Notes from Discovery Journal & Sledging Diaries of R W Skelton

Ms Skelton subsequently published her grandfather’s diaries as The Antarctic Journals of Reginald W. Skelton: “Another Job for the Tinker. (Cheltenham, UK: Reardon Publishing, 2004):

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/1 BJ Volume I, 31.07.01 – 11.01.02

13th September.- Knight. "The Cruise of the Falcon.- author of. "Where 3 Empires meet."

Friday 13 Sept:
Sighted the Island of Trinidad at 5.0 AM, when about 30 miles off, & stopped engines at 10.0 AM when about 1½ miles off the Coral ridge, (mentioned by Knight in "The Cruise of the Falcon")

Monday 14th October.

Finished "McClintock’s search for Franklin Expedition",- very good,- his sledge journeys seem most wonderful.- Started Greely’s 3 years of Arctic Service.
Friday 15th Nov
Finished reading Greelys "3 years of Arctic Service"- rather a gruesome tale,- seems to have been most unpardonable, the way he was left without relief, somebody ought to have gone up at all costs by any method.- have read "Diana of the Crossways" by Geo. Meredith,- a very nice tale,- certain amount of literary Jargon in it, in the usual way putting old time proverbs into language that has to be thought out,- on the whole well worth reading.-

Tuesday 19 Nov 1901
Finished reading two of Geo Merediths books.- "Diana of the Crossways" & "The Ordeal of Richer Feverel", both very good, but rather too tragic, especially latter.

26th Nov.01
Read "The Potters thumb" by Flora A Steek,- rather good, but Tragic.

29th December Sunday
Reading Vanity Fair.

31st Dec 1901. Tuesday.
Am Reading Bullers book of birds of New Zealand, a very fine publication, which I must get if I ever get the chance.-

1st January 1902
Have been reading up Antarctic manual on birds & seals.-

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/2 BJ Volume II, 12.01.02 – 10.03.02

No references to reading books – period of high activity, setting up Winter Quarters and sledging around the area so probably too busy.

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/3 BJ Volume III, 10.03.02 – 30.04.02

Monday 31st March 1902
The Pilot [Lt. Armitage] has been talking "through his hat" pretty considerable [sic] lately especially about sledging,- I rather had him about ski, with the help of Nansen’s book,- "First crossing of Greenland", where he says they beat everything.

Saturday 19th April 1902:-
Finished reading Herodotus;- most interesting, Rawlinson’s translation.-

Wednesday 23rd April 1902:-
The first number of the "South Polar Times" appeared after dinner,- it is a great success,- all the articles are good, & the sketches are tip-top – Shackleton is the Editor & does the job very well,- only one number has been produced, as it has to be typewritten, we have no printing press.- we have a copying arrangement suited to the typewriter called Edison’s mimeograph, it would copy the letterpress very well, but of course the sketches could not be reproduced well,- Shackleton is hoping to get a publisher in London to print good copies of it.- There is to be a number every month for 6 months.- Wilson has done most of the sketches,- Barne has done a caricature, & a very good cover.-
A very good article in West Country dialect on the penguin hunt we had the other day, by one of the men.-
The first full page picture, is a very good one of Royds, Koettlitz, & myself dragging our sledge through a blizzard,- most realistic, though of course a very small proportion of it was like that

Wednesday 30th April 1902:
In the evening I helped Shackleton to print "The Blizzard", a monthly paper, more for the men,- of a peculiar style.-

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/4 BJ Volume IV, 01.05.02 – 31.08.02

1st May 1902. Thursday:-
In the afternoon I went down to the Editor’s office, of The South Polar Times, & helped him to finish printing "The Blizzard",- a sort of supplement to the S.P.T. – the articles are all by the men, except Editorial, & as their ideas mostly run to Poetry, the result is very amusing, though perhaps it would not be exactly admired by the Laureate;- there are also 3 caricatures of well-known men amongst the crew,- done by Barne, very good. We managed to get the 50 copies done by 5.0 PM. & served them out, & also did 50 programmes for the concert tonight. The printing is done on an Edison’s mimeograph, a very excellent reproducing instrument, & the original copies being done on the type-writer, the general result is distinctly good.
I am reading Nansen’s Crossing of Greenland,- it is most interesting.- very glad to find how strong he is "on ski" as compared to other footgear, in snow,- either for hauling purposes or speed,- especially as ever since our sledge trip I have been strong on them myself, & have had several arguments about them with Armitage.

Wednesday 14th May 1902:-
Have just read a book called "The Cardinal’s Snuff Box" by Henry Harland – about Italy, very pretty story, & very well written.-

Sunday 29th June 1902:
Have just finished reading Nansens "First Crossing of Greenland",- a very well written book, full of information, but I think it could have been well done in one volume instead of two, & I don’t like the style of "first", & "furthest", which he in common with a few other foreign explorers have started making use of. However even his "padding", is good & worth reading.- Just started reading Greely’s "Handbook of Arctic Discoveries", a sort of resumé of Arctic work up to ‘95.

Tuesday 1st July 1902.
Have finished Greely’s book, & started on Payer’s voyage of the "Tegethoff.-

Tuesday 5th August:
Have finished reading Payer’s account of the "Tegethoff" Expedition & discovery of Franz Joseph Land;- they seem to have had hard times, & rather badly equipped; they would consider us in the "lap of luxury”.

Thursday August 7th:-
Finished one of George Meredith’s books "Beauchamp’s Career",- rather good, but he is rather fond of finishing up the wrong way.

Sunday August 10th:-
Finished reading "The Isle of Unrest [?]" by Seton Merriman,- rather good.-

Wednesday Aug 20th:-
In books I am going right through Meredith’s works now,- The Amazing Marriage, Rhoda Fleming Sandra Belloni etc.-

Thursday Aug 21st:-
Finished "The Amazing Marriage".

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/5 BJ Volume V, 01.09.02 – 29.11.02

No references to reading books – this volume covers the first half of what was probably the busiest sledging season of the whole expedition.

SPRI Archives – MS 342/2/2 Sledging Diary 2, 4.10.02 – 22.10.02 – 2nd Journey to Cape Crozier

17th October 1902
[For five days they were confined to their tents in a blizzard] No chance of moving – so I read Pendennis to the others for a bit

SPRI Archives – MS 342/2/4 Sledging Diary 4, 27.11.02 – 19.1.03 – Western Sledge Journey

Monday 1st December.
Seal & pemmican soup & cocoa for Supper,- did not turn in until 1.0 AM & then read Pendennis.

2nd Dec. Tuesday. Eskers Camp,. Read Pendennis 9.0 to10.0 AM & then all hands turned out.

Wednesday 3rd Dec:-
…turned in just before 10,- reading "Pen" for a bit.

Saturday 13th December
Confined to the tent pretty well all day – no cessation whatever in the bad weather, heavy snowfall,- heaviest I have seen down here, & nasty breeze, temperature high, everything very damp, We had a meal at noon & another about 8.30 PM, when we fried some seal liver & bacon, very good.- Read Pendennis all day – very glad I brought the book.

Sunday 14th Dec:-
8.0 PM – It has been so thick all day,- though otherwise nice weather, that we haven’t been able to move from camp;- the only thing done is that the sledges are packed.-
Read most of the day.-
Borrowed a pack of cards & played Euchre until about 11.30 & then turned in & read.

Saturday 20th Dec. – In camp
The thick snowy weather continued all through the night & was just as bad this morning so we remained in bed,- …Finished "Pendennis" & lent to A[rmitage]. Borrowed Scott’s "Betrothed" from Duncan.

Monday 22nd Dec 1902:-
We were confined for the rest of the day to our tents by the blizzard;
Finished reading Scott’s "Betrothed".

25th Dec 1902:-
Blowing so hard all day from the inland in fierce gusts up to Force 9 that we were not able to move, out of camp.- A funny place to spend Christmas in. Played 4 handed cribbage & Euchre in Duncan’s tent most of the day.-
Finished reading “In one Town” a shocking Yellow back,- & started one of Besant’s "Herr Paulus".

29th Dec 1902. Monday:-
Weather contined bad all day, so we were not able to move.-
Finished reading Besant’s "Herr Paulus“, & I think that is about the last of the literature we have got;

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/6 BJ Volume VI, 19.01.03 – 23.09.03

Thursday 29 Jan 1903:-
Bernacchi has got a whole series of "Westminster Budgets" [brought to “Discovery” by the relief ship “Morning”] which will be very useful to read.

Monday 16th Feb 1903:-
Started reading "Siberia in Asia" Seebohm.

Friday 6th March 1903:-
Came across an article in the Windsor magazine on Baldwin, written before he went up North, he seems to be a gigantic fraud.

Sunday 8 March 1903:-
I am now going through the weekly numbers of 1902 Illustrated London News.-

Tuesday 10th March 1903:-
I am going through 1902 Illustrated London News, & reading my letters over again, beginning with M.Rs.

Thursday 12th March. 1903:-
I read the "Vultures" during the night; by Seton Merriman, very good;- Took observations with the aspirator thermometers – every 2 hours, cold work,- I should think it was a good instrument. [I left the latter bit in because it explains why he was up all night. The officers and scientists took it in turns to take meteorological and other measurements at two hourly intervals throughout the night during the winter season].

Monday 16th March 1903:-
Must have strained myself yesterday,- as I had a bad pain in my side & couldn’t breathe properly all night,-
Turned in early & the Doctor lashed me up with a bandage round the ribs.
Ribs very bad.- Reading Kipling’s "Kim"

Wednesday 18 March 1903:-
My ribs practically alright now.-
Finished reading "Kim".- very good.

Saturday 21st March 1903:-
Finished reading "Siberia in Asia" – very interesting though it is only a sort of ornithological diary;- what a splendid field ornithologists had in those days,- not nearly such a good one now.

Sunday 22nd March 1903:-
Started reading a new book of Stanley Weyman’s,- "Count Hannibal"

Monday 23rd March 1903:-
Finished Weymans "Count Hannibal",- started Lives of the Hunted by Seton Thompson.

Sunday 29th March 1903:-
Finished reading "Lives of the Hunted" by Seton Thompson,- very good,- the book is well produced, & worth getting.-

Monday 30th March ’03:-
Finished reading "Wild Animals I have known" by Seton–Thompson.- also a very good book.

Saturday 4th April ’03:-
Looking through the "Sphere" of 1901.- a fair number of articles about us.- [I think this was a British newspaper/periodical of the time, presumably brought down by “Morning”. There were several cutting from the “Sphere” in Emily Dorman’s scrapbook that I was looking at last Friday]

Sunday 5th April ’03:-
Reading a yarn in The Sphere,- "Princess Clementina" by Mason,- finished it,- fair.-

Thursday 14th May ’03:-
We have been having discussions lately on meteorology,- chiefly winds,- & it was very difficult at first to follow out the facts laid down in Davis’s book on winds;- why a wind starting from say the equator could never reach the pole;- but we found a book by Ferrel an American, on board, which quite cleared up the whole thing;- he was the first expounder of the correct theory,- Hadley’s theory made some years before, being based on entirely erroneous facts.- It is interesting reading, but one must have a knowledge of Dynamics & Statics to understand it.-

Friday 15th May ’03:-
Finished reading Bowdler Sharpe’s book on "Wonderful Birds" – very interesting.

Sunday 31st May ’03:-
Borrowed a very good book on New Zealand from Hodgson, written in ’38 by an army surgeon.

Sunday 21st June ’03:-
Read a splendid essay of Huxley’s on "Geological Reform"

SPRI Archives – MS 342/1/7 BJ Volume VII, 23.09.03 – 08.09.04

Thursday 16th June ’04:-
I am reading a very fine book called The Virginian by an American author, Owen Wister,- it is splendidly written.

Friday 17th June ’04:-
Finished reading "The Virginian“,- a very fine yarn, as good as I’ve read for a very long time.

Sunday 19th June ’04.
Read an American book called "The Leopard’s Spots", fair.-

Thursday 18th Aug ’04.
Finished reading Helbeck of Barmisdale by Mrs Humphry Ward.- an extremely fine Novel.

Monday 29th Aug ’04:-
I have been reading lives of celebrated men lately,- Wolfe, Livingstone,- Warren Hastings, & have now started Oliver Cromwell,- they are very interesting.
Arranged a general meeting for tomorrow, to dispose of the Library.-

Tuesday 30th August 1904:-
After tea we had a general meeting for the disposal of the library.- We drew for the order of choosing & in turn each chose a "lot", each taking it in turn to have first pick as the "rounds" went on.

Wednesday 31st Aug ’04.
We decided to divide the library before we arrive in England,- Hodgson undertakes to do it.

Sunday 4th Sept ’04:-
Got out library books from the hold, with Hodgson helping & distributed them.

Tuesday 6th Sept ’04..
Wilson & I divided up the mess property,- also put up a notice that the remaining books would be distributed tomorrow.-

Wednesday 7th Sept:
Got the remaining library books disposed of.

Thursday 8th Sept ’04:-
After tea yesterday, when the books were disposed of, The Skipper spoke about giving Sir Clements Markham a present from the ship,- also payment of servants, payment of wine bills,- naming of geographical places discovered South, & provisional disposal of mess property. [This was the day when they arrived back in the UK and this day’s entry is the last one in Reginald Skelton’s journal]