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Today, 1 November 2011, we pay our respects to Captain Scott's Terra Nova sledging team who set out to conquer the South Pole exactly 100 years ago on 1 November 1911 from their base camp on Antarctica's Ross Island.

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Bleak times: Scott's Terra Nova expedition and pony-led sledges at the Great Ice Barrier a month after they left on 1 November 1911. Image from David Wilson's book, The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott. © Richard Kossow

On 1 November 1911, Captain Scott and his pony-led team left base camp in Antarctica's Ross Island for the South Pole. Scott was accompanied by support parties, innovative motor sledges (abandoned later on during the trip due to mechanical failure in the cold) and ponies for their ultimate journey south to conquer the Pole. The dog team had left Cape Evans a few days earlier. The day before, 31 October 1911, Scott wrote in his diary:

 

'The sun is shining and the wind dropping. Meares and Ponting are just off to Hut Point. Atkinson and Keohane will probably leave in an hour or so as arranged, and if the weather holds, we shall all get off to-morrow. So here end the entries in this diary with the first chapter of our History. The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success.'

 

On 1 November 1911, the day he actually set off, Scott recalled:

 

'This morning we got away in detachments – Michael, Nobby, Chinaman were first to get away about 11 A.M. The little devil Christopher was harnessed with the usual difficulty and started in kicking mood, Oates holding on for all he was worth. Bones ambled off gently with Crean, and I led Snippets in his wake. Ten minutes after Evans and Snatcher passed at the usual full speed. The wind blew very strong at the Razor Back and the sky was threatening – the ponies hate the wind.'

 

Many of Scott's early diary entries centred around the plight and personalities of the ponies, which he showed immense concern for throughout the journey, until they met their end.

 

In our 21st-century world of global communications and exclusive adventure holidays, it's hard to imagine what it would have felt like to embark on such remote expeditions into the unknown, and this is why Scott's diaries and photographs are all the more remarkable and poignant.

 

But as contemporary Antarctic explorer Felicity Aston says:

 

'Scott wasn’t on a suicide mission when he set out for the Pole. He had spent years making careful plans and preparations to mitigate the risks and give him and his men the best possible chance of success and survival. When they set out, they had every intention of returning. I think anyone setting out on an expedition that involves a degree of risk – even today – would feel exactly the same as Scott and his team.'

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Explorer Felicity Aston sets off on 1 November 2011 on her expedition to the South Pole to become the first woman to cross Antarctica alone. Below, preparing in Iceland last year. © Felicity Aston

Today, British explorer Felicity Aston, pictured above, is embarking on her 1,700km, 65-day journey to become the first woman in the world to cross Antarctica alone.

 

Last week, we asked her for some thoughts on her solo Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition and how things have changed since Scott's time.

 

'I don’t think satellite communications have affected our passion for exploration, they are simply a tool that allows us to push further and harder than ever before. Perhaps the biggest difference today is our ability to communicate the experience as it happens. Using social media and satellite technology I can share my adventure in real time with a worldwide audience – a century ago the public had to wait years.'

 

 

'Polar travel is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Success or failure has more to do with what is going on in your head than the size of your muscles. On this trip I will be completely by myself for 70 days which just adds to the mental pressure of the challenge so I think keeping myself motivated and focused for that length of time on my own will be the hardest part.

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'I feel equal amounts of nerves and excitement about my expedition. In my mind I am already in Antarctica and so there is a certain amount of frustration that even though I leave the UK in a few days, it will actually be three weeks before I start on my journey.Then there is the anxiety about whether I have thought of everything, whether I am prepared. But most of all I am looking forward to the calm that comes when I begin skiing – the expedition routine is strangely relaxing after all the hectic months of preparation!

 

'When I read about the adventures of others I always wonder if I would be capable of doing the same. Over the last ten years each of my expeditions has pushed me a little further mentally or physically but I still don’t feel that I have reached my limit. I would like to know where my personal limits are – perhaps I’ll find them on this journey.

 

'Strange as it may sound I am actually really looking forward to the experience of being alone in Antarctica. It is a fantastically magical place and to have it completely to myself will be an incredible privilege.'

 

We wish Felicity every success. Keep up to date with the Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic expedition on Felicity Aston's expedition blog.

 

Watch out for more Scott updates as we get ready for the opening of Scott's Last Expedition here at the Museum on 20 January 2012.

 

Find out about The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott

 

Explore the legacy of the ‘heroic era of Antarctic exploration’ that remains in Antarctica, including pre-fabricated huts used as base camps and the possessions the explorers left behind in them.

 

In our Antarctic Conservation blog discover what it’s like to work in Antarctica and follow the experiences of conservators working to preserve the artefacts left behind by the great explorers such as Scott.

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Planet Dinosaur may have finished its first airing on BBC One, but don't fret, you can follow up the jaw-dropping excitement here as the Planet Dinosaur Season tour stomps into the Museum for the school half-term holidays from 24 to 30 October. (I still can't get over that bizarre Hatzegopteryx flying monster with a flat-iron-thingy on its head in the final episode!)

 

For starters, next week we are showing episode one and its Spinosaurus star (below) on the multi-screens in the Attenborough Studio twice daily. You can drop in to a Planet Dinosaur film screening morning or afternoon, Monday 24 October to Sunday 30 October.

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Planet Dinosaur's Spinosaurus (meaning thorn lizard) giant. At 17 metres, possibly the biggest killer ever to walk the earth, this beast dominated the first episode of Planet Dinosaur. Using CGI and cutting-edge graphics, narrated by John Hurt, the 6-episode BBC series looked at the new dinosaur discoveries over the last two decades.

If you fancy building a Spinosaurus yourself, then join our Build a Dinosaur events running each day over half-term week, from Monday 24 October to Sunday 30 October.

 

Piecing together realistic spinosaur bones onto a frame - including the spine, vertebra, head, jaw, skull and so on - each Build a Dinosaur group will be given an instruction guide and DVD to help work out what goes where, and get the chance to be palaeontologists at work. You have about 25 minutes to build your dinosaur, and there are other fun things to do and explore in the gallery, including the BBC's new online game.

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At the Buid a Dinosaur daily activities we're running at half-term, children over 7 and adults can join groups in the Marine Invertebrates gallery to make a large-scale, 3-metre Spinosaurus dinosaur skeleton model.  Tickets are free, but advance booking is required.

There are several dino build sessions each day, but you need to book your free Build a Dinosaur activities in advance online.

 

Discover more about Spinosaurus in the online Dino Directory

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Interestingly, not many actual Spinosaurus bones have been found, so the British-found Baryonyx fossil remains were used, along with other more stylised dinosaur body parts, as templates for the skeleton you get to build.

 

Baryonyx is intriguing because it's the most complete spinosaur skeleton ever found and so has been really important to recent research on these fish-eating dinosaurs. And Baryonyx was the first-known dinosaur to like eating fish.

 

Learn more about the Baryonyx discoveries in our new video online

 

Right: Cleaning Baryonyx in the Dinosaurs gallery during the summer refurbishment

You can see a life-size skeleton cast of Baryonyx in the Dinosaurs gallery towards the end of the gallery and some fossil bones from the dig where it was found. I highly recommend this section of the newly-refurbished gallery, which was closed for modernisation and cleaning in the summer.

 

As well as the shining skeletons, revitalised exhibits, and more atmospheric T.rex pit, the refurbished Dinosaurs gallery boasts new graphics and many updated visual displays. (Tip, if you go early in the morning, there's more chance to avoid any potential holiday queues.)

 

Visitors to the Central Hall will also be able to see another of our famous dinosaurs in a new light on their half-term visit.

 

The 300 or more bones of our iconic Diplodocus skeleton in the Central Hall - known affectionately as Dippy - are being lit up in different colours as part of our I Love Dippy appeal to renovate the Central Hall. With a text or kiosk donation you can choose from a range of colours and even get Dippy to roar.

 

Below: One of the Central Hall Light up Dippy shows you may witness over half-term if you're in the Museum.

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There are lots more free family activities planned over half-term, including puppet shows, gallery characters, the Animal Vision show, and even the sheep are staying on in the Wildlife Garden for the week. Enjoy.


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Tonight, at a star studded awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum, London, the overall winners of the prestigious Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 competition were revealed. The awards ceremony hosts were wildlife expert and Chair of the Judges, Mark Carwardine, and eco lifestyle campaigner and advocate for organic living, Jo Wood.

 

 

The coveted title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year was presented to Daniel Beltrá from Spain for Still life in oil, a haunting image of 8 brown pelicans rescued from an oil spill, from his 6-image story for the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award.
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Still life in oil by Daniel Beltra, 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Daniel took his winning image at a temporary bird-rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. It’s the final frame in his incredible story of 6 photographs entered in the Wildlife Photojournalist category. Select all images to enlarge them.

 

Describing his winning image, Daniel says:

 

‘Crude oil trickles off the feathers of the rescued brown pelicans, turning the white lining sheets into a sticky, stinking mess. The pelicans are going through the first stage of cleaning. They’ve already been sprayed with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers.'

 

The sheer simplicity of this powerful image makes it really beautiful and shocking at the same time, ’ said the Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine. He and the international jury of photography experts pored over tens of 1000s of entries earlier in the year to make their winning selection.

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The price of oil by Daniel Beltra. The 6-frame winner of the Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award 2011. Flying over BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 made Daniel grasp the immensity of the problem. Photographing from a plane, Daniel 'was blown away by the insane colours' of oil gushing to the surface. He captured flashes of fluorescent orange as the boat propellers churned up the dispersant and left paths of clean water through the patches of black oil. Oiled brown pelicans awaiting a second bout of cleaning were for Daniel, 'an icon of the disaster'.

 

The Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year Award category was introduced in the 2010 competition and is given to a group of 6 photographs that tell a memorable story, whether about animal behaviour or environmental issues (both positive or negative).

 

 

Daniel Beltra reflects on his photographic work and interest: ‘It is in nature’s beauty and complexity that I find my inspiration. While in college in Madrid, I studied biology and forestry and developed a passion for the environment. Over the past two decades, I have honed my focus to concentrate on the need for conservation through photography.

 

 

Photographing from the air has allowed me to showcase the stark reality of the state of our environment. This perspective reveals a broader context to the beauty and destruction I witness, as well as a delicate sense of scale.’

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Mateusz Piesiak from Poland was named 2011 Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image Pester power above, in the 11–14 Years category. The 14-year-old Mateusz spent so long watching this pester power at work as he crawled along the wet sand off Long Island, New York, he didn’t notice the tide coming in until a big wave washed over him. ‘I managed to hold my camera up high,’ he says. ‘I was cold and wet, but I had my shot.’

 

Judge Mark Carwardine described the 2011 Young Wildlife Photographer's winning image, Pester power, as ‘Pin sharp, gorgeous subdued light, interesting behaviour, oodles of atmosphere, and beautiful composition. This would make any professional proud – and is doubly impressive for someone so young.’


Read more about the wildilife photography winners and the competition in the latest news story

 

See the true beauty and power of these images and the other commended and award-winning photographs at the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition when it opens on Friday 21 October.
Book exhibition tickets online now.

 

In the meantime feast your eyes on all the 2011 exhibtion photographs on the website's online gallery.

 

 

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Today lots of eager nature photographers and wildlife lovers will be excited to get a glimpse of the 67 commended wildlife images that have been selected by the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 competition judges.

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Paul Goldstein's Taking flight was photographed in the mists of Lake Nakuru, Kenya. It's one of the highly commended images in the Behaviour of Birds category among the 2011 entries.

Competition in the category awards is always fierce and not every image can be a winner or runner-up. But the judges like to acknowledge those that have been contenders with either a specially or highly commended recognition. And each year in the run-up to the winners announcement and the exhibition opening, we get the chance to preview these commended choices early. This year's commended selection includes these images from three British photographers.

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Territorial strut by Ross Hoddinott records a robin in the unusually cold spell last December in southern Britain. A highly commended image in the Animal Portraits category you'll be able to alight on at the exhibition.

Along with the as-yet-to-be-revealed winners, we think these images are among the best photos on the planet, and they've been handpicked from about 41,000 entries from 95 countries.

 

There are lots of bird images among the entries this year, I'm told. Maybe that's because birds are something that most people can photograph and get close to at home. Also I suspect because they are creatures that will never cease to beguile us with their mastery of flight and multitudinous feathery finery.

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Extreme foraging by Ron McCombe, another highly commended selection in the Behaviour of Birds category. It was taken on the snowy Scottish borders as a red grouse grappled with bitter East winds, recalled Ron.

Come and enjoy these photographs close up among the 108 images to feature in the exhibition when it opens from Friday 21 October in the Natural History Museum's Waterhouse gallery.

 

Read more about the commended images and this year's wildlife competition in the news story