Monday, 31 December 2012

Lowering the flag for the last time

Well, today is an end of an era. The decision was made some time ago, but the UK STFC have ended their participation in the Gemini Observatory today. Not only does this make the UK look bad - who wants to work with a country that's pulling out of so many science projects they've invested in for so many years? - it's created a big problem for Gemini as the UK's financial contribution was a significant part of Gemini's income and operating costs. As you know, the UK will also withdraw support and funding for UKIRT (Gemini's next door neighbour and where I work) at the end of September 2013 and then the JCMT in late 2014. 

Anyway, I was kindly invited to attend the Union Jack flag lowering ceremony this afternoon at Gemini's Hilo-based headquarters as the JAC's representative. Some of the snapshots I took are below.

All seven flags of the Gemini partner countries fly proudly outside the Gemini Hilo Headquarters at 3pm today.
Gemini North Headquarters.
The Union Jack starts to be lowered by Gemini staff members Gabriela and Claire.
Folding the flag - it will be sent back to the STFC in the UK.
Careful! Don't let the flag touch the ground!
The flag is handed to Markus Kissler-Patig, Gemini Director.
I hope the UK government and STFC are proud of this picture.

I was also handed a second Union Jack to give to my own boss when he returns from a trip. No photos of that I'm afraid, but although it was quite a sad occasion people were smiling (perhaps because they now have cut off all ties with the UK STFC?) and it was nice to catch up with many old friends, several of whom worked for UKIRT in the past!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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