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)

Update to Chapter 6 of Acts of Occupation

Captain Joseph Bernier aboard C.G.S. Arctic, 1923.

Captain Joseph Bernier aboard the C.G.S. Arctic, 1923.
Library and Archives Canada, PA-118126.

When researching Acts of Occupation, one of our main challenges was to unearth the relevant information from the labyrinth of old government files at Library and Archives Canada. Filing systems in the 1920s were a vast improvement over those used in the nineteenth century, but key facts would often be missing from the major files, only to be found lurking in a minor file whose title might or might not give a clear indication of its contents.

To our dismay, even after much searching we couldn’t definitively answer one very important question: how was the decision to send the first Eastern Arctic Patrol in 1922 made? The planned 1921 patrol was cancelled, but J.B. Harkin, Jack Craig, and Oswald Finnie of the Department of the Interior were all determined that in 1922 the CGS Arctic would carry a patrol north. However, their efforts to influence the new Minister of the Interior, Charles Stewart, seemed to have little effect – until, in May 1922, the Cabinet suddenly decided to send the patrol. The main Department of the Interior file on the Arctic islands (RG 85 vol. 583 file 571) was frustratingly silent on how this came about. We could only speculate that Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s entreaties about Wrangel Island had turned the new Liberal government’s attention to Arctic issues generally (p. 146).

As it turns out, we weren’t wrong, but the story has a surprising twist to it, involving the famous Canadian explorer Joseph Bernier. When doing research for another Arctic project, I (Janice) found the long-sought documents in file 2502 (“C.G.S. Arctic Explorations & Radio Messages, Reports & Pictures”). Jeff and I already knew that Bernier, his colleague Alfred Tremblay, and a few of their business associates had organized a company called the Arctic Exchange and Publishing Company, and that Tremblay contacted the government in February 1922 with an offer to occupy the Arctic islands in exchange for cash subsidies and the exclusive right to carry out commercial activities there. The file on the Arctic Exchange and Publishing Co. (file 928) shows that government officials disliked the idea and quickly rejected it. As far as file 928 indicates, that was essentially the end of the matter.

However, the documents in file 2502 show that early in May 1922, soon after Minister Stewart had met with Stefansson for the first time, another meeting was called – this one to discuss the Bernier plan. Bernier and his associates had persuaded the Minister of Marine and Fisheries, Ernest Lapointe, and a few other Quebec MPs to plead their cause with Stewart. In deference to his colleagues, Stewart agreed to give the plan a hearing. Those present at the meeting were Stewart, Deputy Minister of the Interior W.W. Cory, Harkin, Finnie, Craig, Bernier, Lapointe, and two MPs.

But Stewart too rejected the application, which was long on promises but short on practical details. Taking deft advantage of the situation, Harkin, Finnie, and Craig then persuaded him that the government itself must take action. A memo written by Craig on 10 May records the decision – unfortunately, without explaining just what arguments were used to win Stewart over.

Bernier personally had no reason to regret the way things went, for he was appointed to once again command his beloved ship, the Arctic. His associates weren’t so happy: for years they continued to send angry complaints that their proposal would have been successful but for the machinations of bureaucrats, and that the company would have done “twenty times as much good work to the advantage of Canada, as you have done with your expensive expeditions.” (Joseph Béland to Lapointe, 15 June 1925, on file 928).

“Arctic Discovery” float, July 1927

The "Arctic Discovery" float in the Historical Pageant, 1927

The “Arctic Discovery” float in the Historical Pageant, Ottawa, July 1927.

Historical pageants formed part of Canada’s diamond jubilee celebrations in July 1927, and included the stories of European explorers and settlers. While the primary focus was on early European arrival and exploration, one of the floats in Ottawa told the story of “Arctic Discovery,” and carried Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier as a visible symbol of these events. Here a crowd watches the float, complete with fur-clad passengers, roll down an Ottawa street.

This seemed like an image with appropriate historical ties to July 1st. Happy Canada Day!

“The Bernier float in the Historical Pageant,” July 1927.
Library and Archives Canada, PA-027603

Wrangel Island Today

Wrangel Island Tundra

Wrangel Island tundra – US NOAA photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

While parts of Wrangel Island appear today much as they would have in the early twentieth century when they featured prominently in Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s plans, humans have substantially changed other areas during the last hundred years. Attempts at settlement have left abandoned structures and piles of garbage and hazardous waste at various locations around the island. See more pictures and details at Siberian Rusty: Russia’s Despoiled Wrangel Island.

Canada’s History review of Acts of Occupation

Nelle Oosterom has just reviewed Acts of Occupation for Canada’s History:

Acts of Occupation looks at a fascinating period between 1918 and 1925, when the age of heroic Arctic exploration was coming to an end and the cautious work of federal bureaucrats to establish Canada’s policy on Arctic sovereignty was just beginning. Personalities such as explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson — a ruthlessly ambitious adventurer with a talent for self-promotion — wrangled with stodgy civil servants like J.B. Harkin, Canada’s first parks commissioner, who regarded the Arctic as part of his domain and thus positioned himself as a player in foreign policy.

This is a joint review, along with Peter Pigott’s From Far and Wide: A Complete History of Canada’s Arctic Sovereignty. You can read the review on the magazine’s website.