The Diary of Lieutenant Charles W R Royds. RN Expedition to the Arctic 1901-1904.

Royds was the First Lieutenant on Scott’s Discovery expedition, and was involved in virtually all operations of the ship and the expedition, including ship’s discipline. It’s a rather ponderous (and heavy) tome but full of information about the expedition. He mentions the Cap’t. frequently but I didn’t seem to learn much about Scott from it. He frequently played the piano or pianola for a couple hours at a time. He was clearly a steady reader and names titles but gives little insight into his reactions to the books he read. Here are some examples of reading and related matters:

Foreword, by Sir Richard Eyre [Royds’ grandson]
Preface, by Roger Royds

The National Antarctic Expedition
Scientific Aims
The "Discovery"
The Officers, Scientists and Crew

To Penetrate the Unknown Antarctic – The Dundee Advertiser
DIARY [From 7 August 1901 (p 29) through 10 September 1904 (p. 366)]


p. 31, August 13, 1901: Dr. Mill had Champagne put on the table at dinner, and after dinner we had a singsong on the Upper deck, which for a first one went off very successfully. Page’s song was very good, and everyone, himself included, thoroughly enjoyed it. Cross was weak in his recitation, but I have never found a man on the lower deck who could recite at all, so it was not surprising.

p. 33, August 18: I forgot to say that we held Divine Service on the U.D, and for the first time used the prayer the Bishop of London specially made for us. It is a cheery service. The men sang heartily and well. Mr Murray reads the lessons, and I play. The following is the prayer:

“Oh! Almighty God, who hast appointed all things in heaven and earth in a wonderful order, be pleased to receive into Thy most gracious protection all who sail in this ship. Grant that our labours may show forth thy praise….”

p.42, September 8: There is one great disadvantage to a revolving chair on board ship, and that is that it is always on the move, and really it becomes a very difficult thing to write if the ship is moving quickly, and especially if she has the “all round” movement…. Goodness only know when I am going to get my 50 odd letters written, at the rate I am going now I won’t get 12 done. Must really try to find time to get some done this week. The breakages continue in vast quantities in our pantry, and only about 8 tea cups are left. We shall not I know have a single piece of china for a relic, if this state of thing goes on.

p. 44, September 13: The crabs which one read so much about in Knight’s book were very apparent….

p. 56, October 18: As soon as the sail was off the ship we began to roll heavily, and books etc came down from overhead in my cabin, and also Eva’s picture over the dressing table, and Eva’s group over the bunk.

p. 57, October 21: My cabin is rather a heap at present. All my books, etc all heaped up underneath my writing table, and several of my pictures are also among the heap. I shall wait for some quiet day before I will put anything up again.

p. 58, October 23: Have got an excellent book, “The Spanish Story of the Spanish Armada” by Froude.

p. 58, October 23: Quiet afternoon reading “the heart of Princess Osra” by Anthony Hope.

p. 59, October 27: Have been reading “Stories in light and shadow” by Bret Harte, and after tea carried on with my meteorological books,

p.78, January 3, 1902: Had a drink of the old “Discovery” port wine which went up North with them in /76, and drank success to the expedition. [That refers to the Nares expedition of 1875/76.]

p. 132, May 21 Wednesday: Read quietly most of the night.

p. 133, May 24th Saturday: At dinner the second number of the South Polar Times was issued, and it is excellent. The drawings being the main feature, although the articles are also very good. After dinner played the piano until 10.0….

p. 136, June 5th Thursday: Wrote up my [meteorological] books in the morning, and then weighed and renewed the evaporation dishes. This is really a most interesting experiment, as all books say that there is no evaporation, but this is wrong as decidedly there is.

p. 139, June 15th Sunday: Church as per usual. Read magazines most of the day.

p. 143-44, June 24th Tuesday: I have been reading “Through the first Antarctic night” by Dr F.A. Cook, and have been thoroughly disgusted with it. That sort of reading may go down with those who have no conception or idea of a Polar Winter, but for any one who has been here, or knows to the smallest extent, what sort of thing it is, must at once sum up that book, and its story of horrors, as absolutely untrue, or if true, then unique in the history of latter days polar exploration. To begin with, what sort of men can they be, who sit and cry over the thought of “sweetheart” far away, who brood over their solitude, who imagine every sickness possible to those regions, who grow their hair long because they are too tired to cut it, and a hundred and one things they did, which any other man in the same circumstances wouldn’t have thought of doing. As an example of the sort of stuff which Cook flls the page of his book with, I will take pages 290 and 291, and then compare them with our own feelings and conditions. After describing in flowing language, the glory of an especial mid-day, regrets he cannot “lay these colours on canvass”, and continues “and what am I to do in black, with an overworked pen, frosty ink, and a mind which is wearied as soon as the cheer of noon day passes?

To the first of May our health has been fairly good. Since entering the pack, our spirits have not improved. The quantity of food which we have consumed, individually and collectively, has steadily decreased and our relish for food has also slowly but steadily failed. There was a time when each man enjoyed some special dish, and by distributing these favoured dishes at different times, it was possible to have someone gastronomically happy every day. But now we are tired of everything. We despise all articles which come out of tin, and a general dislike is the normal air of the Belgica. The cook is entitled, through his efforts to please us, to kind consideration, but the arrangements of the menu is condemned, and the entire food store is used as a subject for bitter sarcasm. Everybody having any connection with the selection of preparation of the food, past of present, is heaped with some criticism. Some of this is merited, but most of it is the natural outcome of our despairing isolation from accustomed comforts. I do not mean to say that we are more discontented than other men in similar conditions. This part of the life of the polar explorers is usually suppressed in their narratives. An almost innocuous discontent occurs in every expedition through the polar night. It is natural that this should be so, for when men are compelled to see one another’s faces, en counter the few good and the many bad traits of character for weeks, months, and years, without an outer influence to direct the mind, they are apt to remember only the rough edges which rub up against their own bumps of misconduct. If we could only get away from each other for a few hours at a time, we might learn to see a new side and take a fresh interest in our comrades; but this is not possible. The truth is, that we are at this moment as tired of each other’s company as we are of the cold monotony of the black night and of the unpalatable sameness of the food.

Now and then we experience affectionate mood spells, and then we try to inspire each other with a sort of effervescence of good cheer, but such moods are short lived. Physically, mentally, and perhaps morally, then, we are depressed, and from my past experience in the arctic I know that this depression will increase with the advance of the night, and far into the increasing dawn of next summer. The mental conditions have been indicated above. Physically we are steadily losing strength, though our weight remains nearly the same, with a slight increase in some. All see puffy about the eyes and ankles, and the muscles, which were hard earlier, are now soft, though not reduced in size. We are pale, and the skin is unusually oily. The hair grows rapidly, and the skin about the nails has a tendency to creep over them, seemingly to protect them from the cold. The heart is failing in force and is decidedly irregular”. Etc etc etc—–

Now on reading that sort of stuff, could anything be more hopeless; and simply because—to my mind—a little strength of mind was wanting; just a little will force to fight against despondence, and a lack of moral courage to appear happy and contented when they were not. Are we different to other people who have been on other expeditions? No, I should say not, only that each member aboard this ship knows that by a single deed or word at the right time, make his neighbor think of other things, and forget that we are surrounded by this “everlasting white silence”!!! What we are tried to do during this half winter, which is nearly as long as they had for their whole winter, and what we will continue to do, is to behave like ordinary human beings and not because we are away from the society of women and civilization give up the ordinary habits of life. Regular baths, daily washings, meals, prayers and Sunday service, just as if we were in the ordinary run of life. I don’t say that it is not impossible to get into the state that the unfortunate members of the “Belgica” got into and that once in that condition it would have been a had job to buck up, but why allow yourselves to run so low, or allow others to do it. The winter cannot be all joy and comfort, and no one could expect it, but with the help of a little tact, a little denial, and a cheery face, most of the monotony and discomfort can be overcome both for yourself and for your messmates. I remember in dear Uncle Wye’s journal he used to talk about the mood of the W.R. in barometric terms, and at one time I thought of doing it here, but I have as yet never had to bring the barometer to any low level, and it would become monotonous to be always saying “A high barometer” sometimes varied with “A very high barometer.” One feels low at times, and prefers one’s own society to that of others, but only momentary, and the meals go with jest, argument, or discussion, and all agree that the winter is passing much quicker that thought possible.

p. 144, June 25th Wednesday: Wrote up my books, and in the afternoon wrote up my criticism of “Cook’s book”. [Includes a good description of an entertainment in the hut ashore after dinner; he doesn’t say what it was but he does describe good feelings in contrast to Cook’s account of the dreary winter.]

p. 153, July 26th Saturday: Didn’t feel up to doing any work, so read “Rhoda Fleming” [George Meredith] all day, and like the book immensely.

p. 157, August 10th Sunday: After dinner had two rubbers of bridge, and then read until 12.0 some old numbers of the Geographical Journal on Antarctic Exploration etc. It is strange to read what Cook writes after his voyage in 1772 for the express purpose of setting once for all the question of the Antarctic Continent…. He says “It is true however hat the greatest pat of this southern continent (supposing there is one) must lie within the Polar circle, where the sea is so pestered with ice that the land is thereby inaccessible….” Gives most of Cook’s famous passage.

p. 160, September 9th Tuesday: After dinner played bridge, and then played the pianola, playing over the good old tunes which I won’t hear for a fortnight.

p. 202, November 11th Tuesday, during sledging journey: Have been reading aloud, smoking and sleeping all day.

p. 210: discussion about snowblindness, a bigger problem than in the Arctic, Royds suggests, noting that “neither Borchgrevink or Belgica mention it in their books.” Royds was troubled by snowblindness at various times during 1901 and 1903 and this would have inhibited his reading. But during the winters when all was dark he was constantly reading, apparently for long periods (two hours, all afternoon, all day) though seldom giving any specific titles. There seemed to be no reading indicated in his sledging journals, though he must have had some reading matter on those trips.

p. 239, March 28th Saturday: Read all day, as I had got a most interesting book called the “Expatriots” by Lilian Bell, and simply couldn’t put it down till I had finished it. It is one of the ones Mrs Rhodes so kindly sent me.

p. 250, May 16th, Saturday: turned in at 6.30 A.M. but was too interested in the “Sowers” [Henry Seton Merriman 1895] which I had been reading, so read on until I had finished it at about 7.30.

p. 260, July 8 Wednesday: I cleared out my upper shelves, and found them in an awful state, with all my papers wet and mildew on all books and gear.

[This publication was produced mainly for family members but may be available to others, although only a limited number of copies was produced. Any true Antarctican should want it, as it’s a significant addition to any polar library.]