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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Happy Belated International Bagpipe Day

Better late than never! International Bagpipe Day was March 10. What does this have to do with anything? My own interest in polar exploration started with reading about the “third pole,” climbs of Annapurna and Everest, when I was about fifteen. I went on to read many accounts by Arctic and Antarctic explorers. Ferguson Fleming’s Barrow’s Boys is a good introduction. When I taught classes in the History Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, I taught classes on the history of polar exploration. Next January I will fulfill a long-held desireto travel to Antarctica.

In At First Sight, Max Grant is a member of Clan Grant and the sound of bagpipes does make an appearance at the Grant family Christmas celebration. The men all wear kilts in the Clan Grant tartan.

But the following is also a story of Antarctic exploration. Cress Taylor, who participated in the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Program, wrote her first novel about Scott and Shackleton.

"In 1902, Scotland sent explorers on an official national expedition to Antarctica, headed up by polar scientist and naturalist William S. Bruce. In a uniquely Scottish twist, the two-year-long Scottish National Antarctic Expedition included a position that probably no other country found necessary: an official piper.

Gilbert Kerr, the official piper of the Scotia crew, was tasked with maintaining morale—but he became a postcard icon by posing for the photo above, in which he played the bagpipes in full Highland dress next to an Emperor penguin."

“The Time a Scotsman Played Bagpipes for a Penguin in Antarctica”

Mental Floss, Shaunacy Ferro, 2016

Royal Scottish Geographical Society

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