On this day.........
1st April 2017
On April 1st 1966 I was in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands, together with many other FIDS scientists and gash hands who were heading home from the Antarctic, having completed our tours of duty. We were all employees of the British Antarctic Survey. We had a few days to kill, and there was not a lot to do -- and David Sugden, Edwin Thornton and myself had the bright idea that we should really do something significant for April Fool's Day. I can't remember whose idea this was, but we hatched a cunning plan.......
We three were friendly with a bright young lady who worked for Falklands Radio, and she agreed to join the conspiracy. Security was very tight indeed. She managed to get some sheets of official Government headed paper, and we created a press release which purported to come from the British Egg Marketing Board. (Goodness knows where that bizarre idea came from, but no matter........) After closing hours at the broadcasting studio, our fellow conspirator let us in with the key, and we were able to use a very ancient Gestetner machine to run off multiple copies of the press release. Then, on the evening of 31st March, we stuck these up all over town, on doors and notice boards, and left them in strategic places including the local public house (I think there was just one). On the same evening, on the news bulletin, she read it out on Falklands Radio ............ (She claimed afterwards, with a straight face, that she had received it and read it out in good faith, and we don't think she was sacked!)
Anyway, the press release said that the Egg Marketing Board was thinking very seriously of setting up a kelp marketing facility near Port Stanley, with a view to producing alginate. This, it claimed, had the potential to transform the local economy. It went on to say that samples of kelp were needed for scientific analysis, from as many potential harvesting locations as possible; and that any landowner who thought that his foreshore might be suitable should leave a white animal feed bag of freshly collected kelp (properly labelled with location etc) on the steps of Government House between the hours on 9 am and 12 noon on 1st April 1966.
On the crucial morning we all stayed well clear of Government House, but assorted white plastic sacks of soggy and steaming kelp did indeed start to accumulate on the steps outside, and in mid-morning the Governor's office had to put out an urgent message via the radio station to say that this was a hoax and that loyal residents should NOT deliver any more bags of kelp for scientific analysis.
It appears that the Governor (Sir Cosmo Haskard) and his staff were afterwards rather relaxed about the joke (Port Stanley was in those days a very relaxed sort of place), but apparently they were furious at BAS headquarters back in the UK. They never did have much of a sense of humour. Investigations were put in hand, but our security system was equal to the challenge, and although they suspected that Dave, Edwin and I were behind the whole thing, they were never able to prove it.
Ah, happy days!!