Texas Tech University

Professor's Antarctic Expedition Featured in Museum Exhibit

John Davis

January 30, 2015

Professor's Antarctic Expedition Featured in Museum Exhibit

'Antarctica – Pioneering American Explorations of the Frozen Continent' runs Jan. 30 – Dec. 20.

F Alton Wade
F. Alton Wade

Battling roaring winds, freezing temperatures and deep crevasses, the young lead geologist for the Eastern Sledge Party joined the Second Byrd Expedition to Antarctica in 1933. While there, he endured a 77-day sled journey into the unknown of Marie Byrd Land, the western portion of the continent lying east of the Ross Ice Shelf and Ross Sea.

That was the beginning of a love affair with Antarctica for F. Alton Wade, a Horn Professor, former chairman of the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University and a research associate at the Museum of Texas Tech University.

Starting at Texas Tech in 1954, he led six Texas Tech Antarctic expeditions. His adventures are detailed  in “Antarctica – Pioneering American Explorations of the Frozen Continent,” a new exhibit running Jan. 30 – Dec. 20 at the Museum of Texas Tech University.

“In 1939, Wade returned to the icy frontier as senior scientist for the United States Antarctic Service to plan and manage the expedition's scientific program as well as command the cutting-edge Snow Cruiser, which was a mobile research lab equipped with an airplane on its roof,” said exhibits manager Andy Gedeon. “In 1971, he created the Antarctic Research Center at the Museum of Texas Tech University to further advance the discoveries of the Texas Tech expeditions. Wade was one of the first groups of professors to be awarded a Horn Professorship, which is the highest honor bestowed upon a faculty member. His fascinating research and his rank as a Horn Professor are why we are detailing his work in this year's featured Horn Professor exhibition.”

The exhibit highlights nearly 100 objects from the collections of the Museum of Texas Tech University, said Tabitha Schmidt, interim director for the museum. Attendees can learn why it took 200 years before large sections of the Antarctic interior could be explored. Penguins, sled dogs, fossils of ancient animals and a mummified seal tell the story of how this seemingly inhospitable landscape, 98 percent covered in snow and ice, has evolved and always teemed with life.

“Not only will you be able to trace the steps of Antarctic exploration, you can see how you would measure up to a life-sized cutout of an emperor penguin, interact with games that test your knowledge of Antarctic exploration, learn about the Frozen Continent's prehistoric tropical past and see what parts of an actual exploration campsite would have looked like,” Schmidt said. “The exhibition also features a large mock glacier in the main gallery that contains a continuous mural depicting Antarctic scenery. These are experiences you will not want to miss.”

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