letters from the north

"To bag the south pole for Britain"

My favorite quote of the day: "To bag the south pole for Britain!' (to be spoken with much Gusto!).

Repeatedly said by Professor Max Jones, who was one of two speakers this afternoon for the first Freeze Frame Lectures, in reference to Captain Scott, the first explorer to venture the greatest distance into Antarctica. Scott died with his team of 5 on the way back across the Antarctic (180 miles from his final cache), having failed to claim the 'South Pole' for Britain. He lost to Roald Amundson of Norway. But Scott and his 4 comrades came back representatives of 'man's heroic sacrifice in the face of great adversity'. This was 1913 just before the start of WW1 and two weeks before the Titanic also was 'lost' in cold waters. Even the King attended their memorial service. Professor Jones spoke of Scott's ceremonial death, that was in the world spotlight at that time, in relation to the generation that fought during WW1, which created an interesting comparison. 2.4 million british men enlisted for the war within a 2 year period: Very different than the 'patriotism' that we see today during the war (Remember the war? what war?). Scott's death gained so much attention because he understood the power of the visual image, the media, and what a newspaper and words can inspire. He had taken along a camera and used it. He also took along the famed photographer Herbert Ponting (sp?) who documented the voyage to Antarctica and then a bit of their 'daily routine' once they reached their base camp on the edge of Antarctica. Scott had also sold his story to a newspaper in England before he left. This man was thinking. Alas, he did not make it back to read his own words but his personal journals and final 2000 word letter to the British people were found with his body in their tent, having died during an unexpected blizzard. Recently, scientists determined that the winter of 1912-13 was an especially cold winter for Antarctica, just like in Sir Franklin's case in the arctic in 1845. But I must say, again we see the British ego involved in not adapting to their surroundings, unlike Amundson, who already understood the power and importance of dog sledges and fur clothing.

My favorite item of the day: Shackleton, when he made his own expedition to the arctic, brought a car with him. Sir John Franklin had his monkey and pet dog and Shackleton had his car.

The second speaker was a woman named Kari Herbert, whose father was the first man to walk across the Arctic (North Pole- from Alaska to islands above Scandanavia). His team consisted of 4 researchers/explorers and the one man (can't remember his name and forgot to write it down!) was a glacierologist (what are they called?) who took core samples as they went across. This was the late 1950's and these samples are now used by scientists today to compare current data of the melting icebeds/glaciers/ice packs. When she, Kari, was born (after her father's trek) he took her and his wife to live in the Inuit community in upper northwest Greenland called Herbert Island (no relation to their family last name, just coincidence). So she spent the first 3 years of her life with the Inuit and then back and forth between Britain and there from when she was 7-10. She's written a book about it and is coming out with another book about the wives of the Scott, Franklin, and Parry (or perhaps Peary? two different arctic explorers whose names are the same). Herbert mainly spoke about her personal experiences and then the current state of the same community, which is what her first book was about: her return to the community after 25 years and what it was like.

Book Titles:
The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice by Max Jones
R.F Scott: Journals: Captain Scott's Last Expedition, with intro by Max Jones (this is Captain Scott's personal diary, which is incredibly written)
The Explorer's Daughter by Kari Herbert