The Land

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Theme Convener: Penrose Angwin, M.B.E.
Display Designers: Stefan Buzas and Ronald Sandiford

In shaping Britain and nurturing her, nature has been peculiarly moderate. We have no extremes of climate; our driest places are not deserts, our waterways are modest and our mountains would be lost in the shadows of the Andes. Yet, by some persistent anomaly, the British have always been lured to discovery and exploration by those very regions of the world where nature has been most extravagant or most severe – Livingstone by the jungles and lakes of Africa, Scott by the icy Antarctic, Sturt by Australia’s barren heart, Mallory by the supreme isolation of Everest.

The footsloggers

This urge is within all of us to some degree. So, when we recall how much of the present world our forebears have made known, we do not experience wonder so much as admiration of their courage in accepting the challenge we all have felt and of the endurance it drew from them. Their discovery has lcd to exploration, and exploration to development of new lands by those skills we learned at home. Thus have we served whole continents.

This is the theme of the opening section of the Dome. Apart from a brief glance-back to the past, its setting is the intensive exploration and development of the present time.

Survey

Inseparable from exploration nowadays is accurate surveying and making maps without which development is impossible. The British have surveyed vast areas of the globe, steadily improving methods and evolving better instruments as part of this achievement. Nor is this work done yet; yearly, standards are getting higher and the scope is widening as aircraft, for example, and new physical devices are added to the equipment. These new methods are illustrated in the displays.

Water controlled

In developing the land, control of water is one of the first essentials. Without control it floods and destroys at random; its absence means aridity and useless soils. Properly constrained it brings fertility; harnessed, it gives up a mighty power. A great river is like a living thing, for all its parts are related together in behaviour and change in one will bring about change in the rest. So, any permanent alteration in its course or habit must be made with due regard to the whole of its catchment area.

Even in the mild land of Britain we have our river problems, and the way we are dealing with one of them – the Great Ouse – is illustrated in this section. But it is in overseas lands, where the scales are vastly larger, that British achievements in water engineering can be seen at their peak – damming, irrigating and delivering the hydro-electric power essential for the advancement of primitive or undeveloped territories.

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Agriculture

Of the world’s exports, the Commonwealth countries provide two-thirds of its butter, half its cheese, much of its wheat, nearly half its tinned meat and, in addition, provide about half the worlds wool supply. The tropical areas contribute a very large percentage of the worlds supply of sisal, sugar, cocoa, palm oil, rubber and tea. But even all this is not enough, for, viewed as a whole, the world is grievously short of food. The modern trend, therefore, is even further development of overseas producing areas, but with a vastly increasing application of scientific knowledge which is already saving bitter years of trial and error. Some examples of this are shown in the displays. Our own Kew Gardens plays a vital part in all this, for it is here that new crop plants are tried out and, if successful, distributed to new growing areas. It was Kew, in fact, that reared wild rubber plants from Brazil, reproduced them, and sent the seedlings out to found a new and great industry in Malaya.

An essential factor in the success of all these agricultural operations is the interchange of ideas and information. This is provided by the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, a unique service for the collection, abstraction and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge.

Pest control

Science, too, is ensuring that we make the best of what we have already by providing the most suitable weapons to fight the pests and diseases which are inevitably mans rivals in bidding for the yield of food. Among other instances, we show that even the locust, one of the oldest enemies of agriculture, is slowly being brought under control.

Tropical medicine

But, if these new lands are to continue producing the food and raw materials the world so sorely needs, they must be fit for man to live and work in. Tropical disease is a many-headed horror which the British have been particularly eager to seek out and kill. Sleeping sickness and malaria they have already subdued in many areas by a combined assault of doctors, scientists and administrators; now one of the targets for attack is leprosy. For the last five thousand years it has been a scourge and, even now, its victims number seven million, but at last new drugs have been found that promise to bring its ravages to an end.

Commonwealth links

The great witness of British exploration by land is the Commonwealth of Nations. By now its strongest binding force is common ideas and ideals, and visual evidence of this is the vast communications system which came into being as a result of British enterprise-sea lanes, air routes, railways, cables and, now, radio. Speech is the most intimate of all ways of communicating. Our sons and daughters have left Britain and set up their own homes overseas, our adopted children are coming into their own estates. But we can still speak to them – and do so every day, using 44 languages, some of which the visitor can hear – on a radio system which itself is part of our contribution to the welfare of mankind.

The Earth

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Theme Convener: Sonia Withers ◦ Display Designer: Robert Gutmann

The ways in which we satisfy this desire of ours to discover and explore vary with the times. It has never been far from the surface, and about a hundred and thirty years ago, for example. it began to assert itself with remarkable persistence. Clapperton was in the West African jungle, Oxley had started on the first great adventure into the heart of Australia. Franklin was discovering new lands in remote Canada and Ross and Parry were searching for the Northwest Passage. At the same time, a very different kind of exploration was beginning in our own countryside – exploration downwards to discover the nature and structures of the rocks that lie deep down beneath our feet. The pioneer was William Smith.

Exploration downwards

The exploratory work of Smith and others that joined him did not demand great courage or physical endurance, it called for patient observation, honest piecing together of clues and an outstanding scientific imagination that enabled them to visualise underground structures from the piecemeal evidence the rocks gave when they came to the surface. Vital, too, was their realisation that the relative ages of rocks could be read from the fossil remains they contained. How this is done is shown by the displays in this section. The “Land of Britain” also shows how animal life has changed throughout the ages.

Smith made the first geological map of Britain. In doing so, he used a method of recording observations and the probability of underground structures which is now indispensable to all of mans workings in the outer crust of the Earth.

The importance of this new science, founded by Smith, Hutton, Lyell and others, was soon recognised officially. Britain created the first Geological Survey, and showed the world how valuable this science can be when it is organised for the service and development of whole countries. Without it, recovery of the Earths hidden riches – coal, oil, minerals and the rest – would still be a very haphazard affair.

Recent years have brought us new tools with which we can explore even deeper. Modern borings can now recover cores from depths nearly twice the height of Ben Nevis; physicists have not only wrested new knowledge from the study of earthquake waves but have created devices for studying the depths of the crust by waves they create themselves. Much of this work has been stimulated by the increasing need to discover new oil fields.

The earth within

Gradually, then, the secrets of the Earth within are being revealed. Its age is about 3,400 million years. The crust upon which we live, mountains and all, is no more than the skin is to an apple. We know that under this crust the Earth is not quiescent, it has a liquid layer, alive with eddies and currents. It is this liquid rock, thrust up when the thin crust turns, as it were, in its uneasy sleep, that eventually gives rise to the pockets and veins of minerals and metallic ores on which our way of life depends.

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Mineral wealth

These minerals and ores are part of the well-founded riches of the Commonwealth countries. Some of them we have here at home, some we have had but they are now worked out, and the experience we gained in mining them or extracting them from their ores has been passed out overseas. There are few of these resources that the Commonwealth cannot now provide: gold, silver, nickel, tin, copper, lead and zinc are a few of the metals, diamonds for industry as well as for jewellery, asbestos and mica with their multitude of uses. Many of these are displayed in this section of the Exhibition.

Archæology

The story of this field of exploration, as we tell it here, returns to the surface, then, with the extruded molten rock and the mineral wealth it holds, yet there is still a part of it to tell – the chapters revealed by those who explore the latest shelves in this library of the past, the archæologists. It is they who have pieced together the histories and ways of life of past civilisations, some so ancient that they have not even left records incised on bricks or stone.

The great citadel of Mohenjo-daro overlooking the Indus, the great Ziggurat on the plain at Ur, the gorgeous palace of King Minos in Crete – these are just three of the lost achievements of the past that the method and imagination of British archælogists have brought to light again to aid us when we pause to think about the progress of mankind.