Race to the End of the Earth

Scott’s party at the South Pole, 17 January 1912.
(Wikimedia Commons)

From 17 May to 24 October 2013, the Royal BC Museum is presenting the special exhibition Race to the End of the Earth, which “recounts one of the most stirring tales of Antarctic exploration, the contest to reach the South Pole.” In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum is also presenting the giant-screen film Shackleton‘s Antarctic Adventure, about the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. (Shackleton’s later efforts to raise money for another expedition brought him into the story told in Acts of Occupation. In Chapter 4 of the book, we talk about the plans for a proposed arctic expedition by Shackleton, to be sponsored in part by the Eaton family.)

Centennial of Canadian Arctic Expedition spawns return voyage

Centennial of Canadian Arctic Expedition spawns return voyage

OTTAWA — An ill-timed journey during the First World War, a rocky relationship between the two leaders, the sinking of the Karluk and 11 deaths are what most historians associate with the Canadian Arctic Expedition.

But, despite those drawbacks, the 1913-1918 expedition — the most comprehensive Canadian-led Arctic research project of the day — was an extraordinary success in other ways, says researcher and filmmaker David Gray, and it deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

Which is why Gray and a handful of researchers and crew members — including Bob Bernard, the great-great nephew of Peter Bernard, captain of the expedition schooner Mary Sachs — are heading north again on the expedition’s 100th anniversary, to visit, map and film CAE sites which have never before been documented.

Read the rest of Lisa Gregoire’s story on NunatsiaqOnline.

For anyone who wants to contribute, the indiegogo fundraising page for the project – “The White North has thy Bones” – can be found here.

Journeys to the Ends of the Earth: Scholars explore connections between polar explorations, past and present

Polar map from The Quarterly Review, October 1817, page 214.

From the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Over the past decade, global warming has melted polar sea ice down to record lows—but during the same period, thanks to a growing awareness of the climate phenomenon, the Arctic and the Antarctic have vastly expanded in the popular imagination. Nowhere is that clearer than in the broad recent interest in the European, Russian, and North American explorers who crisscrossed the poles in the 19th and early 20th centuries, searching for trade routes like the Northwest Passage and the mythical Open Polar Sea.

Amateur adventurers are following in the early explorers’ tracks: A six-man crew rowed 460 miles to the magnetic North Pole last year in a testosterone-fueled attempt to best Ernest Shackleton’s 1916 polar rowing record, and this summer, the New Bedford Whaling Museum sponsored a voyage to replicate the 1869 Bradford-Hayes artistic expedition up the coast of Greenland. Creative reinterpretations of the early polar narratives have been plentiful over the past decade, including this year’s Dead Men by Richard Pierce, exploring the legacy of the ill-fated Scott Antarctic expedition, and Mat Johnson’s 2011 novel Pym, a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 Antarctic nightmare The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Even the TV survivalist Bear Grylls is getting in on the act, claiming to have discovered relics of the British explorer John Franklin’s lost 1845 Arctic expedition.

Russell Potter, a historian of polar exploration at Rhode Island College and founder of the online Arctic Book Review, says he’s seen a major upswing in writing about the poles over the past 15 years. In the mid-90s, he would receive a handful of books on the subject each year; more recently, he’s received as many as 30. He attributes the interest to global warming as well as to a postmodern nostalgia for an imagined age of heroism. There’s an “elegiac sense of the passing of the era and the loss of the beauty and the danger of ice,” he says. “These stories from the heroic age with a reflection of how these things have changed today, that fascinates people.”

Read the rest of Britt Peterson’s article “Journeys to the Ends of the Earth: Scholars explore connections between polar explorations, past and present” in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tugging a long-lost ship back to its Norwegian homeland

Amundsen's Maud near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

Amundsen’s Maud near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today’s Globe and Mail has an update on the long-running story of Norwegian efforts to salvage Roald Amundsen’s ship Maud and return it to Norway:

At long last, the Maud will float home.

After years of trying to persuade Ottawa to allow Norway to reclaim the famed schooner sailed by legendary polar explorer Roald Amundsen – and which is currently resting partially submerged in Nunavut’s Cambridge Bay – Norwegians have set their plans to retrieve the ship from its resting place of 82 years.

With a price tag of $5-million to $6-million – or more if necessary – the raising of the 300-tonne vessel that is now scheduled for next summer will be a challenging technical feat, relying on simple physics.

(Read the rest of Tamara Baluja’s story on the Globe and Mail‘s website. There’s also a small gallery of photographs. The “Maud Returns Home” project also has its own website for those in search of updates.)

Canada’s Far North was site of lifelong passion for Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith

Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith, from the obituary in the Globe and Mail

Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith, from the obituary in the Globe and Mail.

Noted glaciologist and polar academic Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith died just over a month ago at the age of 89. From Josh Wingrove’s obituary for Hattersley-Smith in the Globe and Mail:

At first, the ice didn’t interest Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith. The young man who grew up in southeast England instead wanted to study forestry. There was much, though, that he hadn’t planned on.

He left school to serve in the Royal Navy, because he felt he should, and later found himself serving during D-Day.

In the end, it was another subject entirely that caught his eye, a field far removed from forestry, rural England and the war – ice.

So began his trek as a glaciologist, Arctic and Antarctic academic and explorer (a term he loathed) – Hattersley-Smith became a leading pioneer of research in Canada’s Far North.

He climbed Nunavut’s highest peak, endured frigid and austere conditions and delivered the Canadian government, principally its military, an unprecedented understanding of the north during the heights of the Cold War.

Read the rest of the obituary on the Globe and Mail‘s website. There’s also an obituary in The Telegraph.

One of Hattersley-Smith’s accomplishments that garnered him attention outside of scientific circles was the recovery of explorers’ records from various cairns in the Canadian arctic. Among them were records left by the British Arctic Expedition of 1875-76, by Godfred Hansen in during his 1920 expedition to lay a depot for Roald Amundsen, and a section of Peary’s polar flag and records deposited in 1906. In one of Peary’s cairns, Hattersley-Smith also found a record left in 1930 by ill-fated German explorer H.K.E. Krüger and his companions. Hattersley-Smith discussed the discoveries he and his colleagues made in a 1955 article in Arctic, available online (pdf).

Scott’s wrecked ship Terra Nova found off Greenland

The Terra Nova, photographed in December 1910 by Herbert Ponting

The Terra Nova, photographed in December 1910 by Herbert Ponting.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

From the BBC:

The wreck of the ship that carried Captain Robert Scott on his doomed expedition to the Antarctic a century ago has been discovered off Greenland.

The SS Terra Nova was found by a team from a US research company.

Scott and his party set off from Cardiff aboard the Terra Nova in 1910 with the aim of becoming the first expedition to reach the South Pole.

The ship had a life after the polar trek, sinking off Greenland’s south coast in 1943.

It had been on a journey to deliver supplies to base stations in the Arctic when it was damaged by ice. The Terra Nova‘s crew was saved by the US Coast Guard cutter Southwind.

Read the rest of the story on the BBC’s website.


Cache of Cherry-Garrard letters found

Image of letters by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Recently discovered letters written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
(Image from The Independent.)

From The Independent:

“A century after Captain Scott’s fatal journey to the Antarctic a valuable collection of his personal possessions has been acquired for the nation, coinciding by chance with the discovery of a cache of letters written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard the youngest member of the Terra Nova expedition.

“Cherry-Garrard, who was 24 when he set out on the Polar expedition in June 1910, was one of the 12-man search party to discover the bodies of Scott, Henry “Birdie” Bowers and Edward Adrian Wilson.

“The 27 letters, between Cherry-Garrard and his mother, will be auctioned by Christie’s in October and are estimated to fetch up to £80,000.”

Read the rest of Matilda Battersby‘s article, “Cache of letters about Scott found as collection of his possessions acquired for the nation,” here.

There’s coverage in other news outlets, too:

Hell of Captain Scott’s youngest Antarctic explorer revealed in letters” (The Guardian)

Horrors of Scott expedition to South Pole revealed” (The Telegraph)

Youngest member of Captain Scott’s doomed expedition describes finding explorer’s frozen body” (Daily Mail)

Twenty-seven newly discovered letters reveal details of the search for Captain Scott and his companions” (artdaily.org)

A Journey to the End of the World: Tracing Polar Explorer Shackleton’s Footsteps a Century Later

Medusa Kelp in Hercules Bay, South Georgia

Medusa Kelp in Hercules Bay, South Georgia (Rachel Sussman)

Explorer Ernest Shackleton is one of the people who puts in an appearance in Acts of Occupation. At one point there was the prospect of his leading a Canadian government expedition to the high Arctic, but these plans fell through. Instead, Shackleton headed south again, and died in South Georgia. Rachel Sussman’s article describes her recent visit there, and you can read more about her Antarctic trip in her blog, The Oldest Living Things in the World.

Legendary geologist Raymond Thorsteinsson hailed as ‘last living Arctic explorer’

Raymond Thorsteinsson’s life could have come straight out of an adventure novel.

The renowned Calgary geologist, who passed away April 23 at the age of 91, first made a name for himself in the Canadian Arctic in the 1950s and 1960s.

Braving polar bears, ever-shifting ice floes and the fury of the elements, Thorsteinsson explored and mapped more than 500,000 square kilometres of frozen archipelago — and in between, he still managed to squeeze in an important daily ritual.

“He was a gentleman, and he always made time for tea,” says daughter-in-law Mary Thorsteinsson. “No matter where he was, he would heat up his Primus stove and make tea, and always have a little piece of chocolate.”

Read the rest of Amanda Stephenson’s article on the Calgary Herald’s website.

Read an obituary on the Globe and Mail’s website.

Acts of Occupation in the Ottawa Citizen

There’s an article in today’s Ottawa Citizen by Ross Fitzgerald about Acts of Occupation being shortlisted for the Canadian Political History Book Prize:

The Canadian Historical Association (CHA) has recognized two Ottawa historians by shortlisting their recent book for the 2012 Canadian Political History Prize.

Dr. Janice Cavell and Dr. Jeff Noakes co-authored Acts of Occupation: Canada and Arctic Sovereignty, 1918-25. The book is about early Canadian Arctic sovereignty.

Read the full article on the Citizen‘s website.