March 31, 2007

Sunday, 31 March 1907


Wilson, a photograph used as the frontispiece to v.2 of Scott's Last Expedition (1913). [1]

Scott asked "Bill" Wilson to accompany him as the new expedition's chief of scientific staff and official artist.

Edward Adrian Wilson was a naturalist, doctor, and gifted amateur painter who had accompanied Scott on the Discovery as zoologist, junior surgeon, and expedition artist. On the southern journey, during which they reached a then-record of 82° 17' S, he had become close to Scott, who was deeply impressed by Wilson's quiet optimism, serenity and sense of purpose, good temper, and faith.

"Can you really mean that you would like me to go south again with you?" Wilson wrote. "If you do I may tell you that nothing in the world would please me more, and my wife is entirely with me.... As for your good opinion of me I can only say that there is nothing I would not do to deserve it." [1]

Wilson, who was something of an ascetic, wrote privately to his wife, "I am getting more and more soft and dependent on comforts, and this I hate. I want to endure hardness and instead of that I enjoy hotel dinners and prefer hot water to cold and so on -- all bad signs and something must be done to stop it." He believed that he would survive to publish his work on ornithology. "This conviction makes me absolutely fearless as to another journey South, for whatever happened I know I should come back to you.... I should not feel it was right now to desert Scott if he goes." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] E.A. Wilson, letter to R.F. Scott, 31 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.336-337.
[3] E.A. Wilson, letter to Oriana Wilson, [date not given], quoted by Diana Preston in A First Rate Tragedy (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998, c1997), p.103.

March 26, 2007

March 1907


Letters flew between Shackleton, Keltie, and Scott.

Shackleton had been bitterly offended by Scott's account of the southern journey in The Voyage of the 'Discovery' in October 1905, which Shackleton saw as implying weakness on his part, and that having to carry Shackleton on the sledge caused the distances to be shorter than they might have been. All three members of the southern party -- Scott, Wilson, and Shackleton -- had developed scurvy, but Shackleton was the only one who had been sent home early, which Shackleton saw not only as a personal criticism but as damaging to his reputation as an explorer and the possible leader of an expedition.

Shackleton said now that he had learned of Scott's plans only when he asked George Mulock, who had replaced him on the Discovery, to join him, and found that Mulock had already agreed to accompany Scott. "I took the letter to the Geographical Society and saw Kelty [sic]. I said 'What is the meaning of this?' Kelty said 'Oh! Mulock has let the cat out of the bag.' I said 'What do you mean?' I said 'Is Scott going to go?' He said 'Yes.'" [1]

Scott was furious and wrote to Keltie, "You do not say that you told him that I contemplated getting up an expedition, but it is impossible to imagine that you omitted to mention it when you saw him. That fact must therefore be that Shackleton deliberately worded his notice so as to forestall me -- I would have not believed it of any of my own people -- and since it is so I cannot express my condemnation of such an act too strongly." [2]

Keltie replied, "Your letter makes me feel very unhappy. I feel rather sorry now that when Shackleton spoke to me first about his expedition and told me that he was going to put it in the papers next day that I did not tell him what were your intentions.... But then I thought that you wanted to keep the whole matter absolutely secret.... Of course you will understand that my position here is a difficult one.... I think that you will admit that we could not ignore his expedition altogether."

"He has evidently been quite upset," Keltie went on, "by your letter and the letter he has had from Barne, he told me he has not slept for four nights. He has evidently been thinking over alternatives. He talked of the Weddell Sea, and landing there and trying to make his say to the Pole, then he thought of making King Edward VII Land his base of operations, and leaving the old Discovery quarters to you and even hinted that he might turn his expedition to the North Pole.... As to Shackleton's capacity as a leader and his staying powers, I think you and I take the same view. He looks strong enough, but it is clear that he is not absolutely sound, and Heaven knows what may happen if he starts on his journey Pole-wards." [3]

"As to his chance of success I do not like to express an opinion. On the one hand he has lots of energy & he may select his people well -- on the other I personally never expect much in this sort of work from a man who isn't straight -- it is the first essential for the co-operation necessary for such a venture -- of course also Shackleton is the least experienced of our travellers and he was never very thorough in anything -- one has but to consider his subsequent history to see that -- he has stuck to nothing & you know better than I the continual schemes which he has fathered." [4]

Shackleton, however, wrote to Barne, "I would rather lose the chance of making a record that do anything that might not be quite right," and a few days later that he could see that "as Britishers, the position is clear." [5]

Scott replied to Shackleton, "I am sorry to have done you this injustice and I think it right to tell you how it came about. I ... have the relief of knowing that you did not intentionally wreck my plans and the thought that you had done so was very distressing to me, for it seemed an action of which an old Discovery should have been incapable and one that surprised me beyond measure in you. I apologise for having thought you guilty of it. As to Keltie we must now draw our own conclusions -- His silence seems to have been deliberately calculated to make trouble -- he must have known that I should protest and think evil things of you and that you would be deeply troubled, as I gather you are ... neither of us I expect is likely to forget it." [6]

Scott wrote to Keltie a few days later, "I confess your silence appears to me inexplicable. Now that I know the facts I must of course acquit Shackleton of want of loyalty but I cannot think that you acted a friendly part.... It is beyond me to guess what was in your mind.... I confess I am at a loss to find your motive and being a plain dealing person I have been exceedingly hurt by your act." [7]

Wilson was already taking on the role of peace-maker between Scott and Shackleton, who wrote to him, "I do not agree with you, Billy, about holding up my plans until I hear what Scott considers his rights. There is no doubt in my mind that his rights end at the base he asked for, or within reasonable distance of that base. I will not consider that he has any right to King Edward the Seventh's Land, and only regard it as a direct attempt to keep me out of the Ross quarter if he should ever propose such a thing. I have given way to him in the greatest thing of all, and my limit has been reached.... [Just] as well might Borchgrevink have objected to Scott wintering anywhere within a radius of 500 miles of Cape Adare." [8]

"The question now," Scott wrote to Shackleton, "is what you intend to do? On the one hand I do not wish to stand in the way of any legitimate scheme of yours -- on the other it must be clear to you now that you have placed yourself directly in the way of my life's work -- a thing for which I have sacrificed much and worked with steady purpose -- Two expeditions cannot go to the same spot either together or within the compass of several years -- If you go to McMurdo Sound you go to winter quarters which are clearly mine.... I do not need to remind you that it was I who took you South or of the loyalty with which you all stuck to one another or of incidents on one voyage or of my readiness to do you justice on my return." [9]

There were in fact rumours that the Pole Henryk Arctowski, oceanographer from the Belgica expedition and shipmate of Amundsen's and Cook's, was planning to return to the Ross Sea.

Scott, still unwilling to show his hand publicly, wrote to Keltie, "If you in consultation with others think it wise to announce a change of Shackleton's plan and a hint as to my own I am willing that you should do so presuming it is solely to show the world that England intends to operate in the Ross Sea -- If you think no such statement is necessary but it will be sufficient to inform foreign rivals more privately it would be a course better suited to my views." [10]


[1] Ernest Shackleton, letter to R.F. Scott, 27 February, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.302.
[2] R.F. Scott, letter to Scott Keltie, undated, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.302.
[3] Scott Keltie, letter to R.F. Scott, 1 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.301.
[4] R.F. Scott, letter, [addressee not given], 2 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.301-302.
[5] Ernest Shackleton, letters to Michael Barne, 5 March and 7 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.301.
[6] R.F. Scott, letter to Ernest Shackleton, 7 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.302-303.
[7] R.F. Scott, letter to Scott Keltie, 11 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.303.
[8] Ernest Shackleton, letter to E.A. Wilson, 11 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.303-304.
[9] R.F. Scott, letter to Ernest Shackleton, 26 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.303.
[10] R.F. Scott, letter to Scott Keltie, 26 March, 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.304.

March 20, 2007

March 1907


Frederick Cook announced his plans to launch an attack on the South Pole from Ross Island.

Cook had been surgeon on Peary's third Greenland expedition in 1891-92, and on de Gerlache's 1897-99 Antarctic expedition in the Belgica, during which he had become close friends with Amundsen.

March 8, 2007

8 March 1907


Shackleton, while still going ahead with his own preparations, assured Markham that he would not impinge on Scott's. "I had always a wish to go to our old quarters thought it is only a short time ago since I saw a real chance. How even now things may be altered as I have heard from Captain Scott that he intends to go again.... I had not the remotest idea that he ever intended to go again: indeed he told us down South that he could not again go because of the Navy.... He has written me on the subject and so he really means to go. I have advised him that of course I will give up the McMurdo Sound Base.... I hope Scott will get a good fund and be able to do a really good show. I expect he really would like to do the Pole and I myself have not hidden that idea of mine; yet think that in doing that one can make sense of solving the secret of the Barrier."


[1] Ernest Shackleton, letter to Sir Clements Markham, 8 March, 1907, quoted by Ranulph Fiennes in Race to the Pole (New York : Hyperion, c2004), p.130.

March 4, 2007

Monday, 4 March 1907


Lt. E.RG.R. "Teddy" Evans, who had served as second-in-command of the Morning, one of the relief vessels on the Discovery expedition, had hoped to go with Barne to the Weddell Sea, but now wrote to Scott, "I am very disappointed that I shall not be Michael's navigator, but will you take me as yours? [If] you will only let me sail with you I promise that you will have no keener officer & no one shall work harder than I will.... I am tremendously enthusiastic about Antarctic exploration." [1]


[1] E.R.G.R. Evans, letter to R.F. Scott, 4 March 1907, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.360-361.