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FEBRUARY 2020

From the Chair:
Stephen Scammell

Dear Friends of the Wilkins Foundation,

To follow our productive first year we’re looking to an exciting 2020 in which we aim to ‘Bring Wilkins Home’ and give effect to the motto of Australian of the Year and our inspirational Patron, Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris SC OAM: ‘Unlock Your Inner Explorer!’
 
We thank the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Fund for its support of the Foundation in the form of a generous grant that will enable us to upgrade our website and commence the development of a timeline of Sir Hubert’s life. Our resident historian and board member, Dr Stephen Carthew, expands on these objectives below in this newsletter.
 
The visit to Adelaide and the Mid-North of SA by our 2019 Wilkins Orator, Laura J Kissel, Curator of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program at the Ohio State University, was a turning point for the Foundation. It strengthened bonds between the Foundation and the OSU, the major custodian of Wilkins materials and artefacts. We thank Laura for her fine contribution and look forward to working with her for years to come in pursuit of our aim of identifying, transcribing and digitising important Wilkins-related documents.
 
Planning is already underway for the Wilkins Oration 2020 to be held in October with engaging speakers at a convenient first-class venue suited to our members’ needs. More on this in months ahead as we lock down details.
 
With regret we have farewelled from the Foundation board the excellent Heather Riddell, whose top-level skills and contacts generated so much positive publicity for us. Her good judgement and sunny disposition will be sorely missed. We wish Heather and her husband John the very best in their world travels post-retirement, she from public relations activities and he from his longstanding key role as TV news anchor at Channel 7.
 
We are, however, delighted to welcome a new board member, Geoff Strempel, Director of the State Library of South Australia. It was Geoff who conceived and executed the plan to join all Adelaide libraries together as a single seamless lending entity, and the Foundation will benefit from his organisational talents and business acumen. Read Geoff’s profile hereWe look forward to hearing from Geoff in the next newsletter.
 
Recognising that our diverse and fast-growing contingent of Friends represents vast experience and abilities, we intend to be more interactive this year. 
What do you think the Foundation should do?
What contribution would you like to make?
Please email us with your suggestions and offers of assistance.

Stephen.

From the Historian:
Dr Stephen Carthew

My eight years of reading, writing and speaking about Captain, Sir George Hubert Wilkins have been enriched by researchers, biographers, archivists and Wilkins family members. While I have been absorbed in the question: ‘What made Wilkins tick?’ I recognise that it will never be fully answered. However, I hope an e-book of my research will be available on the website later this year, and that it will provide some answers.
 
Trawling biographies and other sources of information about his character, values, ethics and beliefs have helped me understand better Sir Hubert Wilkins: Enigma of Exploration – as John Grierson so aptly named the first of the Wilkins biographies (1960). His half a dozen biographers to date are still scratching their heads about how he could have achieved so much, and why he is still relatively unrecognised in Australia – even in South Australia, his home state. The Wilkins Foundation aims to rectify this national and local oversight, and we will enlist your help wherever possible.
 
While Wilkins always maintained his Australian citizenship and returned home from time to time, he pursued opportunities in London as an explorer and WW1 cinematographer, and then based himself in the ‘can-do’ United States from 1925 until his death in 1958. The generous grant from the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fund will enable us to locate his exploits alongside those of his Australian contemporaries in the world of aviation and exploration.
 
Our timeline project will summarise each year of his life and detail significant activities, rather like the Ohio State University’s Polar Timeline.

Entries in the OSU’s ‘Polar Timeline’ already include digitised original documents. For example the web story, ‘Under the North Pole: The Voyage of the Nautilus’ includes links to primary sources that explain more about the expedition than any author could hope to do, and helps to Bring Wilkins Home for all Australians.
 
The Wilkins timeline will include episodes not mentioned in the OSU's Polar Timeline. By clicking onto ‘significant months’, documents already digitised will pop up under the date of their creation, such as letters, documents, awards and newspaper articles.
 
We plan to have these documents transcribed, using Trove-like technology where an identifiable reader can log on to make changes where the computer has misread imperfect typeface, and correct text that a computer cannot recognise but the human eye can.

The 100-Years-On celebrations

The Timeline Project leads into ‘100-years-on’ anniversary celebrations, such as his first trip to the Antarctic in 1920-21; time as Chief of the Scientific Staff with Shackleton during 1921-1922; time in Russia documenting a famine for the Society of Friends (Quakers).

The 1922-25 collecting expedition in tropical Australia for the British Museum is particularly important in understanding Wilkins – and his forgotten status. Records reveal Wilkins’s concern for the treatment of Indigenous Australians and his friendly relationship with them. He was also outspoken about the degradation of the environment and loss of species.
 
This expedition foreshadowed Wilkins’s internationally acclaimed Arctic and Antarctic flights of 1928. Having determined that there was no new land on which to build a ring of meteorological stations in the Arctic, he planned his greatest adventure: the refitting of a WWI submarine as a scientific laboratory to research above and below the ice. The diaries, field notes and other documents relating to the 1920s and early 1930s are likely to be a treasure trove, especially since this was the period of Wilkins’s world-wide fame. 100-Years-On anniversary dates should make Wilkins the household name he was destined to be. Wilkins is a worthy hero who would join our Patron in encouraging all Australians to ‘Unlock Your Inner Explorer’.

What was Sir Hubert up to 100 years ago today?


In February 1920 Wilkins, still in uniform, had returned to England from Crete where they had left the Blackburn Kangaroo. He was helping CEW Bean organise the war records; dealing with insurance issues regarding the 1919 flight accident; planning a trip to Australia in the middle of the year - when he would be officially discharged - and giving his name to an expedition to the Antarctic later in the year. He was also drawing up his bigger weather plans which would absorb so much of his life. He was busy in his quiet, thoughful way.

Upcoming events

Salut D'Amour

Jonathon Glonek, who played violin for us at the conclusion of the Wilkins Oration 2019, is giving a Valentine’s Eve concert titled Salut D'Amour on 13th February.
More information and tickets here.

The Loneliest Woman

The Loneliest Woman is a Wilkins-related play written by Adelaide identity Peter Maddern. Showing at The Fringe between the 28th February – 8th March.

The Loneliest Woman focuses on a visit from William Randolph Hearst to Wilkins’s wife Suzanne, when Sir Hubert and his crew of the submarine Nautilus had lost contact with the world. The relationships between Wilkins, Suzanne and Hearst are teased out, while an account of the expedition is told through the perspectives of Suzanne, Hearst and the radioman from the Hearts-owned New York American. The play stars Michelle Nightingale as Suzanne, Adrian Barnes as William Randolph Hearst, and Mark Healy as the radio operator, Don Iverson.

More information and tickets here.

Facebook page for the show.

Wilkins in the media

In case you missed Clare Peddie’s fine feature in 27 January Boomer, you can read the feature here, together with reader responses from the following week's edition. Reproduced with kind permission of The Advertiser. 

@WilkinsFndn
wilkinsfoundation.org.au
Copyright © 2020 The Sir Hubert Wilkins Foundation, All rights reserved.


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