South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Recognize the Pioneering Work of Sir Alister Hardy

\"\"In March 2011 a Continuous Plankton Recorded returns to South Georgia and will be towed, for the first time, by the South Georgia Fishery Patrol Vessel Pharos SG which will also carry this set of stamps commemorating the creator of the CPR to South Georgia. It is intended that the CPR will collect data every other month on the Pharos SG’s regular route between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Sir Alister Clavering Hardy (1896-1985), born in Nottingham on the 10th February, was an eminent marine biologist famous for his work on plankton and fisheries, but also an accomplished artist, inventor and writer of popular science.

Alister Hardy was educated at Oundle School and Exeter College, Oxford where he initially studied botany.  The First World War interrupted his studies and Hardy took up a commission with the Northern Cycling Battalion, patrolling the coastal defences of Lincolnshire. He later transferred to the Royal Engineers as a camouflage officer, which included a period as a flying observer. After the war he returned to Oxford to study zoology, during which time he met his future wife Sylvia Garstang.

After graduating in 1920, he worked briefly at the Marine Laboratory in Plymouth before taking up a scholarship to work at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples in 1921.  In August 1921 Hardy was appointed as an Assistant Naturalist at the newly established Fisheries Laboratory in Lowestoft, where he worked on the feeding strategy of North Sea herring (70p stamp) and developed a simple “plankton indicator” that enabled fishermen to detect plankton and improve their catches.For six weeks the vessel undertook scientific stations around South Georgia, collecting oceanographic data and sampling Antarctic krill  and other zooplankton. The work was conducted in sea conditions that were often extreme, making sampling arduous and dangerous.   After a busy season RRS Discovery returned to Cape Town for the austral winter, returning in October 1926, when she was joined by another vessel, RRS William Scoresby.  The two vessels were tasked with undertaking a survey of the whaling grounds off South Georgia and Hardy transferred to the William Scoresby, where he was the scientist in charge.

Following the successful survey of the whaling grounds, Hardy rejoined Discovery and sailed south for the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands.  Here, in addition to midwater nets, they dredged the seafloor to investigate the diverse benthic (bottom) fauna of the Southern Ocean.   The vessel continued south, along the Antarctic Peninsula, before returning across the Drake Passage to Cape Horn and north to Britain. Although Hardy took up an academic post in Britain, the Discovery Investigations continued on RRS Discovery II, resulting in 37 volumes of scientific reports as well as Hardy’s own popular accountGreat Waters, which was published in 1963.

Recognising the need to sample plankton over large spatial and temporal scales, Hardy designed and built a device called the Continuous Plankton Recorder or CPR (60p stamp), which he first trialled (CPR Mk I) on RRS Discovery in the Southern Ocean.  The CPR collects plankton samples and stores them on a moving band of silk, preserving them in formalin. Later, when based at University College Hull, Hardy designed a MK II version, which was considerably smaller in size and could be towed behind merchant ships, enabling information to be collected on plankton distribution from shipping routes throughout the world.  The CPR continues to be used worldwide, with only minor modifications from Hardy’s original design.   In March 2011 a CPR returns to South Georgia and will be towed, for the first time, by the South Georgia Fishery Patrol Vessel Pharos SG. It is intended that the CPR will collect data every other month on the Pharos SG’s regular route between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Throughout his life, while not conventionally religious, he was convinced of the importance of man’s spiritual nature. While a student he made a vow that, should he survive the war, he would devote his life to attempting reconciliation between religion and evolutionary biology. This was put on hold during his scientific career, but soon after retiring from the Oxford chair he founded the Religious Experience Research Unit (now named after him), and devoted the rest of his long life to this project. In the year he died he was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for his work in this field.

The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) continues Hardy’s pioneering research into plankton distribution and abundance.  SAHFOS was established as a charitable foundation in 1990 and continues to operate the CPR throughout the world’s oceans.(source-stampnews.com)

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