Category Archives: Listener science

Ernest Shackleton’s 100-year-old whisky

When Ernest Shackleton was ordering provisions for his 1907 expedition to Antarctica, he made it clear that along with the requisite tins of herrings, mulligatawny soup, gooseberry jam and marmalade, he and his men required a supply of whisky. Not … Continue reading

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A different kind of cold

They say for every 10°C drop in temperature, it’s a “different kind of cold”. The -20°C I experienced camping at Friis Hills in Antarctica was certainly new for me, but the geologists I was with seemed unconcerned: their minds were … Continue reading

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Scott’s Hut: revisited

Few people conjuring up the “most comfortable dwelling place imaginable” are likely to picture a wooden shelter on an island off the coldest continent on Earth. But that’s how Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott described the hut at Cape Evans … Continue reading

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Breathless in Antarctica

Camping in Antarctica last December, I noticed that even though it was extremely cold, -10°C to -20°C, our exhalations didn’t make visible clouds. When the helicopter landed to pick us up, though, our breath appeared as dense white clouds. Why … Continue reading

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A tribute to my father: Nigel Priestley (1943-2014)

First published in the Listener, issue 3898, 22 January 2015. One day, shortly before I started school, my father took me to his work at the Ministry of Works’ central laboratories, where he was head of structures. When his colleagues … Continue reading

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The dawning of the age of Anthopocene

This article first appeared in The Listener, issue 3716, 30 July 2011 As a geology student in the late 1980s, I learnt a mnemonic to remember the various geological periods, epochs and ages that make up Earth’s history. It started … Continue reading

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