The Sounds and Smells of Caving
When on the 19th June 2014 Johann Westhauser was finally brought to the surface after an 11 day long rescue in Riesending cave in Germany a small caving media storm erupted. Around lunchtime I was contacted by Chris Jewell who does media relations for the British Caving Association, saying that PM on BBC Radio 4 were looking for someone to explain why, in the light of the potential risks highlighted by the rescue, anyone would want to go caving. I took a deep breath and said “yes” and was soon talking to a researcher from the show. About 3pm the item was agreed in an editorial meeting for the show and the researcher was arranging a taxi to take me down to the BBC Radio Solent studios in Southampton. Here I was placed in what is effectively a large broom cupboard with headphones and microphone and awaiting my conservation with Eddie Mair.
It had been a rather nerve-wracking afternoon waiting to do this interview, but once into the swing of it I felt quite calm. I had thought hard about the messages I wanted to convey – the beautiful places you can visit underground, the thrill of exploration and the scientific motivations – however, one question that I wasn’t expecting almost threw me. Eddie asked me to describe the sounds and smells of caving, which was tricky! However, from all the feedback I have received this section of the interview seems to have been the most successful.
In parallel to this Oxford University Cave Club had been contacted by BBC Radio Oxford with a similar request. My friend Lou Maurice, a karst hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey, agreed to do the interview which was longer than mine and also a big success. Consequently, when the Jeremey Vine show contacted me on Friday morning to say “we loved your descriptions of the sounds and smells of caving, will you do the same for us”, but I was unable to, Lou was the first person I called. With Dave Nixon also talking to Broadcasting House on Radion 4 on the same subject on Sunday morning I hope we have provided some good PR for caving for a change.
Women in Engineering
Bizarrely, PM was not the first piece of media work I have done this year. Through a friend of a friend I got asked to do some work for BBC South Today earlier this year to go towards a programme they were making about people working in fields dominated by the other gender. This series has yet to be shown, but I will try and get a link to the final show when it is produced. Meanwhile this got picked up by BBC Radio Solent and I was invited onto the Katie Martin Show. To mark the launch of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a survey had been commissioned which showed that most parents would not recommend engineering as a career to their daughters. Katie was running a piece on this and we had a nice discussion about some of the issues involved. You can listen to it here. I subsequently did a followed up piece for Katie on National Women in Engineering Day on the 23rd June.
Perhaps now I can go back to having a quiet life!