The Great White South, or with Scott in the Antarctic. Being an Account of Experiences with Captain Scott’s South Pole Expedition and of the Nature Life of the Antarctic… and an Introduction by Lady Scott.

p. 1: I might almost say that I first met Captain Scott in Siberia. I may at least state that it was there that I first got to know him, for I occupied myself during a journey over the Trans-Siberian railway in January, 1907, by reading his recently published work ‘The Voyage of the Discovery.’ I had bought the two volumes in Tokyo, thinking that they might furnish appropriate reading for a journey in the frigid conditions of climate which prevail in Siberia at that time of the year; and during my two weeks’ incarceration in the train, as it meandered over a third of the circumference of the globe, from Vladivostock to Moscow, I found that virile story of adventure of absorbing interest. Little then did I imagine that I should one day meet the great explorer in the flesh; much less that before four years had elapsed I should be accompanying him on his second voyage to the Antarctic regions. Wonderful, indeed, are the ways of Fate in the framing of our destinies!

p. 13: ‘Uncle Bill’—as our zoologist, Dr. Wilson, was known to all—seemed to know the name of every bird that winged the waves. I never sought from him the name of any creature in vain. Thus at the outset of our voyage I found how exhaustive was his knowledge of Antarctic fauna. It gave me no small satisfaction to know that, whilst my own ambition was to produce a pictorial record of our adventure—which might enlighten those who do not read expensive volumes on exploration, as to the objects, results and value of such an enterprise as ours—Dr. Wilson was a man who was capable of investing any zoological photographs with such information as would render them of maximum value to science.

p. 21, while injured aboard ship: A friend in New Zealand had presented me with Black’s ‘For the Term of His Natural Life’—a most blood-curdling tale of the days of transportation to Botany Bay for comparatively trivial offences, and often on account of the most deplorable miscarriage of justice which I read through, but was glad to reach the end of so depressing though enthralling a story. I then commenced to read F. T. Bullen’s ‘Cruise of the Cachalot,’ one of the most stirring books of adventure ever written, every chapter of which was filled with information concerning the very creatures that the old ship, in which I now found myself, had been engaged in hunting during a great part of her career—whales. The Cachalot is better known by its English name, Sperm whale, and although we were now south of the haunts of these great sea mammals—which frequent warmer waters— we were soon to meet with other members of the numerous whale family, concerning which there is a mine of information in that fascinating volume.

p. 43, Christmas Day in the Pack, Sunday: It was to be a day of rest and recreation. During the morning Captain Scott read the Church Service, and after lunch each of the afterguard went about his affairs, or read or snoozed in his bunk until it was time for dinner.

p. 128: Because of the kindred nature of our work [Ponting and Dr. Wilson], I was drawn into closer contact with Wilson than with any other of my comrades. He would submit every sketch that he made to me, and sometimes he would seek my advice when he experienced difficulty in getting the effect he wanted. I remember how puzzled he once was over one of his studies of Mt. Erebus. He could not get the mountain to look high enough. My experience in photographing mountains showed me what was wrong. He had given the sketch too much sky. Taking a sheet of paper I placed it across the top of his drawing, cutting off three inches of sky, and immediately the mountain rose. He was quite pleased, and thought it remarkable that he had not thought of such a simple expedient himself.

It was my province to illustrate, amongst other things, the animal life around us. When, later, I was engaged on this fascinating work, my own affection for it was no greater incentive than the knowledge that the man whom I held in such high regard would be able to invest my pictures with the maximum of scientific information. Some of the animal habits recorded would have been a revelation to him—as they are to every zoologist who sees them—and I know what delight they would have given to Uncle Bill, had he lived.

Captain Scott’s cubicle was the next. His ‘den’ was about eight feet by six; it had several shelves of books, which included a number of volumes on Polar exploration given to the Expedition by his friends Sir Clements Markham and Sir Lewis Beaumont. These were in demand by all.

p. 137-39, details on the lecture series of Scott’s Terra Nova expedition.

p. 139: In May, a notice had been posted up announcing that the third volume of the South Polar Times would be published on Midwinter Day—two previous volumes having appeared during the Discovery Expedition. All were invited to send in anonymous contributions in the form of prose, poetry or drawings, which were to be deposited in the ‘Editor’s Box’ under the notice. From that time onwards there was a noticeably more studious and preoccupied air about the occupants of the ward-room, and it was not difficult to divine who of our number had literary aspirations, dissemble though they might. Cherry-Garrard, the Editor, had a strenuous time for three weeks in June, carefully typing the MSS. he had accepted….

p. 140, after June 22 Midwinter Day dinner: Cherry’s masterpiece was then disclosed, The South Polar Times, on which he had spent weeks of patient, unremitting care. It was a Crown Quarto volume, cleverly bound by Day with ‘Venesta’ three-ply board, carved with the monogram S.P.T., and edged with silver-grey sealskin.

Cherry had typed its fifty pages faultlessly, and many of the contributions were beautifully illustrated with water-colour sketches by Uncle Bill. Most of the prose took a comic turn; but some of the verses were of a serious nature.

p. 156: To some, it may seem incredible that men should forego the comforts and luxuries of civilization, and, leaving the joys of home and all that many consider most worth living for, venture to the most forbidding ends of the earth to suffer inconceivable hardships, and to risk heath and limb and life itself in order to study the breeding habits of a bird. Yet ought we all to be thankful that our race produces such men; for the thirst of science for knowledge is insatiable, and Britain has ever been foremost in the van of those who have not hesitated, if needs be, to sacrifice all to satisfy it.

p. 158-59: Of books we had any number, and of all kinds, so that with reading, games and lectures our leisure hours passed pleasantly and profitably. It is worthy of note that Oates, as became a soldier, read little else but Napier’s ‘Peninsular War.” Occasionally he would dip into a novel, but he looked upon such literature as trifling, and soon returned to the beloved volumes. Near the head of his bunk he had hung a picture of his one hero, Napoleon.

Every Sunday morning Captain Scott read the Church Service, and the day was as far as possible regarded as one of relaxation.

p. 164: He had kept much to himself during the winter. He read a great deal—generally books on Polar exploration, relieved by an occasional novel. He worked a great deal on his plans for the future; he wrote much in his diary, and smoked incessantly. Almost invariably he took his exercise alone. Once, during the winter, I asked him if he had yet started on his book. His reply was: ‘No fear! I’ll leave that until I get home.’ From which I gathered that his Journal was to be used merely as notes which later would be elaborated into his official account of the Expedition. Though a great part of it was written under conditions of extreme discomfort, and much of it in the face of unparalleled hardship, when Scott’s Journal ultimately became known, it was manifest to the world that his literary ability was of a high order, though readers of his previous work, ‘The Voyage of the Discovery,’ knew this already.

p. 263: We watched daily, and the ship drew nearer from time to time as the ice in the Sound broke away. In stormy weather she would put out to sea for safety, and reappear a few days later, nearer than before. It was not until February 3rd, however, that she came near enough for Meares—who, with Dimitri, had returned from the Barrier a month ago—to drive out with a dog-team and communicate with those on board. He returned an hour later with two great bags of letters and papers; so we all spent the next few hours reading the news from home, and learning something of the events that had occurred in the great crowded world from which we had been absent for so long.

p. 290-91, on how the bodies of Scott, Wilson, and Bowers were found: ‘Wilson and Bowers were found in the attitude of sleep, their sleeping-bags closed over their heads as they would naturally close them. Scott died later. He had thrown back the flaps of his sleeping-bag and opened his coat. The little wallet containing the three note-books was under his shoulders and his arm thrown across Wilson. So they were found eight months later.’

Beside the note-books were the little camera, and two rolls of film. In these films there were latent, amongst others, the three photographs reproduced herein which show the explorers at the South Pole—probably the most tragically interesting photographs in the world.

They were taken with a quarter-plate film camera; and, in the case of the groups, the shutter was released by a long thread, so that all might appear in the picture. Dr. Wilson can be seen pulling this thread in one of the groups, and Lieut. Bowers in the other. The films were nearly two years old at the time they were exposed at the South Pole. For eight months those two rolls of film lay on the snow—beside the dead bodies of three of the five explorers whose images were hidden therein—until they were found by the Search Party. Later, they were developed by Debenham in the Hut at Cape Evans. It seems almost incredible that they should have yielded excellent negatives.

p. 302: Scott was a great reader and lover of good literature; and his books ‘The Voyage of the Discovery’ and ‘Scott’s Last Expedition’—the diary of the great adventure to which he gave his life—have demonstrated his ability as a writer. There is probably nothing more soul-stirring in all our literature than the closing pages of Scott’s Journal, and his ‘Message to the Public,’ which the great explorer wrote whilst death was staring full into his eyes. They should be taught in every school, and committed to memory by every British boy, for it should be the resolve of every true English man ‘to meet the end with a similar spirit.’