Research: Georgia on my mind

Ray Thirkettle ANL-141121-145716001
Ray Thirkettle ANL-141121-145716001
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An electrician from Heacham has left his home comforts for a 13-month contract working on a remote island in the South Atlantic. Ray Thirkettle is now based at South Georgia with the British Atlantic Survey (BAS) as an electrical technician – and taking his turn to cook.

It’s his second excursion to the other side of the world, having taken a four-month break from his job at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2012 to join the BAS Halley Research station on Antarctica.

Ray Thirkettle in Antarctica ANL-141121-145727001

Ray Thirkettle in Antarctica ANL-141121-145727001

This time, however, he has said farewell to the QEH where he has been an electrician for the past seven years.

And now his role will be to support and assist the scientists at King Edward Point laboratory who are investigating the sustainable management of valuable and commercial fisheries around the island.

More than 7,500 miles away, he will be keeping in contact with his wife Pauline through emails, telephone and possibly even Skype.

The couple recently took centre stage at a meeting of King’s Lynn Society of Arts and Sciences when Mr Thirkettle gave a lecture on his experiences at the Halley station.

Our review of the lecture is by Gareth Calway, who writes:

Ray Thirkettle’s 2012-13 career break from Lynn’s QEH was 10,000 miles away from the usual – four months as electrical support technician at Halley Research Station on Antarctica!

A packed Marriott’s Warehouse audience of Lynn’s arts and science cognoscenti – 65 members and visitors – sat enthralled by his relaxed, informative retrospective.

His celebration of the state-of-the-art equipment and design-award winning buildings at the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Halley station – well-represented by slides of beautifully photographed Antarctic exteriors and interiors – and of the cutting-edge science pursued there caused a swell of British pride, though also, one suspects, an appreciation of British summers as opposed to the snow beaches of the Antarctic coast.

An appreciation of science as an international collaborating community was brought home. Halley and (yes) Belgrano, the British and Argentinian stations, for example, give mutual support necessary to survive and access this unforgiving continent, despite the best efforts of politicians (BAS now has to arrive via Chile rather than Argentina) to impede them.

Mr Thirkettle’s succinct lecture was extended almost to double its length by what one audience member jokingly dubbed, “Well, he didn’t expect the Antarctic Inquisition!’

It was unusual for a speaker to accept so many questions, for them to be so searching and to facilitate such detailed answers about Antarctica, the station’s progressive eco systems, global warming, hope for a science-pioneered future and how Mrs Thirkettle feels about being a science widow. If not quite as carefree as her response implied, ‘fantastic’ certainly seemed the general verdict on the talk.