in and I even wanted to be an Arctic explorer if I had completed my degree in Geography.
The day began with a short introduction and we were separated into four groups in order to rotate around the speakers. Hazel Robertson was the first of the speakers that I had the pleasure of listening to. She spoke of her record attempt to cross Alaska by bike and kayak and all of her adventures along the way. The main tale of her story described a family who live on the remote island of Anachlik in the north of Alaska and their daily life before showing us photos from her time spent with them. The main goal of her trip was to learn more about the influences of climate change on the people living in Alaska and she came face to face with one of these problems as her trip was cut short due to perma frost thawing and draining the lakes as a result of global warming. This meant that her and her husband were unable to kayak to other regions that they had planned to go to and shows that climate change is cutting people off from areas which may be essential for fishing and sourcing of basic necessities. If you search her name on the internet, you can find more information about her trip and her findings.
The second speaker of the day was possibly my most anticipated one. Dr Beth Christie, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, specialises in outdoor education and learning for sustainability. She was part of an all female expedition to Antarctica which involved 78 women, only 2 of which were from Scotland. I was so interested to hear her take on education especially in terms of young children and what we can do to educate them more on our planet. I was not disappointed. Beth talked so enthusiastically about her trip and about all the wonderful women alongside her. Her passion for education and our environment truly inspired me. She even showed us pictures of her own primary school work which featured her dreams of going to Antarctica to see the penguins.
After hearing the two talks I was most interested in, I had originally planned on catching a train home but, as I had enjoyed these talks so much, I decided to stay for the third talk of the day – after all, there was an amazing lunch! I also managed to catch a glance of some rare artefacts held within the RSGS in relation to polar explorers and I even got to read some of the original findings of the first explorers to set foot in the north and south poles.
The third and final talk was by the society’s writer-in-residence, Jo Woolf. She dug deep into the archives of the RSGS to find stories of exploration and wrote a whole book about them called ‘The Great Horizon’ which I managed to get a signed copy of! At first, I thought I wasn’t going to be as interested in this talk as it started off about a young woman named Isobel Wylie Hutchison who was a botanist in the 1930s. I heard botanist and was a bit apprehensive, but the stories of her travels in Alaska were incredible and so beautifully detailed that the whole room was almost in tears by the end. I have no words to describe these stories so I would highly recommend reading into Isobel yourself or even buying Jo’s book as it really is terrific and so stunningly written.
I had doubts about whether I should go to this event as I know longer study Geography and I thought that I might be taking away from someone else, but I am so glad that I did. I feel so inspired by these women to explore some of the most hostile environments and to educate other people about these wonderful places.
If an opportunity like this ever arises, please take the chance, it was completely worth it.