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« Calculated ambiguity | Main | There must be some misunderstanding »

Fool in chief

I did wonder if applying the "Ship of Fools" tag to Chris Turney and his shipmates wasn't just a bit rude, but take a look at this video, recorded before his departure, in which he talks about the trip. You have to say that Turney does not come over well. And to spend most of the interview discussing the life and death nature of the expedition and the hardships they will face, before revealing that he is taking his wife and family along, is almost too much.

You can see how the trip might end in a shambles.

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Reader Comments (88)

The saga of the Akademik Sholaskiy is a mere symptom of creative ways to waste money on immature, misguided self-aggrandizing adventure.

Swiss Bob, but this on the back of the global warming lie. So the connection is there although not directly. This holiday could not have haven't had it not been for the media scrum over global warming.

Jan 5, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I'm reading Nassim Taleb's Fooled by Randomness. To me, the question is, is Turney a real-life 'John'? 'John' in the book is a successful trader who loses everything in the market crash of '97-98.

Is Turney a fundamentally no-so-sound scientist who was actually not good as he thought he was? Does this failure prove this?

My answer would be a no. Turney may be a good scientist. A different set of skills are required to run a successful expeditionary operation, towing family, tourists, contest-winners, fellow scientists and explorers.

But, Turney says he prepared for the trip for two years. The events of the Hodgeman trip give the distinct impression of no one being in charge, unless further details emerge.

Jan 5, 2014 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered Commentershub

Re Swiss Bob (4:08PM) and shub (3:18PM) on how the MSM have handled this in ways which reduce the harm to the odious cagw movement:.

A group of climate change scientists were rescued by helicopter Jan. 2, after being stranded in the ice since Christmas morning. But the majority of the broadcast networks’ reports about the ice-locked climate researchers never mentioned climate change.

The Russian ship, Akademic Shokalskiy, was stranded in the ice while on a climate change research expedition, yet nearly 98 percent of network news reports about the stranded researchers failed to mention their mission at all. Forty out of 41 stories (97.5 percent) on the network morning and evening news shows since Dec. 25 failed to mention climate change had anything to do with the expedition.

In fact, rather than point out the mission was to find evidence of climate change, the networks often referred to the stranded people as “passengers,” “trackers” and even “tourists,” without a word about climate change or global warming.


The mass media protecting their own, protecting the 'narrative', or just plain out of touch?

Read more:

[Hat-tip: Instapundit]

Jan 5, 2014 at 5:25 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Chris Turney is the author of a couple of useful books and is primarily a geologist - although it has to be admitted that co2 has somehow become a central theme of explaining geological mysteries such as the warmth of the Dinosaur Age. I have two on my bookshelf - 'Bones, Rocks and Stars' which describes dating methodologies, and 'Mud, Ice and something' which is also geological and concerns the Ice Ages and sea bed sediments etc. They are useful as he describes how these methodologies came into being and why he thinks they are reality. Always nice to know when you are a sceptic. Climate science isn't the only science that has a consensus you know.

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered Commentercarol smith

Jan 5, 2014 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered Commentershub says

Turney may be a good scientist.

If a professor of climate change thinks Antarctica is warming when it is actually cooling, it makes me wonder what he does know. How to tap into government grants perhaps?

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Peacock

I agree with Phillip Bratby, there must be a doctorate for someone on why people invariably laugh on camera. This is a feature of workplace documentaries on TV and is quite annoying at times. The views on Scott and Shackleton are hardly new and can be found in the National Museum of New Zealand in Wellington where Shackleton's rowing boat now resides and a rather scathing account of Scott is also on view.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Trefor Jones

I saw the Shackleton boat in the National Maritime Museum in Sydney back in 2002. You wouldn't have wanted to have been on that voyage to South Georgia, that's for sure. And they did it without mobile phones.

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

The video also featured Aussie climber Greg Mortimer who was on the trip

He is no lightweight either

Greg Mortimer, a geologist and mountaineer by profession, lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia.

He has been involved in Antarctic science, tourism and private expeditions since 1979 and is a former chairman of IAATO.

From 1979 to 1984, he worked as a geologist, survival training instructor, and Scientific Affairs Adviser for the New Zealand Antarctic Division.

Some of his achievements in mountaineering include: the first ever ascent of the South face of Annapurna Two in 1983; the first Australian ascent of the North face of Mount Everest, without the use of supplementary oxygen, in 1984; the first Australian ascent of Vinson Massif, the highest mountain in Antarctica, in 1988; in 1990 the first Australian ascent of K2: in 1994 the first ascent of Mt Chongtar which was the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

In 1988 Greg organized and led the Bicentennial Antarctic Expedition which sailed into the Ross Sea and climbed Mt Minto.

He started a business life in 1992 with the formation of Aurora Expeditions. The company operated ice strengthened ships in the Antarctic and Arctic as well as more conventional ships on Australia’s Kimberley Coast, PNG and the Galapagos. He has visited Antarctica more than 100 times now. He sold Aurora Expeditions in 2008

It would be interesting to get Greg Mortimer's take on things, although he will be playing a diplomatic card if his business is this kind of trip

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:42 PM | Registered CommenterAndy Scrase

After watching the video, I've reached the obvious conclusion. If for some "unfathomable (/sarc)" reason Professor Turney were to lose his ivory tower job, he could always get work as a sitcom "laugh-track."

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterReed Coray

Spectator has a kick

Our friend Tracy Rogers, Turney’s colleague at the University of New South Wales, has been commenting on her rescue. ’The Chinese captain is an incredible ambassador for his country,’ she said today. She is very lucky that China, which normally incurs the wrath of the climate change lobby due to its fondness for new coal-fired power stations, has chosen the path to wealth – which includes ships and helicopters able to rescue scientists in distress – rather than a path to carbon-free enlightenment. Whatever the carbon footprint of the average Chinese person, it is a long, long way short of that of Chris Turney and his colleagues this week.

Jan 5, 2014 at 7:56 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

'Turkey' is evidently not the right man for the job. Didn't anyone in his inner circle have the courage to tell him this? Or is this the world of climate science where pygmies are celebrated as if they are giants?

Jan 5, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

If Turney thinks they would have endured 'hardships', they should read Jeremy Clarkson's piece in today's (5th Jan) Sunday Times News Review. The ship of fools folks were staying in the Ritz compared to the original expedition, despite the vastly greater amounts of ice they experienced this time. I have vastly greater sympathy and respect for the Russian ship's crew than these 'tourist' idiots.

No doubt Turney's bosses will 'praise the successful expidition', which just means they are in as much of a cloud-cuckoo land as he is. I do not see how Turney et al., can continue in their positions, and should have the grace to resign. I for one, were I a university chancellor or head of department, would not employ him, ever.

Jan 5, 2014 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I’m sorry, FarleyR, but for these people, the pygmies are as giants; they are Lilliputians in Brobdingnag.

Jan 5, 2014 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

"Quite a nerve mocking Scott's party like that.

I'm guessing Turney's adventure- -had it ever happened- wouldn't have included walking 100s of miles to the South Pole on foot supported only by dogs."

What was mainly wrong with Scott's party was that it wasn't supported by dogs. There were plenty of other faults, but the literal killer was that the pole party did not use dog sleds like Amundsen (and which had been done for decades by Nansen, Sverdrup, Rasmussen, Peary and others).

Jan 5, 2014 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Okay, here goes:

There was a climate scientist called Turney
who arranged an ill-fated Antarctic journey
to report all the ice gone
but alas he was wrong
and he got stuck in the fast frozen briny...

As regulars will know, I don't do scanning, so don't mind if I get a panning...

Jan 5, 2014 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

"I saw the Shackleton boat in the National Maritime Museum in Sydney back in 2002. You wouldn't have wanted to have been on that voyage to South Georgia, that's for sure. And they did it without mobile phones."

I saw a replica of it in the museum at Grytviken in South Georgia. That voyage must be one of the most fantastic feats of seamanship in world history.

Jan 5, 2014 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

The media on the AAE trip includes "Andrew Luck-Baker"…."a senior producer at the BBC Radio Science Unit in London, making and presenting science broadcasts for BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4."

A programme he was involved in making is Discovery, The Age We Made. According to Luck-Baker's Twittering, Part 2 is "on climate change and the oceans." Part 3 is about "Anthropocene mass extinction".

Part 3 is described by the BBC as:
"Earth scientists say humanity’s impact on the Earth has been so profound that we have started a new geological time period on the planet. They call it, the Anthropocene.

"Gaia Vince explores our fundamental changes to the biosphere. The accelerating extinctions of animal and plant species: the rearing of agricultural animals in their billions: and, what some describe as, the general ‘macdonaldisation’ of life on Earth.

"All three factors will leave striking evidence in the fossil record in the limestones and sandstones, forming on the Earth’s surface today. Millions of years in the future, a geologist chipping at the rocks of our times might conclude that something in the world happened as big as the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

"Are we responsible for the sixth great mass extinction in Earth history and forcing the planet down a different trouser leg of geological time, as one scientist puts it?"

As bonkers as it seems to me, there really is a presenter working for the BBC, whose first name is Gaia:

"Gaia Vince is an anthropocene specialist and recently recorded a four-part radio series for BBC World Service called The Age We Made. She spoke to scientists about the dramatic changes we are making to the planet, and how they will be recorded in the geological record for millions of years. Recordings are available to download on

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered Commenter52

The Australian ($$) is running two stories - anybody care to copy n paste the text?:

The rescue bill is purported to be AUD$400K


The Yanks are a comin

I think (OK I'm certain) that $400K is an attempt to cap the figure and set the agenda (damage limitation) and the USCG have to up their game dramatically from their efforts last year in Alaska

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I've noted this on Jo Nova, duplicate here.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is supposed to provide data for planning expeditions like this ill-fated one to seek global warming in the Antarctic and places on the way.
Macquarie Island is one such place on the way that can be used for an example. The BoM have been collecting daily temperature data there since 1948.
In year 2009 I emailed Dr David Jones about conditions on Macquarie Island, where I’d been looking at temperatures since 1968 for another project. Both Tmax and Tmin were flatlining over that term of 40 years.
Here is part of an email from me to Dr Jones on 1st July 2009. “How is the temperature at Macquarie Island going? Are we, the public, likely to be rewarded soon with an explanation of its apparent impunity to regard climate change seriously?”
Dr Jones replied a few days later “Macquarie Islands data shows strong warming – about 0.5C in the last 50 years.”
If Dr Jones had been advising the Australian Antarctic Expedition, he would have been wrong. The BoM data show that the last 50 years, 1960-2009 inclusive, have these temperature differences –
Tmax 0.2 deg C
Tmin 0.2 deg C
T average 0.2 deg C
So the comment of Dr Jones was high by 250%. Simply, 0.5 degrees is NOT 0.2 degrees.
In the following years, from 2010 to 2013 incl, the temperatures have been near the mean of the prior 50 years, with no show of global warming recently as shown next.
T average of 50 years was 4.9 deg C
2010 T average was 5.1 deg C
2011 T average was 4.8 deg C
2012 T average was 5.1 deg C
2013 T average was 4.9 deg C

One can therefore draw the logical inference that a Party accepting data like these and not checking, would be misled by the summary of Dr Jones, who signed off as Head of Climate Analysis.
Together with other examples not given here, one is entitled to postulate that some BoM officials are of a mindset that “wishes” global warming to happen, with their belief trumping the hard data.
I wonder if this happened to Prof. Turney? Was he chasing illusions of global warming that were not in the data?
Simply for interest, the temperature at Macquarie Island has been in steady decline since 1970 as shown by the Bureau’s data graphed here.

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Yes, the laugh is stellar. Just imagine it again in this context:

'ABC’s Wendy Harmer: Told Prof Chris Turney on radio this a.m. his trapped ship being touted as evidence of no global warming. Oh how he laughed at the “loonies”!'

Jan 5, 2014 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

O/T but related, just watched -

Operation Grand Canyon With Dan Snow -

same sort of boys own adventure, all the thrills with backup if things go wrong.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

I'm not sure where to put this

In such extreme cold, exposed skin would suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes, experts have cautioned.

In Colorado, parts of which were under a "wind chill advisory" warning of "very cold air and strong winds," a small plane burst into flames on landing near Aspen on Sunday, killing one person on board, officials said.

Haven't seen exploding small aircraft in Toronto lately.

Jan 5, 2014 at 11:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

The urban dictionary has a remarkably apt definition of turney-

Jan 6, 2014 at 1:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterchris y

An inkling of the modest aims of the junket, sorry, expedition can be gleaned from the web site, which gives this laundry list of objectives:

We are going south to:
1. gain new insights into the circulation of the Southern Ocean and its impact on the global carbon cycle
2. explore changes in ocean circulation caused by the growth of extensive fast ice and its impact on life in Commonwealth Bay
3. use the subantarctic islands as thermometers of climatic change by using trees, peats and lakes to explore the past
4. investigate the impact of changing climate on the ecology of the subantarctic islands
5. discover the environmental influence on seabird populations across the Southern Ocean and in Commonwealth Bay
6. understand changes in seal populations and their feeding patterns in the Southern Ocean and Commonwealth Bay
7. produce the first underwater surveys of life in the subantarctic islands and Commonwealth Bay
8. determine the extent to which human activity and pollution has directly impacted on this remote region of Antarctica
9. provide baseline data to improve the next generation of atmospheric, oceanic and ice sheet models to improve predictions for the future

All our science work has been approved by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Antarctic Division. We are incredibly grateful for all their help and support.

Amazingly, they hoped to complete it all in a couple of weeks.

Heroism on a heroic scale!

Jan 6, 2014 at 2:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllen Ford

Allen Ford,

A very modest workload indeed - presumably the kids were press-ganged to provide additional labour once they discovered that delivering on their commitments was going to be challenging.

I also note that the UEA extrusion ('alumnus' is far too generous) uses the loathsome construction whereby 'incredible' is substituted for 'very'. As in 'we are not credibly grateful for your support'...

Acton will no doubt be very proud of yet more diasporic Norwich detritus.

Jan 6, 2014 at 8:24 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

I think that so-called climate scientists are not really scientists but, rather, are “salesmen”.

Their spiel about Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global warming, which became climate change, then climate disruption, was nothing more than advertising slogans, supported by false data, used to persuade the public to accept the imposition of additional taxes and reductions in their personal freedoms.

Like other salesmen, they falsify data and omit any reference to inconvenient facts which may lead to doubts among their intended consumers about the value of the product which they attempt to sell.

Probably, many climate scientists have long reconciled to themselves that abandoning the scientific method which entails proposing a falsifiable theory and comparing its predictions with physical reality, rather than concealing inconvenient data from peers, ignoring contrary facts and censoring proponents of alternative theories is an acceptable personal choice, whose rewards are generous , in terms of both money and prestige.

However, some small proportion of salesmen, who, although initially aware that their sales propaganda is false, eventually come to believe it themselves.

Legends abound of salesmen berating their wives for buying the wrong soap-powder, which is inferior to the brand which they happen to sell.

Those proponents of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, who constitute true believers is probably greater among journalists and political activists, whose knowledge of and interest in science is minimal but whose support for the socialist policies supposedly required to reduce the impact of mankind upon earth is unquestioning. These people will never adopt a sceptical attitude towards any alleged facts, which supports their political agenda.

That some supposed “climate scientists” who, presumably, have been trained in the scientific method, are able to blithely ignore the many fundamental flaws in the development of the CAGW theory and then ignore published facts pertaining to the actual state of the real world, suggests that even scientists come to believe their own lies, once they have adopted the role of saleman.

Professor Turley strikes me as belonging to the category of corrupted former scientist, who set out to prove and publicise that the Antarctic Ice was disappearing, in order to promote the global warming theory, when some simple fact checking would have revealed that this definitely is not the case.

I think that Professor Turley had so immersed himself in alarmist propaganda, that he genuinely believed that it was true, so he felt no need to perform any checking about the actual Antarctic sea ice and led his expedition, expecting to find that it had substantially retreated, in the main, and that the coast would be ice-free, as it was in 1912.

It seems to me that Professor Turley and many of his fellow-travellers expected to return from their frolic in the ice-free Antarctic waters to 'Honor and recognition assured' for their prominent role in ‘Saving the Planet’.

In a sense, perhaps they will have made a major contribution towards saving, if not the world, then at least the world’s economy, because it is difficult to maintain the public’s belief in global warming, essential to justify further taxation, when the Antarctic sea ice is manifestly not disappearing after all and Professor Turley should perhaps achieve proper recognition for publicizing this fact.

Jan 6, 2014 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohn

Watched the video.
knob 'ead!

Jan 6, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered Commenternick

@John spot on Climate Activist Scientist = salesman
ClitanicDisaster= Climate Change sales drive

Jan 6, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Allen Ford - yes, that's a lot to cover in just a couple of weeks. However, the work goes much faster when the conclusions are all known in advance.

Jan 6, 2014 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss McKitrick

Apparently the pre expedition publicity said they would be planting trees to offset the expedition's carbon footprint.

That should keep the lot of them occupied for quite some time to come, then...

Jan 6, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

I've just noticed that this thread was referenced yesterday from the sceptic blog run by the inestimable veteran retired professor John Brignell

Jan 6, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

This article on Radio NZ is worth read

It answers some of the questions about what the research was about, and this article focusses on the part of the trip to Campbell Island

"The World's Loneliest Christmas Tree" is a lone Sitka Spruce on the island.

During the first leg of the Spirit of Mawson expedition, Jonathan Palmer (left), who is part of the University of New South Wales' palaeoclimate consortium, took a core sample from the tree in the hope that its tree rings would reveal climate information for the past century

Jan 6, 2014 at 10:18 PM | Registered CommenterAndy Scrase

Andy Scrase, that's surprising. My understanding (which is quite limited) is that typically folks core a whole bunch of trees in an area, and combine the measurements. [And even then get an answer of dubious reliability.] So why would a lone tree be expected to reveal any climate information?

Jan 7, 2014 at 7:36 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

HaroldW - YAD06

Jan 7, 2014 at 8:35 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

For the lols.

Jan 7, 2014 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdmad

GrantB -
Yes, that tree did cross my mind.

Jan 7, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

No-one seems to have noticed that Turney's first degree was Environmental Science at UEA. What a surprise ... considering the available role models.

Jan 9, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

It's not about the science, it's about the PR
.. My summary of all warmist work

Jan 9, 2014 at 6:07 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

All Turkeys! They got exactly what they deserved. Did we, the gullible public pay for any of it? I mean, the trip, AND the rescue? Then again, a wonderful PA success for skeptics that money could hardly buy! Just a pity the wind changed............

Jan 27, 2014 at 2:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterWardie

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