Antarctic Obsession. A Personal Narrative of the Origins of the British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904.

Markham was the President of the Royal Geographical Society, and this book is based on his manuscript journal in the SPRI collection where Holland was once Librarian. It is not only a personal narrative but a vituperative one; one wonders whether Markham ever intended publication. It’s a one-sided story in the first person singular describing the feud between the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society during the planning of the Discovery Expedition, a feud over who would control the expedition, whether Scott would be in complete control or whether he would turn command over to the scientists (represented by geologist John Walter Gregory) when ashore. Markham won the battle in backing his own choice (many would argue the wrong choice) in Robert Falcon Scott. There is another side of this story but it won’t be found here in this egocentric and self-justifying account by this authoritarian martinet.

p. 21-23: For the Arctic Expedition of 1875 [Nares] Manuals were prepared at my suggestion, with Instructions and Information which would otherwise have to be collected from numerous sources…. I decided that a similar Antarctic Manual should be prepared containing like Instructions and Memoirs on the various branches of science; as well as the Antarctic parts of the voyages of Dumont D’Urville and Wilkes, and the journals of Biscoe and Balleny from manuscripts in the R.G.S. Library. Maps were prepared by Mr Batchelor under my superintendence. On November 21st 1900 I entrusted the work of editing the Manual to Mr George Murray, who thoroughly entered into the plan I had sketched out, and went to work with a will. [Goes on to give the Contents of the Manual, p. 23-25.]

p. 27: Shackleton also went through the magnetic course, and was very busily employed with the library and other details, and afterwards with the provisions, and hold storage.

p. 27-28 has Markham’s praise of Scott as his choice to lead the expedition: Above all Scott has the instincts of a perfect gentleman.

p. 32: The library was got on board and a catalogue printed. Two pianos were presented and a pianola by Mrs Baxter.

p. 38: The cabins of the officers had been tastefully fited up with pictures and other amenities [sic] by loving relations, and on some of their shelves were books of the Expedition library… There are to be pictures on the bulk heads of the Ward Room. One was up—Cook’s old Discovery at Deptford.

p. 40 Foc’sle Library: Against the foremost bulkhead there is a bookcase with a library for the men. Interesting that even before the Expedition Markham was already talking about these “gallant men” and anticipating their acts of “derring do.”

For a different perspective and one less favourable to Scott than Markham could ever be, see Andrew Atkin, “New Light on the British National Antarctic Expedition,” (Scott’s Discovery Expedition) 1901-04: Atkin particularly notes the adverse relationship of Scott to Louis Bernacchi, with Scott ignoring Bernacchi’s sound advice on storing the boats for the winter, the use of dogs, and other mistakes that Huntford magnifies.