Chill- out room

Martin Thompson in polar Cambridge

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is set to capture our imaginations as he prepares to tackle the solo crossing of Antarctica. But then British explorers have always had an obsession with conquering the Last Great Frontier. A trip to Cambridge offers a lively insight into their adventures of the past.

Named after the legendary Antarctic explorer, the Scott Polar Research Institute Museum contains a wide range of artefacts, memorabilia and equipment, telling the story of British polar exploration and research. As well as a well-presented overview of the natural riches of the polar regions, you will find objects such as the barrel organ William Parry took to the North Pole, and the brass buttons distributed to the Inuit by Sir John Franklin's wife, after his 1845 expedition failed to return. She hoped, in vain, that Sir John would somehow find a button and realise she had not given up the search.

To help bring the collections to life, and to stimulate wider interest in the polar regions, the museum holds special free "events". On the day we went, "Passport to Polar Adventure" was in full swing.

"Please pick up your passports here," announced the organiser, Dr Pam Davis, a veteran of two Antarctic research trips. On arrival, my children were handed "passports" to be stamped at the six polar stations dotted throughout the small museum. (As a novel twist, adults were allowed to travel on their children's passports.) After clambering on a motor sledge, we checked in at Base Camp and were offered the chance to get kitted out in bright orange helicopter immersion suits, designed to aid survival if you are unlucky enough to crash-land upside down on the ice.

Bob Najam, a life support systems engineer, explained that if you weigh 18 stone you may last on the ice for up to 17 hours, but your chances of getting out alive decrease in proportion to your body weight. Dieters take note.

Have you ever had an urge to experience what life feels like inside your fridge freezer? The next passport control point was named after Vostok station in Antarctica, the coldest place on earth. Here we had a chance to chill out in -30C, whilst incarcerated in room-sized chambers normally used for preserving ice specimens. After five minutes, the massive freezer door swung open, just as it seemed that hypothermia (not to mention claustrophobia) was about to set in. My seven-year-old daughter's reaction was to queue up immediately for a return to the Ice Kingdom.

Next stop, the popular Crevasse Rescue Station, with the museum's stairwell doubling as an Antarctic ice ravine. Experienced polar mountaineers were on hand to teach you how to winch yourself to safety.

"My shipmates call me Captain Joe. I'm the resident sea captain here and my mission is to guide you through the ice-floes." An impressive, barrel-chested figure, Joe Wubbold was once an icebreaker captain with the US Coastguard and is now becalmed at Cambridge doing his MA. In his beguiling drawl, he took us on an adventurous imaginary journey on a modern icebreaker pushing its way past icebergs and whales.

A cacophony of yelping led us on to the colony of husky dogs imported for the event, to be patted and harnessed as appropriate. Having been banned from the Antarctic as environmentally unfriendly in 1994 (as carriers of distemper, huskies were deemed dangerous to the seal population), these cheerful dogs are now restricted to appearing in shows in the Home Counties. "I always take the sledge along, just in case," explained their handler, Janet Ward of the Eskimo Dog Club of Great Britain.

Cambridge is a world centre for polar research. As well as a PhD student from Russia studying the properties of sea ice, seasoned Antarctic explorers and scientists were on hand to answer our questions. They were aided by fresh-faced polar research scientists, eagerly awaiting the call to be airlifted to the Falklands, the jumping off point for Antarctica.

My family happily spent four hours at the Scott Polar Research Institute Museum discovering that there is more to living and working in the frozen wastes than ice and more ice. Thanks to the museum displays, we really began to understand the buzz that lures scientists and explorers, such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes, to the earth's extremities. Being immersed in sub-zero temperatures and hauled out of a 30ft crevasse is a hunger-making business, and we gratefully pocketed a clutch of Penguin bars before heading home to the central heating.

The Scott Polar Research Institute Museum, Lensfield Road, Cambridge is open between 2.30pm and 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday. Admission is free. Special arrangements can be made for school groups.To find out about forthcoming special events, ring Dr Davis on 01223 336540.

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Service Charge Accountant

    30,000 to 35,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: We are currently recruiting on...

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence