27th September 2019

On Friday 20th September, we were treated to a splendid assembly on an Arctic adventure from Dr Karen Blackport.  As mentioned in my newsletter last week, Dr Blackport answered questions on the 300km sled journey and, over the weekend, I found myself thinking more about the dogs and their amazing contribution.  I had the privilege of having my own questions answered soon after the assembly, so I shared these with the school on Monday morning.
I have included some of my questions below;
Q. If you fell off your sled, and were not able to tip it on its side to slow the dogs up, where did they go, and how were they stopped?
A. The dogs would race to catch up with the dog at the top of the K9 group hierarchy.  The pack leader. 
Q. What happened if dogs were injured?
A. The party guides had some basic training in dog ‘first aid’ but if a dog was badly injured, it would be transported to a village and collected by the support team who would ensure it received treatment from a qualified vet.
Q. How did the dogs hydrate, given that they were working at such an intensity for long periods of time?
A. The dogs would scoop up the snow with their tongues as they towed the sledge, despite travelling at average speeds of around 15km/hour!
Dr Blackport talked of the pack howl that would rise and fall through the night, particularly at the beginning of the week.  This was to warn off predators and was a way of the group of seventy dogs reassuring each other they were not alone in polar bear and wolverine territory.  She spoke of two of her pack of five dogs being small and timid bitches, who would shake and lean in to her legs as the excitement in setting off built amongst the wider pack.  The male dogs would jump and bark excitedly.  It all sounded a bit like the build up to break time here at St. Mary’s!
Finally, we heard of a rather clumsy Yorkshireman who from the driving position on his sled decided to take mobile footage of his dogs towing him through deep snow.  His phone was inside a wallet that contained his credit cards, driver’s licence and other important items.  The wallet was not attached to his wrist, and so you can imagine what happened next.  These dogs are not particularly receptive to emergency stop procedures and so the phone and its accompanying items were lost.  However, some weeks later, the said gentleman was contacted by another adventurer to say his phone had been found in the melting snow.  Amazing!
Monday morning also gave me the opportunity to congratulate pupils and staff in facilitating the ninth Bang Goes the Borders Science Festival.  Once again, it is estimated that over a thousand visitors crossed the threshold on what was a glorious Saturday.  The exhibitors, supporting staff and students and parent helpers offered up a fascinating range of sessions including ‘The Wonderful World of Bees’, ‘Explosions’, ‘Animal Handling’, ‘Supercomputing for Everyone’, ‘Mindfulness’ and ‘Fire’ to name just some of the thirty workshops available.  Miss McRae and her team were rightly extremely proud of how smoothly the day had run and we have been inundated with messages of thanks throughout the week, since.
Thank you for coming along and for bringing guests to the school to make the most of the day.  We are also extremely grateful to our two main sponsors Heriot Watt University and Mirador Analytics.  Thanks also go to Simply Delicious, Burts Hotel, Sarah Thomson and Henderson’s of Melrose who made up the local community sponsorship.  These contributions enable us to inspire young scientists at no cost to them or their parents and the sponsors’ support of what we do deserves all our support of their businesses.
Please look at the photographs on the website and in the local press to gain a fuller appreciation of this hugely successful day in the St. Mary’s School calendar.

 form 3 rugby boys

First rugby game for our Form 3 boys
This week’s programme has been as busy as you would expect for week 4 in the six-week half term.  Fixtures, Squad singing practices, Thursday activities and the usual busy academic schedule has seen the week pass in the blink of an eye.  However, the week will conclude for some of our hockey and rugby players on Sunday at the Loretto tournaments.  We wish the teams well ahead of these events.
A reminder that Mr Andrew Sheddon, Registrar of Winchester College will be visiting St. Mary’s on Monday afternoon and he would be happy to meet and chat with parents interested in his school at 3pm.  Teas and coffees will be available.
Have a lovely weekend.

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