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Interview with Christopher Wilson, author of “Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebook”


About Christopher Wilson

christopher Wilson2 (2)Christopher J. Wilson Dip Eco (Cork), FZS is the great nephew of Dr Edward A. Wilson, who died with Captain Scott and his party on their return from the South Pole in 1912. He is widely travelled, having spent time on all the continents of the world and has completed eight full seasons in Antarctica having first travelled to that Continent in 1999 on the Antarctic Circumnavigation. Born in the UK, he was educated in both UK and Africa, was a London policeman for 16 years and moved to Ireland in 1981. He completed a Field Ecology Diploma at University College Cork in the mid 1990s. Currently he is self employed as an Environmental Consultant based in County Wexford, Ireland specialising in field survey work (particularly birds).

A highly respected ornithologist with over thirty-five years of bird ringing experience, in Ireland, UK and Australia, he includes in his scientific accolades the organisation of staff and volunteers in numerous ornithological surveys of national and international importance. Before taking early retirement in 2007, Christopher worked for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, for 16 years, serving as warden of Ireland’s premier wildfowl reserve, ‘Wexford Wildfowl Reserve’. In 2000, Christopher spent a year working for the Wildlife Service in South Australia where his expertise in Goose Management, Bird Ringing (including Cannon Netting experience) Bird and Butterfly Survey work were useful attributes to the job he was involved in. Christopher currently has his only weekly newspaper column and a regular slot on local radio. He regularly contributes to a wide number of wildlife magazines, makes radio and television programs and featured in a half-hour television wildlife documentary on his work as a wildlife warden. He has two web pages, the firstwww.snowysheathbill.com relates to his Antarctic wildlife work and the second www.wildside.ierelates to local news, views, comment, opinion and wildlife sightings in his home County, Co. Wexford.
He is an accomplished photographer contributing to numerous wildlife books. His own publications include: ‘High Skies – Low Lands, An Anthology of The Wexford Slobs and Harbour’ (1996); ‘Wildfile – A Guide to Irish Wildlife’ (1997); ‘Wildlife Quiz and Amazing Facts Book’ (1999) – with a second edition (2002); ‘Edward Wilson’s Nature Notebooks’ – published in November 2004;’The Lepidoptera of County Wexford’ (2009) and ‘Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebooks’ (2011). Christopher lectures extensively on birds and wildlife and is the current chair of the Wexford Naturalists’ Field Club. He states that his personal motto of “Birds are my Passion, Wildlife my Nature” actively describes his interest, love and passion for our environment and its biodiversity.

To find out more about the author you can visit him at:

http://www.antarcticbookshop.com

http://antarcticnews.blogspot.com

The Interview

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

The answer to this is very simple though also actually complicated – I was born into the family of one of the greatest of the Antarctic Heroic Age Explorers – Edward Wilson of the Antarctic. That he was a man that was also an outstanding and leading scientist of his time, and superb watercolour artist adds to an incredible story. That he died with Captain Scott on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912 adds to the fascination. Edward Wilson never reached his 40th birthday and yet he contributed so much to our art and science legacy that influences us ALL today. He was a man of incredible talent, ‘very private’, yet a rock of strength, an incredible character, hugely self-sacrificing, unassuming, down to earth, having a deep moral code, profoundly honest and deeply religious. A reputation as a mediator and peacemaker; came to care little for originality and greatly for TRUTH, whether scientific, artistic, spiritual or physical – he really was a man above normal men. One can try, but never will reach the goals that he achieved. My brother David and I had to do both Notebooks to just ‘try’ and show what an astonishing person this Edward Wilson of the Antarctic really was.

What cause are you most passionate about and why?

Without doubt my many Natural History projects – I believe in many monitoring population projects, and the sharing of information for all to appreciate what we have in this world of ours. For example one of my current drives is to try and convince the Irish Government to sign The Antarctic Treaty – how is it that Ireland is the only Country in the World that was involved in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and yet has not signed this very important Treaty designed to help to preserve and protect the Antarctic for peaceful non-military purposes and encourages scientific cooperation. I have instigated projects in South Australia, where I was involved in the National Parks – these I love to keep in contact with, I write a weekly newspaper column about local, national and international natural history issues – again all because of my love of our natural history. My own personal motto actively describes what I am about: Birds are my passion, wildlife my nature.

What are you currently working on?

I have quite a few projects ‘on the go’. Working with geese on the North Slob, Wexford; studying butterflies with continual monitoring work; organizing cetacean monthly surveys across the Irish Sea; organizing an Odonata Survey through my County in Wexford, Ireland; Chair of the Wexford Naturalists’ Field Club – we are in the middle of organizing a Children’s Art Competition; Working on a 25 part Radio Series – Wexford’s Wild Heritage (this spans a year and is producing a book on Co. Wexford’s Wildlife at the end of the series – due next year); Lecturing on my Great Uncle, Edward Wilson – this in Ireland, UK – Scilly Isles in 2013 and New Zealand 2013. My lecture skills (Great Uncle and Wildlife related matters) are in constant demand and apart from Schools, interested Groups and various corporate after dinner wildlife lectures I do enjoy the Cruise Ship contracts – I find this an enjoyable way of meeting, sharing and passing on wildlife experiences that I have had the privilege of being involved in around the globe.

If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?

I would ‘not’ change one day as I would not be ‘me’ if any part of my life was changed. I am made up of the positives and negatives of my life and they have given me the experience that I have. So to change a day would make a mockery of my life….. yes I have made mistakes, yes there are lots of things I could change, but that is with hindsight and if I did change any part of any day, week, month or year of my past life I would not be me and I could not share what I love and believe in.

What is your favorite past-time?

Sharing, through the median of lecturing, radio and the written word my love of our natural world particularly Antarctica, Ireland, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Falklands, New Zealand and South America. I am always more than delighted to share, through the power of pictures and words some of the delights of our natural world. To be out there, in so many environments, enjoying our wild birds, animals, butterflies, and dragonflies – particular interests of mine – and enjoying the sounds as well as their beauty can only be fully enjoyed through seeing the ‘enjoyment in others’ if I have painted the picture properly.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I love to share my considerable experiences in birds and natural history and really enjoy lecturing. Subjects include Bird Ecology, Seabirds, Bird Ringing/Banding, Penguins, Butterflies, Dragonflies and the Fauna and Flora of many places around the world. Much of my experiences have been gained from working in the field as an ornithologist and survey organizer in Ireland, UK, Australia and in the Cruise Ship industry lecturing in Antarctica about natural history and also my Great-Uncle Edward Wilson of the Antarctic.

About Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebook

Edward Wilson's 1We are enraptured by the images captured by the camera lens for the BBC’s Frozen Planet. But when the nation’s imagination was first seized by polar exploration a century ago, Robert Falcon Scott’s team heading for the South Pole in 1911 had no means of recording colour images other than the skills of the chief of the scientific staff on the expedition, the self-taught artist Edward Wilson.

Wilson, who had also travelled with Scott on his earlier Antarctic expedition in 1901-04, was a gifted depictor of landscape and wildlife, and his images combine accuracy with humanity and humour, ensuring a record of the voyages that not only provides invaluable research material, but also a fascinating insight into the personalities involved and the challenges they faced.

To coincide with the centenary of Scott’s final expedition, Wilson’s great-nephews, David and Christopher Wilson, have brought together images and texts from the great southern expeditions in Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebooks (Reardon Publishing). Their ancestor died with his colleagues, but his legacy is the work that conveys, with timeless power, the challenges and rewards of polar exploration. Edward’s combination of record and interpretation is the epitome of expedition artwork.


1 comment to Interview with Christopher Wilson, author of “Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebook”

  • Patrick Alley

    Dear Christopher,

    I was lucky enough to travel as a ships doctor on a small(2000 tons) ship talking 50 or so passengers to the Ross Sea. I visited the hut at Cape Evans and found there a “stash” of thyroid extract which apparently was quite unused. That set me on a path of discovery and I have made progress. The decision to take this to the Antarctic was clearly made after the main order for medical supplies was completed by Burroughs Wellcome in London ( I recently spent a day there researching it) Between the time Terra Nova left London and arrived at Cardiff on 10 June 1910 Atkinson Levick and your great uncle had either singly or collectively made a decision about the thyroid extract because there is a cable from Cardiff to Wellcome saying please send 15 x 100 tablets of the stuff. I am presently searching the diaries at the Scott Polar Institute but wondered if you had any diaries of Edward Wilson for the period of early June 1910 that might shed light on it.

    I have another tale to tell you. My wife and i picked a bed and breakfast off the internet recently. It was in a little village in the Cotswold’s. On the bookshelves I noticed a lot of books on polar exploration and asked about her interests.Her father was Edward Wilson’s godson! On her stairwell wall are about twelve of his exquisite watercolours. A remarkable coincidence.

    I also note you are coming to New Zealand in 2013 – I’d be honoured and pleased to catch up with you then if at all possible

    All good wishes

    Patrick

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