Imperial issue 41

Page 13

23 Expedition to Kashmir The pictures in this feature show images of the overland expedition to Kashmir undertaken in 1960 by Imperial students Michael Armstrong (Physics 1960), Alan Duncan (Physics 1961), Dennis Fulford (Physics 1960), Robert Grasty (Physics 1961, PhD Physics, 1964) and David Murphy (Aeronautics 1960). Clockwise from left: On the road to Sivas, outbound to Turkey; Mianeh to Zanjan, Iran; lunch, west of Erzurum; resting by Lake Garda.

ON EXPEDITION KASHMIR. GHANA. BOLIVIA. CORNWALL. SINCE 1956, IMPERIAL’S EXPEDITION BOARD HAS BEEN SENDING STUDENTS IN SEARCH OF SCIENCE, ADVENTURE AND… A REPORT FOR THE ARCHIVE. Words: Wiliam Ham Bevan

Imperial’s student explorers have reached the roof of the world in the Himalayas and plunged miles underground in the cave systems of Slovenia. They’ve tackled a wide range of missions, from repairing bridges for remote African communities to surveying the “cockroaches and wood-rotting macrofungi” of Papua New Guinea. And then they have come back and filed a report for the Exploration Board. Founded in 1955, the Board includes student, staff and alumni representatives drawn from across the university, plus external members co-opted for their specialised medical and mountaineering knowledge. Dr Lorraine Craig, Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) in the Faculty of Engineering, and the Board’s current chairman, says: “It was set up to consider proposals for expeditions, advise the Rector and administer funds. From the start, it was a collaboration between the College, the old Student Associations and the Students’ Union, and it still is. The Union gives us money every year, and that’s an important principle.”

The records of the earliest trips offer a valuable and sometimes humorous insight into a very different age of exploration. Team members are mentioned somewhat formally by surname only, and the diaries are permeated with a gentlemanly, stiff-upperlipped stoicism. When a roped-up student falls into a crevasse during a 1957 trip to Karakoram, Pakistan, the writer drily notes that he “disappeared rather rapidly from sight to find himself dangling upside down... with nothing very much below him”. When read through the lens of modern sensibilities, the reports throw up some surprises. The 1957 expedition to Arctic Norway includes an acknowledgement to “Philip Morris & Co. Ltd. and W.D. & H.O. Wills” for supplying free cigarettes. Likewise, there is something very much of its time in the team’s tribute to a Norwegian field nurse “for her pluck and stamina in carrying out a mansized job” when aiding a medical evacuation. However, the first all-female expedition would take place only three years later, when a pair of undergraduate zoologists travelled to the Caribbean island of St Kitts to survey