Antarctic explorer who had island named after him dies aged 92
PUBLISHED: 06:35 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 24 September 2020
An Antarctic surveyor who took part in the first overland crossing of Antarctica, and who spent more than 30-years living in Norfolk, has died aged 92.
During his career Kenneth Blaiklock OBE made Antarctic exploration history by becoming one of the first people to reach the South Pole by dog sled since Roald Amundsen in 1911.
At one point he held the record for the longest period of time anyone had cumulatively spent in Antarctica and was a recipient of the Polar Medal.
Born in Palmers Green, North London in 1927, Mr Blaiklock left school aged 17 to join the Ordnance Survey where he was trained in surveying techniques, including geodatic surveying.
In 1947, while posted in Germany, Mr Blaiklock saw a notice calling for volunteers for an expedition to the Falkland Islands and put himself forward, a decision which led to the start of his Antarctic career.
The expedition took him to Stonington Island where Mr Blaiklock volunteered to stay on for two years, during which time he developed his surveying skills and helped document virgin territory including Blaiklock Island, which was named in his honour.
In 1952, Mr Blaiklock returned to Antarctica, to serve as a surveyor in Hope Bay. Then in 1955, while working as a surveyor on the ship the MV Norsel, Mr Blaiklock heard of Vivian Fuchs’ plans for a Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and having worked with Sir Fuchs previously put himself forward.
Sir Fuchs invited Mr Blaiklock to lead the expedition’s advance party, and from 1956 to 1958 he was part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) team which completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica. Mr Blaiklock was also one of the team to be the first to reach the South Pole by dog sled, a first since Amundsen had reached the pole in 1911.
Following the expedition, Mr Blaiklock was awarded the Polar Medal with three bars for services to Antarctic exploration.
In 1962, Mr Blaiklock married Elsie Elliott. The following year the couple moved to Hoveton, where they raised their children, John and Catherine, and where Mr Blaiklock remained until 2003.
Following the completion of the TAE, Mr Blaiklock continued to take part in Antarctic expeditions and would often be away from his family for two years at a time.
When not in the polar region Mr Blaiklock worked out of Great Yarmouth, carrying out surveying work in the North Sea.
He retired in 1996.
Catherine Blaiklock, Mr Blaiklock’s daughter, said while her father spent more than 30 years living in Norfolk, he was not its biggest fan and longed for a more rugged landscape.
She said: [My father] like mountains and outdoors wildlife, he was just here because of work.”
Ms Blaiklock described her father as a very independent person, saying: “He was an incredibly strong person right to the end and he was very independent. He didn’t go to university, he was a grammar school boy made good, he was very bright and mathematical.
“He was a very frugal person. He was still wearing his Antarctic sweaters 40 years [after his expeditions],” she said.
Ms Blaiklock said when she was growing up her father’s work would often take him away from home for long periods of time, but when he returned she would hear stories from his expeditions, including one time when he created a splint for a colleague’s broken leg out of sledge runners.
She said: “[My father] was a very kind person, he was the first person to help if there was a problem. He was the person who was out front rescuing everybody.”
Ms Blaiklock said her family was very proud of her father’s achievements and work. “It was a different world and a very hard life in some respects but he loved it,” she said.
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Mr Blaiklock died on September 20, aged 92. He is survived by his son and daughter and two grandchildren.
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