Antarctic Explorer’s Notebook Found And Restored After 100 Years In Ice
by Justine Alford
Photo credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust New Zealand
Over a century ago, legendary British explorer Captain Robert Scott and his polar party journeyed to the South Pole to investigate the wildlife of this poorly studied continent. Although Scott and four colleagues never returned home due to deplorable weather conditions, six other men comprising the Northern Party managed to survive the harsh winter of 1912. Incredibly, more than a hundred years later, artifacts of this ill-fated expedition are still being unearthed, including one of the survivor’s notebooks.
The journal was discovered by members of New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust alongside some 11,000 other relics at Scott’s expedition base at Cape Evans. Each year, the summer thaws the ice around the team’s hut, exposing its contents which include photographic negatives, clothing and crates of booze.
A century of ice and water dissolved the newly discovered book’s bindings, which allowed conservationists to separate the pages. The team was then able to digitize the contents before carefully stitching the pages back together. The examinations revealed the author’s name, George Murray Levick, which was clearly scrawled across the opening pages.
Levick was a surgeon, zoologist and photographer who was perhaps best known for his observations of Cape Adere’s Adélie penguins. His descriptions of the raucous sexual behavior of these animals were deemed too indecent for publication and remained unpublished for more than 100 years. Unfortunately for us, his recently discovered writings are not so scandalous, and mostly include pencil notes detailing the date, subjects and exposure specifics of his photographs which, despite the damage, were remarkably legible. After careful reconstruction, the notebook was returned to its Antarctic home.
“It’s an exciting find,” Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Nigel Watson said in a news release. “The notebook is a missing part of the official expedition record. After spending seven years conserving Scott’s last expedition building and collection, we are delighted to still be finding new artifacts.”
Although Scott’s team never returned home due to blizzards and a lack of supplies, Levick and his coworkers miraculously survived the unforgiving Antarctic conditions by shielding themselves in a snow cave when access to their ship was cut off. They rode out the harsh winter on Inexpressible Island using blubber for food and fuel before eventually trekking some 200 miles back to Hut Point. After making it through this grave venture, Levick went on to teach survival and fitness techniques to members of the armed forces.