Axing the British Antarctic Survey would mean the end of Scott's legacy?

Says the Graun. If you agree you can sign the petition. The issue is that “On June 7th 2012, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) announced that there is a strong strategic case for the merger of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) to take place, creating a new Centre encompassing polar and marine science”. As it says that was June, so this is old news (ah, but the consultation only started in 11 Sep 2012), but has suddenly blown up. Back in March JEB had news of cuts at NOC.

Note: I used to work there, but left at the end of 2007… gosh, nearly 5 years ago. So I have some sympathy for them. But then again, I left :-).

If you’re feeling brave, you should read the 9 pages of the consultation document. Some of it seems to be honest; other bits seem to be cunningly worded mgt/pol speak; I’m not sure I’m able to read it all correctly. But anyway: the reason for all this is Money, of course [*].

One thing I find rather revealing is that the document keeps saying “ocean and polar science”, again and again. Which is because there isn’t really all that much in common between the two.

How is this going to save money? That isn’t quite clear: the costs of relocation and /or of redundancy of staff depend on the detail of plans which are still to be developed, but as the proposals envisage maintaining all three current UK sites, these are not expected to be significant. I don’t know how to reconcile that with In terms of on-going savings post transition, savings arising from merging management structures, from merging some functions and from the more coherent and efficient planning of large scale infrastructure are to be expected. BAS and NOC both run ships, and perhaps there is some saving to be made there. But not much; we (oops, I mean BAS) already hire theirs out for the summer.

I was going to touch on the political aspects of this, but fortunately John Dudeney (long-ex-deputy director; I didn’t get on with him well) has done this for me:

Britain is pre-eminent in Antarctic affairs, both in science and in policy leadership. HMG’s long term objectives for an influential place in the international governance of Antarctica based on a world beating scientific programme which underpins the policy, have been outstandingly well served by BAS and the Polar Regions Unit of the FCO. Any proposal for a change in the status of BAS must be judged by whether it will maintain (and even enhance) this success, and there must be measurable indicators of success that demonstrate this is the case. Talk of scientific synergies between polar and ocean science is misleading unless this requirement of government is maintained, because the imperative for British presence in Antarctica at the current scale is political and territorial, and not scientific even though the science is of first quality.

Um. And he is saying that in defence of BAS. You see the problem, of course.

[*] I’ve read in the comments a few people saying “aha, don’t like the message, shut down the science, eh eh?” I don’t believe that.


* Cuts threat to UK Antarctic research on climate change Graun/Obs: Merging the British Antarctic Survey with the National Oceanography Centre will harm climate research, say scientists. Nice quote from Jon: “The British Antarctic Survey is almost synonymous with the Antarctic ozone hole. Losing it would create a comparable hole in British science.”
* Stupid times require stupid solutions, says Romney
* Decision looms on future for British polar research BBC. Oct 5th
* Gore wades into British Antarctic row
* British Antarctic Survey saved as merger plan is scuppered – um, maybe

Protecting the Arctic?

It am de report ob de House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Second Report of Session 2012–13, Volume I: Report, together with formal
minutes, oral and written evidence. And things like Arctic Methane Emergency Group? refer.

I don’t really have much to say, because Geoengineering Politics has said most of what needs saying. I find it somewhat disturbing how seriously the HoC seems to take the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, though.

Oh yeah, its got tipping points in it too, and that Tim Lenton. And Peter Wadhams.

Don’t rot your brains with this stuff. Read SoD on instability.


* HCTN 91 – MetOffice on sea ice.

Wadhams on seaice, again

h/t WTD. The Graun says

Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

and so on. Its all sourced to “an email to the Guardian” which unfortunately they don’t reproduce. Now is the time to mention the Arctic Methane Emergency Group of which Wadhams is a member, to his discredit.

There is some strange stuff in the article, such as [Wadhams] predicted the imminent break-up of sea ice in summer months in 2007 which I don’t think is true – certainly, no-one predicted that 2007 would be unusually low, as far as I know [*]. It does quote him as saying I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years which isn’t too impressive – it rather sounds like he has been predicting it, but it hasn’t happened, but he’s hoping (so to speak) that now he’s right: This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates. But I’m not sure where those predictions were may. And we don’t know quite what he means by “ice-free”.

I’ll be doing the round-up of the bets at the end of September, if you were wondering.

[*] Or maybe he made these predictions in 2007 (see comments).

Boston, etc

devil-duck-joy More misc, under a thin veneer.

I’ve been rowing again: the Boston Marathon.

For fans of short-sellers-are-all-irredeemably-evil brigade, try Bronte.

Our head isn’t too impressed with todays announced shake-up of the exam system: my heart sinks at the prospect of even more time spent on debating assessment rather than improving teaching and learning. Pols too keen on “leaving their mark” rather than knuckling down to work. Or indeed, leaving well enough alone.

Two views on Tyler Cowen (who he?)’s piece in the NYT about hunger.

La recolte

DSC_1828 It is early autumn, so an old man’s thoughts turn to his bees. Sadly neglected again, I wonder what they are up to? Have they produced a good honey harvest or – more likely given the rather unfortunate summer here – have they just survived? Happily I have some Apistan all saved up, and its, harumph, only a few months past its best-before date, so that’ll be fine.

This is going to be a long tedious post, since it occurs to me I’ve never done a proper one showing all the steps, and it might be fun. Its also a diary entry for my future reference. The first pix shows the hive as I found it – perhaps a touch overgrown. It doesn’t bother the bees, but I find it convenient to grub out some of the nettles.

Here’s the kit. Jacket with built-in veil, nice cotton ventile trousers (actually those are windies, ex-BAS stock from the Sally Army), wellies, secateurs (not needed) and the always-useful hive tool , also convenient for weeding. The leather gauntlets are also convenient for pulling up nettles with.


DSC_1829 I forgot my friend Mr Smoker. You feed him with cardboard, and he gives out smoke, which makes the bees more passive. I’m told its because it makes the bees think of forest fires, which makes them forget about attacking you can go off and fill up with honey in case they need to Abandon Hive. Well, who knows, they are very small and have only tiny brains.

He’s stuffed up with dried grass because if you put in fresh grass last time then the cardboard stops burning and you can use it again next time because you forgot to bring any fresh out with you.

DSC_1830 That’s much better, isn’t it. Weeds all gone. Ahem.

Notice that the alighting board has rotted away. I got this hive stand from a friend about 10 years ago who was giving up keeping, and I fear that come next spring or summer I really am going to have to find the time to renew it.

DSC_1831 Take the roof off, and the crown board, and here’s the top super. Um. Not much there. Not even blank sheets of wax, because when I did this – in spring – I didn’t have any spare wax, so I just gave them empty frames, vaguely hoping that the might fill it in nicely. But alas they haven’t been busy enough for that – looks like it won’t be a bumper harvest.

Note that the bars aren’t black with fire, its just that the wax gets that colour with time as it ages and the bees teensy tiny little feet walk over it.

Lets move on down.

DSC_1832 At last, there is something there. But not much. Lets pull out a frame and see what we can see.

DSC_1833 Well, there’s honey there, you can see it glinting. Quite dark-looking too. Only some of it is capped though – that patch at the top you can see. The bees cap the honey when its ready – when they’ve evaporated it enough that it won’t ferment, which means that they can store it over winter or I can steal it.

DSC_1834 Same frame, in close-up.

DSC_1835 As I work down, I put the supers in reverse order on top of the upturned lid. This would work a bit better if the roof were flat, like in most hives.

Notice the coloured spacers at the end of the frames. These are convenient though purists complain that they prevent you adjusting them close.

DSC_1836 Now we’re at the bottom super. Again, some combs with a reasonable amount of honey in them, but not much sealed. By now its clear that it isn’t really worth me taking the honey off. I’ll just leave them with it, they’ll live on it over winter, and any spare can be harvested in the spring. Oh well.

DSC_1837 Looking down from above. The space between the comb is packed with bees.

They like to stay safe in the darkness.

DSC_1840 Lifting out a frame to look, the bees cling on. They act like a semi-fluid mass, and drip off in globs. Today they are all in a pretty good mood – no anger, no attempt to sting at all. Its quite warm, quite still, and I haven’t done anything in particular to wind them up, so maybe this is my reward.

DSC_1841 The bucolic scene. Mr Smoker perfumes the air. Ah, but he has been joined by a friend. Who is that? Its Mr Apistan, foe of mites.

DSC_1842 In more detail. Apistan comes in strips: you hang a pair in the brood box down in between the combs. The bees walk over it, pick up the stuff, and transmit it through the hive and ideally it kills all the naughty varroa mites.

If you don’t do this about once a year (using Apistan, or whatever this year’s flavour of anti-varroa stuff is) then the mites overwhelm the bees and the hive dies. Apparently its a tropical bee parasite, and tropical bees are smaller, and able to groom off the mites, so they don’t get wiped out. Another problem of globalisation.

This means that there are, essentially, no wild honey bee hives in the UK. Or, I presume, Europe.

DSC_1843 With the last super off, we come to the queen excluder – just a board outline holding wires, carefully spaced so the bees can get through but the queen, who is significantly larger, can’t. So she is confined to the brood box and can only lay larvae in there. If she started laying in the supers, you’d get baby bee juice in your honey, and you wouldn’t like that.

DSC_1844 Another of the many fascinating things about bees is the way they stick their hive together. Here (and here and here and here) we see the propolis and wax that so effectively gums up the hive, glueing one super to another and the frames into the supers.

DSC_1849 Oh look! A bright orange spot. In a well-regulated hive, this might be a sign of the queen – what you’re supposed to do, once you’ve caught the queen, is to mark her with a dot of paint so you can easily find her again. I’ve always found that its the first “once you’ve caught the queen” that’s the killer, and I don’t bother. Wise bee keepers never venture down into the depths and mysteries of the Brood Box. Though it looks as though I really ought to renew some of the frames in there.

So, oh yes, the orange spot: its pollen (perhaps a Truely Excellent botanist would be able to deduce the plant 🙂 which the bees need for protein, I think. A good sign.

DSC_1854 And lastly… its impossible to keep bees without killing some. But never mind: the thing that is really alive is the hive; individual bees are like hair or fingernails, and are disposable.


* The Beetard
* “Spring” bees, actually June
* Autumn 2011

Mocking Islam

Good grief of course people are mocking Islam, if Islam leads to this kind of stupidity. They are pretty well mocking themselves. Bit of a shame they need to kill people to do it.


(Incidentally, did you know that Depictions of Muhammad are only mostly [*] forbidden (in those versions of Islam which do forbid it) because the “key concern is that the use of images can encourage idolatry”. Which means images that take the piss are fine).

[*] Updated: apologies for the inaccurate paraphrase of my source.


hvs Ah, superb.


Sorry for the all-caps, I couldn’t be bothered to re-type it without.