Christmas in Antarctica

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The lady in the cancer book shop where I regularly search the shelves for a good bargain as well as a good read, told me she was spending Christmas in the Antarctic. ‘Very expensive,’ she murmured. ‘Really?’ I replied, naive and astonished, thinking of a tough Christmas in Scott’s hut. ‘Surely not? Do you stay in a B and B?” I asked incredulously. “No, no,” she laughed, “a cruise ship.”

This I find fascinating… just over a hundred years after Scott’s dreadful journey and death, we now go to spend holidays in the big chill. Expensive… yes, I bet – with a grand Christmas dinner – turkey and roast potatoes, Christmas pudding and a full complement of wines thrown in on board the warm floating hotel.

On the other hand, I shudder to think of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Christmas dinner with Wilson and Oates and Bowers and Evans at the South Pole. Scott recorded what he grandly termed four courses. ” The first, pemmican, full whack, with slices of horse meat flavoured with onion and curry powder and thickened with biscuit; then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum pudding; then cocoa with raisins, and finally a dessert of caramels and ginger.”

(Pemmican was the classic polar food – preserved and dried meat) Birdie Bowers, and Taff Evans (there were two E. Evans on the expedition) both felt so filled with warmth and human kindness after this extraordinary collection of unpalatable rubbish, that they decided that when they got back to England they would “get hold of all the poor children we can and just stuff them full of nice things, ” in bachelor Bowers’ words. Sadly there are even more ‘poor’ hungry children today in a world of affluence…

Bowers was responsible for the Christmas celebration, having smuggled the food over and above the allowed weights for the journey. Once the recalcitrant and desperate Mongolian ponies – who had suffered so terribly on the sea journey to the Antarctic, and who had then struggled endlessly in appalling weather and conditions on food they couldn’t eat – had been killed, every man carried his own food and equipment on the heavy sleds. Bowers had always sneaked his night-time biscuit to his pony. On the night before they were all killed, Wilson, St Francis’s man, gave his whole biscuit ration to the poor creatures, like the condemned man’s last meal.

Scott’s men unwittingly starved to death. For most of the journey they suffered from hunger, and spent long reveries dreaming about food as they trudged through the snow and icy winds, watching each other like hawks as the pan of hoosh was handed round at night. There was no variety. Every night the same, pemmican, cocoa and biscuit. The cocoa was cooked in the same pan as the pemmican, so it tasted of pemmican anyway. Though they had planned their rations according to known standards of nutrition at the time, they failed to take into account the human body’s needs for vitamins.

The more I learned about this historic expedition which has stayed in the collective memory of the world, the more Scott’s society seemed like a bees’ tight-knit society, Scott himself being queen-bee. As in the bee-hive, there was no crime in Scott’s world, and very little discord – restraint kept most grievances tightly bottled up… Scott was king, as well as queen bee, distant, demanding, admired, respected, deferred to – to their disadvantage, sometimes. Oates wanted to take some of the weaker ponies as far south along their route as possible, to kill and leave to eat on the long Polar return journey, but Scott vetoed this idea. It could have saved their lives.

They kept themselves amused through the endless black polar days and nights with a variety of imaginative ploys…Apsley Cherry-Garrard was the editor of the South Polar Times, a publication typically initiated by Shackleton on Scott’s first expedition, and revived in 1911, type-written with illustrations consisting of line drawings and coloured sketches by Wilson. It carried, among other things, a flourishing letters to the editor page.

There was also a piano and a wind-up gramophone to amuse the lads, donated by HMV before they left. They read – Laurie Oates, nicknamed ‘Titus’ after the notorious seventeenth century conspirator of the same name, read ‘Napier’s History of the Peninsula Wars, Cherry -Garrard, the complete Kipling, Day devoured Dickens, while others read Victorian poets and popular novels. They played chess and backgammon and cards. Significantly Scott was always beaten at chess by Nelson, so took to playing with Atkinson, a man he could beat. Scott also organised lectures to occupy the sixteen – strong company, a diverse group ranging from a non- English-speaking Russian groom, to the scientists, sailors and adventurers. They were English, Norwegian, Canadian and Australian.

Cavalryman Captain Oates, who in spite of being taciturn, was a very potent presence and a penetrating observer, unimpressed by Captain Scott, spent a great deal of time trying to cosset his ponies, and many hours crouching with them in their freezing stalls, coaxing them to eat their in-edible rations, or rescuing harness, headstalls and any other object which the bored and ravenous animals were tempted to devour. Oates’s cronies who shared one side of the cramped hut while wintering at Cape Evans, consisted of Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Atkinson and Meares, who were known as The Tenement Dwellers, anti- feminist, anti-scientist, conservative and spartan – and, one has to add – narrow-minded and philistine.

The other side of the twenty-five- foot wide hut were the scientists, who made a dainty attempt at home-making, mocked by Oates who called their space The Opium Den. They draped a curtain, scrounged from photographer Ponting, across their bunks to give themselves privacy. One added a branch acetylene light, another stained everything stainable with Condy’s fluid, making it a uniform red brown, the Norwegian, Gran, put red borders made from photographers’ material on their shelves, while another adorned his bunk with a piece of dark blue material which had started life as part of a Sunday altar cloth.

With all this, they danced together (the fiendishly difficult Lancers), sang together (at church services), reminisced together, and confided in each other (typically Oates’s confidences were about his old nanny in Yorkshire, and his commanding officer in India – Douglas Haig, soon to command the armies on the Western Front in WW1). Each man had his own duties, and shared the rest with every-one else. They were usually busy, or exhausted. No-one shirked or dodged. They looked out for each other. They too, were busy as bees, and the devil never found any idle hands. Each man knew his place in the scheme of things, and the hierarchy was as rigid and unchanging as that in the bee-hive.

Understatement was the preferred mode of communication. When they’re fighting for their lives and baling endlessly during terrible storms they use code words like “interesting ” and “exciting” to cope with their fear and their feelings. Oates writes to his mother about the Antarctic before he gets there: ” the climate is very healthy although inclined to be cold”. No-one ever seems to get cross or impatient, according to Scott, who records his own assessments of members of the expedition in his diary.

They relied on each other for company and comfort, succour and safety. They knew that their survival depended on each other, and perhaps in this way discovered for themselves the truth of the ideal society in which all life and all things and all men are connected to each other. No-one is separate from the whole, a truth civilisation has forgotten.

Writing in his book ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ of the expedition to Cape Crozier he made with Bowers and Wilson to collect Emperor penguin eggs, Cherry Garrard said ‘ And we DID stick it… We did not forget the Please and Thank you, which mean much in such circumstances, and all the little links with decent civilisation which we could still keep going. I’ll swear there was still a grace about us as we staggered in. And we kept our tempers – even with God.’ A bond of mysticism carried these three men through.

Tactful Dr Bill Wilson, secret disciple of St Francis, and known as Uncle Bill, was the advisor, peace-maker and comforter in the tiny Polar society. Birdie Bowers, bachelor, tiger for punishment, endlessly strong and tireless long after everyone else was fainting with exhaustion was the other closet mystic in the party – ” The purpose of life” he wrote, “… is to make a great decision – to choose between the material and the spiritual, and if we choose the spiritual we must work out our choice, and then it will run like a silver thread through the material… nothing that happens to our bodies really matters…

In spite of their failure to be the first to reach the South Pole – Amundsen beat them to it in a race they hadn’t bargained for – the triumph of their spirits over the terrible adversities they faced, has made their journey unforgettable. Scott’s biographer, Crane goes further, saying Scott’s “ letters, diary and last message extend our sense of what it is to be human. No one else could have written them; no one else, at the point of defeat and dissolution, could have so vividly articulated a sense of human possibilities that transcend both.” And in spite of their deaths, Scott’s scientific measurements, researches and discoveries were of enduring value to later explorers.

So at the edge of the world, on the edge of starvation, at the end of their tethers and at the end of their lives all four of the returning four Pole team members manifested courage, courtesy, kindness, decency and transcendent humanity … including heroic Oates limping out into the blizzard to die so his fellows might save themselves. These qualities are sometimes felt to be out of date in our modern times, but they are the qualities fostered by the Christian faith which is what Christmas celebrates, something sometimes forgotten in the general feasting, shopping, partying, gift giving and receiving.  I wonder how the Christian festival will be remembered on that passenger liner in the Antarctic – and how Scott and his men will be remembered too…

Food for threadbare gourmets

I’d made an extra pastry quiche shell, so I tried a new recipe, using pumpkin and kumara/sweet potato. Take a chunk of pumpkin weighing between four and five hundred grams, and grate. Grate a kumara, and mix them together in a largish bowl. Stir in half a cup of flour, and two cups of grated cheese. Beat six eggs with three quarters of a cup of cream, and stir into the mix, along with a tablespoon of mild curry powder and cumin each. Salt and pepper to taste, spread in a deep pastry shell and bake in a moderate oven for roughly 45 minutes. I served it with green beans and a few rashers of bacon for the resident carnivore! It was good cold too.

Food for thought

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.                           Australian Indigenous people’s proverb







Filed under cookery/recipes, environment, history, human potential, life/style, spiritual, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized

47 responses to “Christmas in Antarctica

  1. Perhaps it was the treatment of the horses, but for as long as I can remember I have regarded Scott and his gang as bumbling idiots, not very admirable people, and the ‘tragedy’ one of their own making. It has always seemed strange to me that they have had more than a casual mention, and that the expedition of Amundsen has not come in for far more praise and analysis.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I know what you mean about the ponies, it always breaks me up, but actually Scott cared so deeply about animals that he refused to use huskies the way Amundsen drove them and then ate them!
      Amundsen’s expedition was simply about racing Scott to the Pole, whereas Scott’s expedition had a scientific purpose, which was actually achieved; even after the crashing disappointment of finding they were not first to the Pole, they still went on collecting geological specimens etc on the return journey….
      When one of Scott’s dog teams pulling sledges slipped down a hidden crevasse, and they managed to haul all the dogs back except for one, trapped sixty feet below, Scott himself was lowered down the ice to rescue the dog.
      Scott’s scientific achievements on this expedition have always been obscured by the disaster of their deaths, but they have been respected and of use to polar explorers ever since, apparently.
      Climate experts have researched the weather patterns at that time and confirm that the blizzard which lasted ten days, and prevented Scott and his men from reaching the next food depot was an unusual occurrence.
      I have a shelf of books on Antarctica, and I would have to say that Scott’s men emerge from all the accounts as both admirable and efficient !!!

      Liked by 4 people

      • As you can tell, not a topic I have studied deeply! I think you have converted me from my previous prejudice re Scott et cie, while taking away some of my admiration for Amundsen — I’d forgotten the dog bit. A mark of the times, I suppose. Does one despise brave knights or cavalry because they got so many of their steeds killed or injured?


      • I know exactly what you mean about horses in battle… there was hardly a horse left standing in Europe after Napoleon’s campaigns… and I’ve always been so grateful to Henry Ford et al for making motor cars cheap enough for everyone, so horses are no longer flogged and driven and overworked and exploited pulling carriages and cabs, gun carriages and all the rest, both in cities and in battle

        Liked by 4 people

    • I absolutely agree with you, dear Colonialist. So ignorant using ponies. Well, outside the English speaking world Scott was never seen as a “hero”, it was Amundsen who gets the praise and there is not much mentioning of Scott. Ranulph Fiennes, a very, very debatable explorer, tried hard to build up the reputation of Scott (and his own) again.
      Scott was indeed a “bumbling idiot” in comparison to explorers like Shackleton, Nansen and Amundsen.
      All the best
      Klausbernd 🙂


      • Bad luck is a tragedy. Bad luck arising from mismanagement isn’t, really. In fact, in many cases is becomes a comedy. A dark one, but nevertheless …


      • Well, I never thought I’d be defending Scott in my blog !!!!
        NO, he wasn’t a bumbling idiot as our friend Colonialist conceded after reading my reply to him !!! in the navy Scott was marked out for his intelligence, hence his command of the expeditions which were partly financed by the navy as well as the Royal Society.
        HIs first expedition to Antarctica has been described by one writer as “one of the great polar journeys”. and the scientific results of the expedition included important biological, zoological and geological findings.On this expedition he discovered the great South Polar Plateau….
        As I say previously, his scientific findings on the second journey were also respected and of use to succeeding explorers.
        The use of ponies was part of his experiments in which he also tried out the dogs and machines, which turned out to be useless, as he also discovered with the use of ponies – Mongolian ponies were chosen after research during their preparations had showed they were the hardiest breed of all, and accustomed to extreme conditions… though the polar weather defeated them..
        NO bumbling idiot could have written Scott’s highly regarded diaries and the beautiful words with which he ended, which have passed into English literature, and which Vaughn Williams set to music in one of his acclaimed compositions.
        The main difference between Scott and Amundsen’s achievement us that Amundsen did it purely in order to be first at the South Pole and beat Scott – even Amundsen’s men didn’t know they were bound for the South Pole instead of the North, until halfway across the ocean- so purely an ego trip. Scott’s expedition – funded partly by the prestigious Royal Society – had a scientific purpose, which he fulfilled in most respects.
        Amundsen’s exploit was a bit like Sir Edmund Hillary’s. Hillary did the dirty on Sir Vivian Fuchs, the leader of his Antarctic expedition, when instead of just depositing the petrol for the journey as agreed and instructed, used it to do his own dash to the Pole before Fuchs got there. Fuchs was a gentleman and never made a fuss about it..

        Liked by 2 people

      • For me the basic point is who brought his man back. Amundsen was highly organised and therefore fast and well prepared as he lived with the Inuit. And really do you think one can trust what the navy published? I wouldn’t trust their judgment. I agree with the Colonialist, Scott‘s expedition was an example for mismanagement and ignorance.
        Well, at least that’s the way I see it,
        Have great time in the polar summer. Thank you very much for initiating this discussion – and as Nils Bohr once said: a truth is only valid when its opposite is true as well.
        All the best
        Klausbernd, who now happily starts his Christmas 🎄 holiday to the middle of January


      • Hello Klausbernd…
        Thank you for your reply…
        A couple of things… Colonialist responded that he had re-thought his opinion of Scott after reading my reply to his comment… and he conceded that Scott’s expedition was NOT an ‘example of mismanagement and ignorance,’ – your words…
        As I said in my reply to your comment on his comment !!!! Scott’s first expedition was highly successful. His last expedition was doomed by the unusual weather pattern discovered by climatic experts since then, who confirm that the ten day blizzard which prevented Scott from getting to the next food depot, did happen and was highly unusual…so the deaths were the unfortunate result of the weather. Oates had walked to his death because the gangrene in his foot caused by an injury had slowed them all down; some days before, Scott had recorded in his diary that Oates’ condition had doomed them, but the chivalry and kindness of the other three meant that they stuck with him until it was too late.
        Am puzzled by your comment about the navy publishing anything… the Royal Society would have done so, but not the navy… however, with a Services background myself, I certainly would trust them!
        No, I don’t think you read my blog ,or my reply to you correctly. I am NOT going to the Antarctic, I met someone who was, hence my first few paragraphs in the blog, but we will be enjoying the summer of the Antipodes… happy Christmas to you !

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Valery
        Now I am very puzzled 😕 I understood you are on a cruise 🚢 ship going to Antarctica 🇦🇶 I suppose we cannot agree about Scott. Actually that reflects how Scott is seen in the scientific literature.
        Wishing you a happy Christmas 🎄 time 🌊🚶🌊 wherever you are


      • Thank you so much for replying Klausbernd… I’m puzzled that you are puzzled !!! I
        In the first paragraph of my blog, I write that a lady in the cancer bookshop told me she was going on a cruise to the Antarctic, and in all my replies to you, I say that I am not going to the Antarctic, but the lady in the cancer bookshop is !!!!
        ‘The lady in the cancer book shop where I regularly search the shelves for a good bargain as well as a good read, told me she was spending Christmas in the Antarctic. ‘Very expensive,’ she murmured. ‘Really?’ I replied, naive and astonished, thinking of a tough Christmas in Scott’s hut. ‘Surely not? Do you stay in a B and B?” I asked incredulously. “No, no,” she laughed, “a cruise ship.”

        Yes, I know we can’t agree on Scott, but I always feel I have to defend and state the facts when a person who is good and honest and true is judged !!!!
        Merry Christmas from our forest dwelling in the Antipodes !!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Valerie
        first of all we wish you a happy holiday season.
        In between baking Christmas cookies I could spend some time to look at my notes for articles and lectures about polar expeditions.
        The race to the South Pole was about the image of countries. At the beginning of the 20th c all the basics about polar regions as Antarctica were known. First it were the whalers and scientists W. Scoresby father and son who found out about the magnetism of the Arctic and the Antarctic in the correspondence with Farady and about the geology of ice. The morphology of Antarctica and the route to the pole was found out by Shackleton (his logs and maps were used by Scott). So it was a matter of image and not only for the UK but for the navy as well. Of course the mismanagement of Scott was seen immediately and criticized by by the specialists of Polar research. The navy came under pressure because the distribution of tax payer’s money was dependent on success. So they tried hard with their PR campaign to make Scott a classic romantic hero.
        If you looked at it from nowadays you could see there are still quite some management courses using Shackleton’s and Amundsen’s method of leading a team.
        To the dogs: to criticize feeding killed dogs to the surviving dogs was general practice of the Inuit. A farmer kills his cows and pigs as well. One cannot judge this practice with morals of our life. Actually that is similar to Scott’s ignorance not learning from people knowing how to travel far in polar regions
        Well, I only took part in expeditions to NE Greenland and the polar ice shelf but it’s obvious to everyone going to the polar regions organization and leadership qualities are important starting with choosing the right people and leading them in a way that nobody reacts anti-socially.
        These are just some facts I wanted to clear.
        I really like our exchange of viewpoints as you know quite a lot about the history of polar exploration. Thank you.
        Keep warm and happy


  2. As always, your blog stands out because 1) it’s so well written, 2) the subjects are interesting, 3) you include terrific recipes.
    Thanks for all the enjoyable posts, Valarie.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a well informed and written post Valerie! I agree with Ronnie on all counts. I’m glad to know that Scott did feel for the animals, though the end was the same. I have come to be quite emotional over the abuse or thoughtless treatment of animals, even hearing about it disturbs me. I know we stand on the shoulders of these scientists and explorers and all they have left us, but it is they who have the power to decide, the animals don’t. It is sad they all died regardless. The food just sounded horrible. I don’t even know what pemmican is, or hoosh for that matter! Some intrepid explorer I would be!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home. Australian Indigenous people’s proverb”

      And then we return home.
      Every living, breathing thing is in our lives for us to take emotional and supportive care of….animals, plants, rocks, you name it. My husband and I have always given thanks for those animals we raise for food for ourselves, and we always ask a blessing on our farm and all the things growing on the farm…wild or planted, for food or to just enjoy because they exist. Everything. My hope is that I can be a blessing to those I come in contact with —-always.
      As for pemmican…it is actually very delicious. I made it for years—it is a combination of cooked, dried meat, ground very fine, dried fruit and berries chunked up — all mixed up with rendered beef/deer/elk fat rolled into balls and allowed to dry for 24 hours. Or spread thin on a layer of waxed paper until dry enough to break into pieces. A perfect food, although, if you had to live on it for days and weeks you get mighty bored of it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I totally agree with you over the animals, Ardys… I remember crying my eyes out over the ponies when I was ten and saw the film Scott of the Antarctica…
      The way we have recklessly exploited animals over the centuries breaks me up, and as for what creatures go through in this day and age tortured in labs for the sake of long lasting careers rather than worthwhile scientific research is one of my nightmares…
      Thank heaven we no long use horse for cabs and carriages and in battle… and thank heavens for pollution if it means horses aren’t being beaten, abused, overworked, underfed etc etc….
      Thank you for your generous appreciation… such a gift…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I found this absolutely fascinating, Valerie, as I’ve not dived into the facts of this expedition very much. You really whet my interest. Although I have a love of animals in general and horses in the specific, I wouldn’t allow a person to starve if an animal’s meat would save him/her. That being said, I’d do all I could to get them all out.

    I so appreciated your last paragraph, the one before the recipe. Oh, that these values were once again valued and put into play in our lives insofar as we were able. The world would be a very different place.

    A most merry and blessed Christmas to your and yours,



  5. Dear Valerie,

    Your wealth of historical knowledge and insight never cease to amaze me. In your words I felt the strength of the spirit of these valiant men.
    “Resident carnivore” made me giggle. The same once said “Who puts arugula in a salad?” Perhaps I should’ve put bacon in it instead 😉 as he obviously didn’t appreciate the leafy vegetables.

    My sincere and most loving Christmas wishes are flying across the world to you and yours.

    Love and shalom,



    • Thank you Rochelle… actually, polar explorations are one of my fascinations, and I have shelves of books on them…
      Glad I gave you a giggle !!! Have become an expert at disguising green vegetables, green beans pass muster…but I will let the subject rest… you are obviously familiar with it… and what is it with men and veg????… when my son became divorced he turned his house into what he called a ‘vegetable free zone’ ! Even went to a naturopath to see what vitamin pills he should take instead !!!
      I will send you Christmas greetings next week !!!!Love Valerie


  6. Dear Valerie
    we are wishing you a great time in Antarctica. Thank you very much for your detailed account of Scott’s Christmas dinner. We are sure yours will be better, no pemmican 😉
    We are wishing you a great Christmas and sending lots of love
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


    • Dear Klausbernd,
      Good to see your comments, and thank you for your good wishes..How ever, I am not the one going to Antarctica, as I say in the first para of my blog, I was talking to someone who was !!!
      I’ve also replied at some length to your comment about Scott being a bumbling idiot, in reply to Colonialist, in case it doesn’t show up in your mail… I hope you find it interesting and illuminating !!!!
      Best wishes to you all for a happy Christmas in your beautiful English village, it looks as though you will be having white Christmas, while we bask in midsummer sunshine in the Antipodes… Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Valery
        What a pity with your lost comment. Have you looked in your spams? Usually it doesn’t get lost. It’s only a problem to find it. On my expeditions to the Arctic there was a person as well you made it to South Pole. But it’s funny, the second and all those after the first one had it much easier.
        I hope very much to find your comment and would be very interested to read it as you know such a lot about the history of polar expeditions.
        Have a great 👍 time on your cruise 🚢 and all the best wishing you


      • Dear Klausbernd,
        Thank you once again for your long comment… we should meet to debate this !!!!…
        I am becoming more and more convinced of the truth of Marcus Aurelius’s advice – to have no opinions… and also of the French proverb that – truth has as many skins as an onion… but I will just say that having lived in the country for the last thirty years, I do know that farmers here, anyway, do not feed their dead cows or pigs to their live cows or pigs…
        I think – but of course I could be wrong – (and if so, I’m sure you’ll tell me !) – that animal feed made from animal products was one of the contributing factors in ‘mad cow disease’ in the UK…
        Back to our Christmas baking, and festive wishes! Valerie


  7. And almost as transcendent as the spirit of the men, is the spirit of the fruit cake May your Christmas be all you wish it to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Liz

    Valerie, a fascinating post as usual, thank you so much. I have also enjoyed reading all the to-ings and fro-ings in your comments with other followers – bravo on such an objective and persuasive defence of Scott. I am no expert, but it seems to me that all these various explorers deserve our respect, not least for the lessons we can learn as a result of their diverse endeavours. Wishing you a wonderful festive season. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s me again – my third time around. And now I’m looking at books about Captain Robert Scott. I happened to come across an article by the Independent, published January 11, 2007, celebrating 95 years since the expedition. I had to include it in my comments because there is an “after” story in a letter written by Scott to his wife. I was especially taken with his instructions about his son, who in turn, lived an extraordinary life.

    Extraordinary lives embrace risk and opportunity. May we chose to live boldly, with compassion and joy. Hugs!!


    • Dear Rebecca so good to see you… I loved the Independent story…
      I had seen is words about his so, which were wonderful I always thought… Kathleen married Lord Kennet and became Lady Kennet, and had a good life, and Peter Scott certainly made the most of his… he was behind a wonderful wildlife centre called Slimbridge wihich was not far from where I lived as a teenager, and which was a first in terms of valuing wetlands and conserving sea-birds and migrating geese and others…
      Happy Christmas dear friend…. I’m with you on the compassion and the joy !! XXX

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Those poor ponies. Who sold them the ponies? Did they realize how poorly they would be treated? Not that the ponies is the only part of this amazing story!!!


  11. I love the quotation at the end. I find the wisdom of indigenous peoples of your continent and of North America so very knowing. We have so much to learn.
    That was my first response and then I read the ensuing discussion- fascinating and illuminating. Your knowledge and research leave me in awe. Thank you for starting a most interesting discussion around our breakfast table too. 🙂


    • Sally, what a lovely comment..yes, I loved the wisdom of ancient peoples… here IN New Zealand, it is the Maoris who are not as old as the other the wonderful and ancient Australian people…
      Thank you for your kind words about the blog and discussion… as you could probably guess, I rather enjoyed the toing and froing… and nice to know you had a stimlating discussion over breakfast !!!


  12. What a great post, Valerie! Enjoyed it immensely and you write so well on these topics, with an obvious focus to be both accurate and engaging. I love reading about the polar expeditions and explorers, and watching the films that can often bring them to life. I seem to focus on Shackleton mostly, but I’ve been on Scott’s ship, the Discovery, currently moored in Dundee, where it is a visitor attraction, with a great exhibtion too. It was amazing standing in the ‘dining room’ looking at the long table where the officers dined, and standing on the deck at the helm…for me it’s not about comparing the bold and hardy men who made these voyages, its about the whole collective story – they were all amazingly admirable in their own way. And that is indisputable. Merry Christmas to you, Valerie!


  13. Significantly Scott was always beaten at chess by Nelson, so took to playing with Atkinson, a man he could beat.
    Oh dear. Says a lot.

    I’m always in two minds at any portrayal of a ‘better’ time for society. I value generosity and self-sacrifice highly – and obedience and conformity hardly at all, except say in times of war and such, when the chain of command is essential for communal survival. (And perhaps this is such an example.) Human nature is so complex and mixed, I don’t think it’s possible to look back to any time and say it was better or worse in an unqualified black and white sense.

    I do find the nutritional aspect of the story so frustrating. So easily addressed, had they but known!


    • Alex, thank you for your thoughtful comments…I find human nature so fascinating too, particularly in small closed communities undergoing such extreme hardship…one of the most frustrating things to me was reading Thor Heyerdahl’s KOn Tiki expedition and finding he’d purposely not written about the tensions and relationships between the men during that stupendous feat of exploration and hardship…
      yes, nutrition is a huge subject… to find that scurvy, for example, killed more people in sieges and on long voyages than anything else like gunpowder etc… is so thought-provoking…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Valerie, this is a magnificent post. Thank you so much for sharing it with the world. Last January, my husband went to Antarctica on a small research vessel that carried about 90 passengers. It’s possible that the woman you met is going with the same company. I asked my husband to bring back some audio recordings, which he did, and I incorporated them into an audio essay which I’ll share the link to in my next, New Year’s post. I hope you’ll listen, the essay is short, about six minutes. Anyway, I am always fascinated by the stories of polar expeditions, and have read a bit about Scott and his party. You wrote about all this so eloquently, but then again that’s how you write everything. Oates – well, he’s unforgettable, isn’t he? Thank you for this great story and how you’ve connected it to the spirit of the season, and to the spirit all of humanity needs at the moment.


  15. Thank you so much for your generous words, Valorie, as you would know, to read comments like that from a discerning reader, is so satisfying.thank you.. I found what you had to say reallyr fascinating and look forward to reading/listening to your post on the subject…


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