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The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

In August 2004 we received an email through our website,  from a company called Windfall Films, asking us if we would like to take part in the filming of this Years "Royal Institution Christmas Lectures", on Channel Four.

The Christmas Lectures have been at the Royal Institution from the mid 1820s, where Michael Faraday initiated the first Christmas Lecture series, designed to educate young people about science. This year the Lectures were all about Antarctica, presented by Prof Lloyd Peck, who leads the "Life at the Edge" programme in the British Antarctic Survey.

We were all really enthusiastic about taking part, and jumped at the opportunity! The location filming was in September, and we, Apollo Explorer Scout Unit grouped together with Meredenne Explorer Scout Unit, to take part in two main challenges.

The first was a rescue challenge. We all had to try to find an "injured" Lloyd; in simulated whiteout conditions (basically we all had white buckets over our heads!). We were all tied together in a line, so that we could find our way back to the tent, and had to find the presenter, place him on a stretcher, and take him back. It took eight of us 20 minutes to recover him, a potentially deadly situation in the extreme colds of Antarctica.

The second challenge involved seeing how easy (or difficult) it would be to attempt to consume the 12,000 a day calorie intake that explorers like Ran Fiennes burn up in one day in the Antarctic. For this challenge, the crew had prepared for us the equivalent of 12,000 calories in Bananas, Burgers, Chocolate, and Lettuces. That's 123 bananas, 24 burgers, 2½ kg of chocolate and 150 iceberg lettuces! Obviously, Antarctic Explorers do not eat 123 bananas a day- they eat higher calorie foods, and there is one food type that is ideal- and that's pure fat! Two of us picked the short straw, and tried to tackle one and a half litres of vegetable oil, and six packets of butter!

The filming day was great fun, and we were invited up to the Royal Institution in London for the filming of the actual lecture on the 16th of December. The lecture was shown on the Monday after Christmas, on Channel Four. 

Richard Smart, Apollo Explorer Scout.

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