Polar Notes

Sep 2023

Celebrations for NERC Arctic Station leader, Nick Cox.

The polar world gathered on Saturday 9 September at Wolfson College in Cambridge for a very special celebration. Nicholas (Nick) Cox retired from the British Antarctic Survey last year and his family, friends and colleagues came together to mark his enormous contribution to polar life and research in the Antarctic and Arctic.

Nick Cox (MBE & amp; Polar Medal with 2nd Clasp) joined the Survey in 1975 and has variously been boatman, builder, general assistant, dog driver, polar guide and base commander of the Signy research station in the South Orkney Islands, Antarctica. Most recently he was the Station Leader at the NERC Arctic Station in Svalbard. Nick had worked in Svalbard for many years, working with inspirational researchers such as Brian Harland, dividing his time between Antarctic and Arctic summers. In the early 1990s, Nick was instrumental, with Brian, Terry Callaghan and others in persuading the Natural Environment Research Council to invest in a permanent UK research station on the western coast of Spitsbergen at Ny-Ålesund. His dedication, skill and enthusiasm was undoubtedly a key selling point. ‘Harland Huset’ was designed to Nick’s exacting standards and has become a comfortable, safe and welcoming home from home for many hundred researchers since then.

NERC Arctic Research Station, Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard.

The Station recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and goes from strength to strength, with the support of the BAS Operations Team and NERC head office. Nick was an inspirational leader of what was – and still is – the UK’s only permanent Arctic research facility. Tough when he needed to be, patient and kind always. Keen to pass on his knowledge, especially to early career researchers, to spread his love of Svalbard, the Arctic and the polar regions as a whole. Nick has the special talent of getting things done, but done safely. He was instrumental in professionalising so much of polar work in the wider community in Svalbard. His commitment to supporting real international collaboration was amply demonstrated in the warm relations with the Norwegian hosts and the teams at the stations and the 40+ flags hanging in the station of the nations whose researchers have worked from the UK station. To have shared an evening with Nick and colleagues in the Station’s sitting room after a long day in the field, with the glacial ice gently popping in his famous gin and tonics, the candle-light playing on the naturally sculpted ice fished out from the fjord earlier in the day, and the midnight sun shining through the windows was a truly special moment. No one who has been lucky enough to have done that will forget it quickly.

In 2022 the Station was renamed ‘Harland-Cox Huset’ in Nick’s honour, in grateful acknowledgement from his British and Norwegian colleagues of his inspirational leadership and contributions over more than three decades to life in Ny-Ålesund. We all wish Nick a long, happy and fulfilling retirement and many more polar adventures.

Nick Cox outside newly named NERC Arctic Research Station, 'Harland-Cox Huset'

The NERC Arctic Station is available to use by all UK-based researchers and their international colleagues. Full details of the Station, its facilities, recent science upgrades and application details can be found here https://www.arctic.ac.uk/uk-arctic-research-station/. An interactive 3D ‘walkthrough’ of the Station is also available through this link.

New applications to use the Station and its facilities are always welcome. The Station is supported and promoted by the NERC Arctic Office. Based at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge the Office supports the work of UK-based Arctic scientists in universities, research centres and many other institutions. It does this by:

- Working alongside researchers to develop new opportunities for science partnerships, especially international programmes

- Developing international scientific cooperation across all aspects of Arctic research

- Providing advice to policy and decision makers.

Through its team, the Office co-ordinates the UK’s engagement and representation in a number of international Arctic research settings and organisations. The head of the Office, Henry Burgess, is the current President of the International Arctic Science Committee. The Office is working closely with the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Government and many others in hosting the major international Arctic Science Summit Week in Edinburgh in March 2024. More details on this event at https://www.assw.info/

In the longer term, the NERC Arctic Office will be supporting the delivery of the 5th International Polar Year 2032-33 to create the most lasting and beneficial impact for UK-based Arctic scientists.

You can contact the NERC Arctic Office via arctic@bas.ac.uk, sign up to their monthly mailing list via www.arctic.ac.uk and follow on Twitter/X via @Arctic_Office

Ny-Alesund, Svalbard