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‘DISCOVERY’, CONTINUED

19 Apr

DISCOVERY: FULL SAIL

 

In my blog of 7 February, I wrote about the remarkable adventures of the ship Discovery, from her build in 1901 until the end of World War 1. Today, I continue her story from 1919 as she proceeded on her venerable and memorable history.

In 1919 she sailed to the Black Sea to exchange goods with groups supporting the dwindling numbers of the White Army – Discovery’s official log has one of the last signs of the old regime’s sway. The log pages show the Imperial Two-Headed Eagle, stamped by port authorities in Novorossiysk.

Discovery sailed to South Georgia and the Falklands in 1925. She had a second season in the Antarctic from 1926-1927. But probably her most important ventures were related to the protection of the Great Whales and the two BANZARE (British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition) expeditions, which ran between 1929 and 1931.

 

THE GREAT WHALES: 1925 -1927

A British committee considered the plight of the Great Whales before W.W.1.

Northern seas were, by this time, almost depleted of whales because of overexploitation and the attention of the whalers had turned south. Here the ‘Dependencies of the Falklands’ held sway and monies paid by Norway to the Dependencies for the use of shore whaling stations, contributed to the research fund that refitted Discovery as a research vessel in1923.

The brief was – a) to contribute to oceanographic research, b) to mark whales, c) to make exploratory trawls off the Falklands – Basically, to give a scientific base for whale regulation. Two Vessels were employed. Discovery carried an echo sounder that could chart the ocean bed both when the vessel was moving as well as stationary. Vertical stations, taking up to six hours, provided information on sea contents and plankton at known levels, from the surface to the seabed.

Discovery reached South Georgia in February 1926. Her scientists examined more than seven hundred whales – their size (over 80 feet), eating habits, breeding times, gestation periods, calves growth rate and age at maturity were recorded. Also Elephant Seals and birds were examined. Discovery stayed in South Georgia for two months, carrying out the first hydrographic and biological survey of the whaling grounds.

In 1926 Discovery with the ship the William Scoresby returned to South Georgia. On this occasion a remarkable survey of the whaling grounds was completed. With South Georgia at the centre, seven lines were stretched out, like spokes on a wheel, and twenty nine stations, which covered over 10.000 square miles were completed – currents were measured, there were 370 water samples and 307 plankton net hauls were recorded. This record was unique[i]

 

BANZARE: The British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition 1929-1930

BANZARE was a British Commonwealth initiative, driven by geopolitics and science. It was funded by the United KingdomAustralia and New Zealand

TRACK OF DISCOVERY 1929-1930 (dotted black line)

 

The Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, was in charge of the expedition; (Mawson, in 1912, had made a horrendous sortie along that arc of Antarctica facing Australia, during which his two companions died separately in horrible circumstances). But Mawson understood the geographical and scientific potential of Antarctica. He wrote that more than half the circumference of the globe remained to be charted in high southern latitudes. In addition the British Government were concerned about rival nation’s increasing activities in the continent, particularly Norway and Russia.   These points underlined the importance of establishing sovereignty over the continent

On BANZARE 1, land bases were not used, but Antarctica was investigated inland from a seaplane, the Gipsy Moth.

The expedition sailed from Cape Town in October 1929. Throughout Discovery’s journey to Antarctica, careful investigation into the marine life was made as Discovery called on sub-Antarctic Iles Crozet, Iles Kerguelen, and Heard Island (thousands of penguins and Elephant Seals ‘like logs’ along the beach).

The expedition aimed at Enderby Land. In January 1930, Kemp Land was confirmed and Gipsy Moth was used to record the vast panorama of Antarctic new land that spread out below her. Heavy blizzards were encountered, but Mawson discovered new land east to Kemp Land which he named MacRobertson Land (after the benefactor of the expedition). Enderby land was seen at last on 12 January 1930. Conditions prevented landing but a flag was raised on nearby Proclamation Island – which was given the name ‘Proclamation’ following the reading – on 13 January 1930. This claimed the area for the British Crown in the name of George V. The areas claimed were Enderby Land, Kemp Land and MacRobertson Land, together with the off lying Islands. (See map)

Flights were made from open water from around Proclamation Land. Moving pictures and many still photographs were taken. A flag we as dropped from 3,000 feet, two miles inland confirming the Proclamation. Mountain peaks were discovered. Discovery turned north on 26 January 1930.

 

 

THE SECOND BANZARE 1930-1931

 

 

2nd BANZARE EXPEDITION: (red line)

 

This voyage was primarily an acquisitive exploratory expedition. Mawson made proclamations of British sovereignty over Antarctic lands at each of the five landfalls—on the understanding that the territory would later be handed to Australia. One such proclamation was made on 5 January 1931 at Cape Denison. A hand-written copy of the proclamation was left at the site, enclosed in a container made of food tins and buried beneath a cairn.

BANZARE was also a scientific exploration. Work was successfully completed on voyages along much of the Antarctic coastline, and Mawson’s team were the first to chart much of the coast. Their exploration covered over 6437 km: Adélie Land, King George V Land and Queen Mary Land. Also new land, Princess Elizabeth Land was identified. A plaque was left on Mac Robertson Land. The claims provided a foundation for the establishment of the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Thirteen volumes of reports were produced relating to the expeditions between 1937 and 1975: geology, oceanography, meteorology, terrestrial magnetism, zoology and botany.

 

SEA SCOUTS AND AFTER: 1932 0NWARDS

Discovery returned to quieter waters. She was moored in the River Thames, alongside the Embankment. Funds were eventually raised to ensure her proper upkeep and she was handed over to the Sea Scouts for forty years (1932-1986). She was a training ship and hostel

 

                                                                 DISCOVERY MOORED ON THE EMBANKMENT

 

In spite of being in the heart of London Discovery survived the World War 11 blitz. She was designated headquarters of the River Emergency Services. This was an ambulance service with twenty-two stations The Scouts worked in eight-hour shifts and despite air raids, building rubble and sleepless nights, it is recorded that no Sea Scout failed to report for his duties.

In 1941 the Navy took on these duties and for the rest of the war Discovery was a Parachute Mine Station. The Sea Scout’s duties were to be on constant look out for parachute mines, locate them and telephone a compass bearing through to the Royal Naval Headquarters.

SEA SCOUTS AT WORK

 

From 1945 to 1951 Discovery was a Training Ship for the Sea Scouts – the first Queen’s Scout Presentations were made on the ship. For Over twenty years from 1955 she was utilised as a Drill Ship for recruits beginning navel service.

In 1979 Discovery was handed over to the Marine Trust, a trust established, in the words of the Duke of Edinburgh, ‘to do for historic ships what the National Trust does for buildings’[ii] She was moved to St Katharine’s Dock near the Tower of London and during this time she was extensively restored.

Her future (she was a star attraction) was carefully considered. When an offer came from Scotland to take over her care and maintenance, this was a wonderful opportunity for her to return to Dundee where she had been built, 85 years earlier. Discovery was transported, in a floating dock ship from Tower Bridge to Dundee in 1986. This was a great occasion –cheering crowds, a Royal Air Force Fly Past. Her arrival was dramatic as she became jammed in the hold of the floating dock ship and eventually arrived at Victoria Dock at midnight 3rd/4th January, where a few romantics were still lingering to greet her as she was piped in.

She is now at Discovery Point, Dundee, close to the new V&A Dundee – Scotland’s first design museum. Excellent tours describe the experience of the heroes of the early 1900s, the history of WW1, an account of scientific and geographical advances, details of BANZARE.  It’s a great place to visit.

 

                                                                          118 years old and many more to go!

 

127th.Psalm

 

 

[i] Sir Alister Hardy, quoted in The Voyages of the Discovery, 2001, Ann Savours Chatham Publishing , p 125

[ii] The Voyages of the Discovery, 2001, Ann Savours Chatham Publishing p 153

 

Video

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’

24 Mar

 

There has been so much interest recently in the search for Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ in the Weddell Sea, that I thought I would give a summary of this  remarkable, heroic expedition.

 

6/3/19 I have just received this comment a which I think sums the expedition up:Comment: Extremely interesting and very informative. It gives a vivid picture of the extreme hardship and conditions suffered by Shackleton and his courageous team. What determination and extreme courage they possessed.

The story of the ship ‘Discovery’

7 Feb

Paintings and stories of ships can be exciting and romantic: paintings such as Nelson’s Victory, The Mayflower, The Fighting Temeraire rank with the remarkable story of Franklin’s attempt to find the North West Passage in the book Erebus, written by Michael Palin.

Many ships have remarkable histories, but the story of Discovery must rank high on that list. Built in 1900/01 for Captain Scott’s voyage to the Antarctic and subsequently, used as a trading ship in the service of the Hudson Bay Company (H.B.C.), Discovery made important contributions in both world wars and more recently. She is now a tourist attraction for visitors to Dundee where she was built nearly 120 years ago

I am going to record her remarkable history in two blogs. I have quoted, with her permission, details from Mrs. Ann Savours’ excellent book, The Voyages of the DISCOVERY –any mistakes are mine!

The ship was built by ‘The Dundee Shipbuilders’ specifically for Antarctic exploration. Her wooden hull was especially designed to withstand the Antarctic ice. This British expedition, The National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904, (known familiarly as the Discovery expedition), was the first expedition ever to open up Antarctica. Four countries sent explorations to the Antarctic region in the early 1900s. The Discovery expedition was the one to make significant advances in knowledge about Antarctica’s interior.

Robert Falcon Scott led the expedition that left Cowes in August 1901, having been ‘blessed’ by King Edward VII and Queen, Alexandra. Scott sailed to the Antarctic via Madeira, South Trinidad, Cape Town, Macquarie Island and Lyttelton New Zealand. During the voyage as much information as possible was obtained about the location of the Magnetic South Pole, vital information for shipping, (before this expedition few records had been made beyond 40°S) and she was the second ship, after Ross, to steam along the mysterious Ice Barrier. New land was identified at the end of the icy shelf, named by Scott for King Edward.

‘Discovery’ locked in sea ice at Hut Point, Ross Island  with Discovery Hut on land in the foreground

At her base in McMurdo Bay Discovery was incarcerated in ice for 21 months – Morning, the relief ship of 1903, was initially separated from her by twenty miles of sea ice and never got closer than five. When, in the Antarctic Summer of 1904, Discovery finally escaped from the sea’s icy grip, she sailed victoriously to Lyttelton.

But her history had only just begun.

On Discovery’s return, hopes that she would continue as an exploring ship, or in the service of the government, were dashed when the Joint Committee of the Expedition sold her to the Hudson Bay Company (HBC), for £10,000. Her scientific instruments were sold and she was converted to a cargo vessel. The HBC controlled vast lands in Canada; the largest landowner in North America and Discovery was one of the last of the wooden sailing ships to be employed in trading, primarily for fur, withNorth American Indians. She sailed to the Hudson Bay, having journeyed south of Iceland and Greenland, through the treacherous 700 mile Davis Strait, across the Hudson Strait (pack ice), past Coats Island, to reach Charlton Island on the Hudson Bay. The furs, mostly beaver (for hats), were taken on board in exchange for textiles, tools, mirrors, beads, knives and alcohol. Her crew made hazardous journeys by canoe from ship to shore to trade with the indigenous population based around the Hudson Bay.

North American Indians in canoes

In 1912 Discovery was replaced by a steamer and she was laid up. But further duties called. In the First World War she was to make hazardous journeys to Russia, America and France. James Monet, a brandy merchant (and later the architect of the European Common Market), had traded with the HBC for years. Early in the war he suggested to its directors that they should become purchasers for the French Government, and France and Great Britain co-operated with shipping and supplies throughout the war. Contracts were signed also with Rumania, Russia and Belgium. Discovery was one of three hundred ships, financed by HBC that transported munitions, food, raw materials and manufactured goods. The fleet was to play a critical role in Allied Shipping during the war.

The dangers were great. In early 1915 the seas around Great Britain and Northern Ireland were designated a war zone by Germany and German submarines attacked the HBC’s fleet of ships – Germany stated that the safety of passengers on enemy merchant ships could not be guaranteed.

In the autumn of 1915 Discovery sailed for Archangel. The voyages to Archangel rank with the most courageous voyages of WWI (my grandfather was an engineer on one of the ships, sailing from the U.K.). At this time Russia was almost sealed off from the world. The Bosporus was blocked by Turkey, the Baltic Sea by Germany. Her most accessible entry was Archangel on the White Sea. To reach their destination and deliver munitions, ships sailed round the North Cape of Norway and through the Barents Sea to the White Sea and the Gulf of Archangel. Wheat, timber, oil and other essentials were taken back to the French ports.

The entrance to the White Sea was mined by Germany but in spite of this, nearly all munitions from France to Russia were transported via this route. The ships faced many dangers. Germany laid nearly 300 mines in the area. Discovery was Steamer 141. Between June and September 1915, ten of the fleet were lost. In all the HBC lost 110 ships from the fleet of three hundred.

A distraction occurred in 1916; the explorer Ernest Shackleton, having failed in his attempt at a Trans-Antarctic crossing, had been trapped in the Weddell Sea. Despite the anxieties of the war a committee, The Shackleton Relief Advisory Committee was formed and a rescue planned. Advisors to the committee included the Scottish explorer William Speirs Bruce (who had previously spent nearly two years in the Weddell Sea) and the Australian explorer Sir Douglas Morton. However Shackleton reached South America before the relief ship set out, but as no ship was available to bring him back to England, Discovery was loaned for this purpose by the HBC, Due to the sensitivities of war, directions were given that no bodies were to be brought home and how the graves should be marked, also how the rescued men should be treated. In fact, as is well known, no men in Shackleton’ s party died.

For the remainder of the war Discovery served by transporting goods from ocean liners to ports in France, also visiting Madeira and the Hudson Bay. In France the company worked using a system of convoys to try to avoid German submarines and wheat, zinc plates, sugar and other goods were distributed at ports on the French coast between Brest and Bayonne. There was a voyage to Madeira in 1917 to discharge coal and pick up heavy guns for French defense.

The 1918 voyage to Hudson Bay was Discovery’s last wartime voyage. She carried coal, pork, fat and canoes to Charlton Island and had a difficult and dangerous sail – her captain sailed too far south of Resolution Island and north, instead of south of Salisbury Island but eventually struggled through only to have some of the crew felled by the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Peace was declared on 11 November 1918.

TO BE CONTINUED

The Discovery Center Dundee next to the new V & A Art Museum Dundee

 

THE WEDDELL SEA AGAIN

2 Jan

Happy New Year!!

This January, Professor Julian Dowdeswell of the Scott Polar Research Institute will lead an international research team in the long planned expedition to the Weddell Sea. This expedition aims to investigate ice shelves around the Weddell Sea, particularly the Larsen C Ice Shelf. It also hopes to locate the wreck of Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which sank in the area in 1915.

The expedition’s progress and achievements will be followed internationally – in addition the Royal Geographical Society has created an educational programme aimed at engaging the interest of children from primary level upwards.

The Weddell Sea was discovered in 1823 by James Weddell, the British sea captain/ sealer, who sailed as far south as 74°15´S. It is a vitally important ecosystem – penguins, seals, whales, krill, corals and sponges thrive there. It is shaped as a huge bay; Coats Land (discovered by William Speirs Bruce in 1904) is at one extremity, the Antarctic Peninsula is on the other. It has been described as ‘the most treacherous and dismal region on earth’.[i]

An important aim will be to investigate the shapes of the ice shelf bases. Ice shelves stop ice from flowing outwards from the continent. Thinning of the ice shelves results in increased flow from the interior, which, in turn, causes a rising global sea level. The sea floor will be examined to assess the stability of the ice shelf.

Although the general circulation of oceans is determined by wind driven currents, the Weddell is one of few locations where deep and bottom water masses contribute to global thermohaline circulation. Bottom water is the lowest water mass with distinct characteristics in terms of physics, chemistry, and ecology and a temperature of -0.7 °C or colder. The thermohaline circulation is the motor of deep ocean currents and is driven by density gradients influenced by surface heat and freshwater fluxes. The description relates to thermo- temperature-and –haline, salt content.

The Larsen Ice Shelf, in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea, is named after Captain Carl Anton Larsen, master of a Norwegian whaling vessel who sailed along the ice front as far as 68°10′ S. in 1893. From north to south segments of the shelf are called Larsen A, B, and C (the largest), and Larsen D, E, F and G.

The 2019 expedition is focused on the Larsen C ice shelf from which a giant ice berg calved off in July 2017 (twice the area of Luxembourg), reducing the size of the iceshelf by approximately12%.

 

 

 

Dowdeswell and Shears[ii] explain in the ‘Geographical’ that measurements will be taken of salinity and temperature of the sea adjacent to the shelves, samples of marine life will be obtained and the sea ice thickness will be measured by aerial drones. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles will make echo soundings of the underwater shape of the ice shelf base, the roughness of which is a vital parameter in numerical modelling of future ice shelf stability. Ernest Shackleton’s Ship will be searched for.

Whether the team will be able to achieve these aims is uncertain — the conditions are so unpredictable that attempts to navigate south could be unsuccessful, but this expedition is of pivotal importance in attempting to obtain long-term prognostic information relating to global warming. I hope this important analysis of the Weddell Sea will be successfully accomplished.

[i] Henry, T.R.,1950,The White Continent

[ii] Dowdeswell, J. Shears, J. 2019, Geographical, p.10

 

 

 

 

Bruce’s Achievements in Antarctica

3 Dec

As is well known it is difficult to get funding for scientific research that has no known tangible outcome. William Bruce was no exception to this when he started looking for funding for pure scientific research (rather that exciting feats of exploration), for his expedition to the Antarctic

 

Eventually he obtained funding; the greater part (about £30,000), came from the Coats family of Paisley), funding also came from Scottish Scientific Societies, from individuals and from ‘little orphans who had saved up their pennies to help the expedition’.[i]

 

Bruce’s original ambition for his ‘Scotia’ Expedition (1902-4), was to travel far south into the Weddell Sea and make a base on the mainland, but insufficient funds for the wintering station prevented this. The icy conditions Bruce encountered were such that he and his Captain, Thomas Robertson, decided to make their winter base on Laurie Island, a small island in the South Atlantic. Here he built his scientific laboratories and here, he and his team continued their careful scientific records (which had started immediately on Scotia’s voyage to the Antarctic) throughout the winter: The observations included meteorology, oceanography, magnetic observations, plus collection of flora and fauna.

 

All the Polar expeditions were very costly. Bruce’s privately funded expedition was planned for one year only. But during his winter on Laurie Island he became determined that his pivotal work should not stop when he returned to the UK – his dream was the development of a series of stations that covered the South Atlantic (as was to be achieved).

 

When he sailed to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for refuelling and re-provisioning, he approached the Argentine authorities to ask them to take over his observatories (he knew that the British authorities would not be interested in a small island in the South Atlantis of no commercial or strategic significance). The Argentinian authorities, responded with remarkable promptitude accepting Dr. Bruce’s offer within a few days and agreeing to Bruce’s suggestion that Argentinian scientists would man the stations with, originally, Bruce’s meteorologist, Robert Mossman, in charge. The Argentine authorities immediately understood the benefits of being in control of an island in the South Atlantic, whilst the British apparently had no such interest. One of the Argentine scientists was designated ‘Postmaster’ which was a statement of territorial intent. Stamps were issued that showed Laurie Island as a suburb of Buenos Aires.

 

The meteorological observations started by Bruce are an invaluable record. They have now been made continuously for 114 years (in 2018). This is the longest-running observatory in the entire Atlantic by well over forty years. Very important results have been achieved. Mossman’s observations resulted in the conclusion that conditions in one area – in this case the Weddell Sea, are coupled to far-off meteorological conditions, namely rainfall in South America. Mossman concluded that when there was a low pressure in the Weddell Sea and the South Orkneys, the winter rainfall over the lower part of Chile and the greater part of the Argentine Republic would be below average; whereas there was high pressure in the Weddell Sea and the South Orkneys, the rainfall in America would be above average. This was shown by the height of the River Parana in central South America, which rose and fell with the barometric pressure recorded in the South Orkneys in the previous months. This was the first time that prognostic information about weather conditions could be made.

 

Temperature records have been made continuously on Laurie Island throughout this period. The inexorable rise in temperature for over a century is charted. Records show a steady rise in temperature that has all too important consequences to-day. – both the North East and the North West Passages have been opened up to transport; sea level may rise by several meters over the next few centuries, affecting low-lying communities.

 

Bruce could not have anticipated these changes, but his determined insistence on collecting an unrivalled number of meteorological and oceanographic records, indeed recording all aspects of science for posterity and his success in this, makes his contributions equal or more important than any of his better-known contemporaries, Scott and Shackleton, of the early 1990s.

 

[1] Isobel P. Williams and John Dudeney; William Speirs Bruce Forgotten Polar Her, p 76

Paper on Sir Hubert von Herkomer R.A.

29 Nov

I have just submitted an article

 

Sir Hubert von Herkomer R.A. 1849-1914.

? Time to remember.

to The Journal of Visual Culture.

Herkomer had a fascinating, varied life–literally from rags to riches. He died in 1914 but had fallen from great popularity (probably akin to Watts) from just before WW1 and his star continued to descend thereafter. This was because of his German origins (which he celebrated), his overenthusiastic pleasure in his success, and the fact that his work was a reflection of a society that was destroyed by the war.

I hope the piece is accepted.

SHACKLETON’S SCURVY —- OR ITS ABSENCE

5 Oct

.I make regular presentations on Shackleton and the question of scurvy (or more particularly its absence) on the expeditions that he led to Antarctica comes up frequently.

Scurvy is a disease resulting from a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is needed in humans to make the building blocks for collagen. A lack of vitamin C results in disease that develops in approximately three months. Early symptoms include weakness, tiredness and painful limbs. Without treatment the red blood cells decrease in number, gum disease and bleeding from the skin occurs and, as the condition progresses, there is poor wound healing. Personality changes may follow as may death due to infection or bleeding.

Scurvy was the dread disease of all long voyages. In the 18th century it killed more British sailors than enemy action – for example, in 1740 on his ‘mission to ‘Annoy and Distress’ the Spaniards, Admiral of the Fleet, George Anson, lost nearly two-thirds of his crew (1,300 out of 2,000) to scurvy, within the first 10 months of his voyage.

But in 1747, James Lind, a naval doctor, showed that supplementing the diet with citrus fruit could treat scurvy – this was one of the first controlled clinical trials reported in the history of medicine.

Lind treated sufferers with: cider, vitriolvinegarseawaterorangeslemons, and a mixture of balsam of Perugarlicmyrrhmustard seed and radish root). In his Treatise on the Scurvy (1753), he concluded ‘the results of all my experiments was, that oranges and lemons were the most effectual remedies for this distemper at sea’. However, Lind did not appreciate that scurvy was a deficiency disease. He thought it resulted from ill-digested/putrefying food.

Citrus fruit as a cure fell out of favour for several reasons. The navy began buying limejuice from the Caribbean (lass vitamin C) and transporting it in copper vats that probably destroyed its potency. As a result, men developed scurvy on expeditions during which ineffective citrus fruit had been given out. Eminent medical authorities disbelieved the ‘citrus fruit theory’ in the early 1900s.

By Shackleton’s first voyage on Discovery, poor hygiene, damp, food and numerous other theories were considered to be the cause of scurvy. He became painfully conscious of the problem when he suffered from the disease, along with Wilson and Scott, during their ‘Southern Journey’ on the 1901-1904 expedition led by Scott. On Wednesday 24th December 1902, Edward Wilson, the doctor of the expedition wrote (when the three were marching south on the Ice Barrier), ’As a result of today’s medical examination I told the Captain that both he and Shackleton had suspicious looking gums’. In January 1903, Wilson wrote, ‘there is no doubt that we all three have definite, though slight symptoms of scurvy’. The symptoms improved with an increased allowance of dried seal meal and no bacon (which Wilson believed was responsible for scurvy), but by the 14th January Shackleton wrote (later), that he had collapsed completely. Wilson wrote on the following day that Shackleton had had a very bad night and was very breathless (he thought Shackleton might die). On the 28th January Shackleton was breathless, restless, unable to move and, for the first time he seemed to lose his courage.

When the three returned to base, Scott sent Shackleton home on medical grounds. There is no doubt that Shackleton WAS suffering from scurvy though it is now thought likely that he had, in addition, an intermittent cardiac problem.

 

How did Shackleton avoid scurvy on his subsequent expeditions?

Before he set off on the Endurance expedition Shackleton wrote that, on his own Nimrod expedition of 1907-1909, there was not a single case of scurvy. He was convinced that as much fresh food as possible would be an answer to the problem. He took hermetically sealed tins of vegetables, compressed cubes of dried vegetables and as much fresh food as he could.

He explained his precautions in an article in the Daily Telegraph dated 7 July 1914. His aim was that the expedition diet should incorporate the latest scientific advances. He consulted Colonel Beveridge, Director of Hygiene at the Royal Army Medical College, for help in working out the best food supplies for the prevention of scurvy – he wrote that this was the first occasion that Polar Explorers would have the benefit of science as well as practical experience.

Important considerations were:

1) The food must be wholesome and uncontaminated. Only the most nutritious and (as far as possible), most varied food could keep the dreaded disease of scurvy at bay.

2) The food taken on sledging expedition should be as light as possible, but also be substantial, as ‘excessive concentration’ diminishes its nutritive value and renders it ‘less easy of assimilation’. Shackleton wrote that bulk was as essential as nutritive value.

3) Fatty and farinaceous foods in as liberal quantities as circumstances allowed should be included because in very low temperatures the heat of the body which, he stated, is the life of the body, could only be maintained with these nutrients.

4) Sledging food must not need much cooking, as the amount of fuel that could be carried was limited (and if it ran out, there was no means of replenishing it).

5) If no fuel was available the food should be of a character that could be eaten without cooking.

6) Shackleton also commented on the benefit of the greater variety of food in the winter quarters.

In 1912 Kazimierz Funk (1884 – 1967), a Polish biochemist had suggested the concept of vitamins (called “vital amines” or “vitamines”). He was consulted about the proposed sledging rations.

In the event, in his 1914-16 Endurance expedition Shackleton did not reach the Antarctic for his proposed stupendous sledging journey, but the rations suggested were an important guide, though presumably not used throughout the expedition. The diet emphasized the importance Shackleton had learnt to place on nutrition as one of the means of maintaining his men’s wellbeing and morale.

For sledging the diet provided 5,512 calories per day for each man – since a man’s usual daily diet was approximately 2,500 calories, in Polar conditions there would be a surplus 3,000 calories daily.

The ‘hooch” had a large fat and carbohydrate content, protein with meat fibre (provided by Bovril), vitamin C, and A, sugar and raisins. Advice was given to eat as much fresh meat as possible and to grow vegetables – mustard and cress for its vitamin C content. Penguin eggs were advised for a supply of vitamin B.

Colonel Beveridge’s rations

(Glidine is a vegetable protein. Trumilk had the advantage over ordinary dried milk in that has not been subjected to a heat that destroyed vitamins)

 

 

BREAKFAST

 

Wt. oz     Protein. g     Fat. g           Carb. g        Cals.

Bovril B ration

Oatmeal,                      2            12.94           5.34           33.02         236

Lard                             3½                0         99.23                   0         923

Sugar, 1oz                   ½                   0                0             14.17           58

Beef powder              1½            35.29           2.37                  0 .       166

Glidine,                         ½            11.78           0.14               0.82          53

Raisins

Biscuits                       1                  9.21          0.85             14.45         105

Trumilk                        1                  6.70         8.00              11.68         150

Sugar lump,               1½                     0                  0          42.51        174

Total                           11 ½             75.92         115.93        126.55     1,805

 

 

 

 

LUNCH

 

 

Biscuits                          1             46.05            4.25             72.25       525

Nut-food +Trumilk      1+6           27.20           54.15             81.03       948

Trumilk                             ¼           1.74              1.99              2.90          35

Total                               11¼          75.09           60.38          156.18     1508

 

 

SUPPER

Bovril S ration

Oatmeal                             2            12.94           5.34             33.02        236

Lard                                   4½                0        127.57                     0      1187

Sugar                                   ½                0                0               14.17         58

Beef powder                      1½         35.29            2.37                    0        166

Glidine                                  ½         l1.78              0.l4               0.82          53

Biscuits                               1             9.21             0.85             10.85         105

Trumilk                                1            6.70             8.00             11.68          150

Sugar lump                          ½                0                 0              14.17           58

Total                                  11 ½          75.92          144.27            126.55     2139

 

Meat extract, ½ oz, at supper.

Tea, ½ oz. at lunch.

Concentrated Lime Juice, ½ oz.

Cerebos Salt ½ oz.

Virol (extract of meat)

Total Calories per day = 5,512.

Total Fat per day = 320.58 grams

Total Protein per day = 226.93 grams

Total Carbohydrates per day = 409.28 grams

The rations were packed in oblong boxes of Venesta wood (light and durable) weighing 60lb. each. They were refrigerated until arrival at the first destination. Lime juice was concentrated down at a temperature of not more than 93 degrees Fahrenheit, to preserve its anti-scorbutic properties.

No alcohol was taken save a small quantity of brandy for medicinal emergencies (given apparently, to combat frost bite or surgical procedures such as a tooth extraction), plus the occasional celebration.

Beveridge thought that the men would like the diet and be healthy on it. He was right. There was no apparent scurvy on Shackleton’s party as they drifted remorselessly around the Weddell Sea. The men on Shackleton’s Ross Sea party however seem not to have followed the scientific advice so conscientiously. Scurvy took its hold on the depot-laying mission to the Beardmore Glacier and the Reverend Spencer-Smith died.

Nowadays scurvy is prevented by a diet containing vitamin C (preferably in the food but sometimes as a supplement).90 mg is recommended for men.

An Admirer of Bruce

3 Sep

I often felt, that when I researched Bruce’s life, that his significant contributions had been completely forgotten. It was surprising to find, even in Edinburg,h how few people recognised his name.

This letter, recently sent on to me, is therefore. a happy surprise. Dr Smart was clearly a remarkable person and his appreciation of Bruce is greatly welcomed. Bruce battled for years with increasing frustration to obtain the Polar Medal for his crew. This was refused by the monarch (the reasons for this are carefully explained in the book). I am not surprised that holders of the Polar Medal, a really prestigious award, were not keen to give up their medals, but it was a generous, inspiring idea.

LETTER SENT TO AMBERLEY PUBLISHING: . I have permission to print it.

I recently read a review about your new book, ‘William Speirs Bruce, Forgotten Hero’ in one of the national newspapers and I thought I would get in touch to let you know that Bruce has not been entirely forgotten.

My father, Dr I. H. M. Smart, was a lifelong admirer of Bruce and always felt he had been badly treated by the Establishment and had not received the recognition that he deserved. My father was also an ardent Scottish Nationalist. who spent a large part of his life in climbing and scientific expeditions to North East Greenland. He was a founding member of the Scottish Arctic Club and a Past President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. He was also a reluctant recipient of the Polar Medal as he felt his achievements were not of the same calibre of other recipients.

With this in mind he came up with an idea to finally give Bruce the honour he deserved. He planned to make a plaque to Bruce and the other members of the ‘Scotia’ and donate his medal to him and ask other medal holders to donate their medals to be put on the plaque too, I think up to the number of the crew. However, unsurprisingly I don’t think this idea went down well with other holders of the medal, though I think someone did donate one though I am not sure who.

Dad passed away at the end of 2016 so was unable to achieve his goal of recognition for Bruce, but his medal and the idea for the plaque is held at the offices of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Perth.

I have to confess, that I know little of Bruce but I shall certainly get your book and look forward to finding out more about the man who inspired my father !

THE ARCTIC AND BRUCE

12 Aug

In the early 1900s Spitsbergen was still classified as ‘Terra Nullius’, a place where explorers from any country could claim land simply by positioning identification boards (indicating longitude &latitude), at the peripheries of the claimed areas and informing their governments of the details of the claim.

When William Speirs Bruce brought back coal of good commercial quality from Spitsbergen, he established the prospecting company the Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate, in 1909. He had high hopes of a successful, marketable, profitable venture that would yield coal, oil and other minerals. The Syndicate made claims over vast stretches of Spitsbergen.

In the following years up to 1919 Bruce was increasingly concerned about his Syndicate’s claims. He feared that other countries, most particularly Norway and Russia, would take over ‘his’ British areas of Spitsbergen, or even lay claim to the entire archipelago – this would result in significant geopolitical, as well as commercial disadvantages to Britain.

He petitioned the British Government regularly for the annexation of Spitsbergen with a string of appeals: for example – if Norway were to get control, all Spitsbergen’s valuable resources would be lost; if Britain did not look out, Russia would grab the place and have an excellent supply of ‘Welsh’ coal. In 1912 he noted that Green Harbour (a port) had a suspiciously large telegraph station, well out of proportion to its needs –he was sure that the Norwegian Government would use the post office for a de facto administration of the Archipelago.

These appeals were doomed to failure. The authorities in Great Britain had ‘bigger fish to fry’ and considered this Archipelago of little commercial or strategic advantage.

An approach to Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, fell on deaf ears. Churchill wrote that there was no sound reason to annex Spitsbergen; writing that this action would require an armed force to safeguard the claim and that this in itself would not affect whatever possibilities existed of the island being used by enemies.

Bruce’s fears were confirmed at a meeting with an official from the Foreign Office, who in late 1918, informed him of the unwelcome dawning international consensus: Denmark would get Southern Jutland, Sweden would get the Baltic Islands and Spitsbergen would become part of Norway

Spitsbergen’s future was officially decided as an addendum to the Treaty of Versailles. The Spitsbergen Treaty was agreed in 9, February 1920. Spitsbergen became part of the Kingdom of Norway.

Bruce’s concerns about the future of Spitsbergen and its surrounds were prescient. Russia now has a significant presence in the region coupled with the will to tackle its severe conditions.

Large reserves of natural gas and oil have been discovered around Spitsbergen and elsewhere. The world’s attention is now focused on the potential gains of the area – the very gains that Bruce wanted to exploit. Exxon Mobile and Shell are applying for permission to begin exploratory drilling in the region.

Also global warming now allows much better access. Cargo ships can get through the North West Passage for several months in summer time. The North East route on the Siberian coast is open for a few months each year. Such easier transportation results in huge savings in transport time, money and greenhouse emissions.

Bruce made no money in the Arctic though he made geographic discoveries. But his instinct that the Arctic was geopolitically important as well as a source of huge potential wealth was all too correct. The world is now well aware of this.

 

MORE ON CONTAMINANTS AND PLASTICS IN ANTARCTICA

27 Jun

Dr. Edward Wilson sent back penguins’ skins to England from Antarctica in the early 1900s. These skins were the controls when, in the 1960s, an investigation was undertaken on the presence of contaminants in Antarctica.

In 1964, Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane (DDT), an insecticide very widely used at the time, was found in Adélie penguin skins. DDT gets into birds and larger animals via the krill that they ingest. DDT is known to persist in the environment and was banned: in America in the 1970s, in England in the 1980s and by the Stockholm convention, signed in 2001. Clearly it was hoped that levels of DDT in Antarctica would drop significantly over time, but disappointingly the compound was found in the sea around the Antarctic Peninsula 6 meters below the sea surface in 1975, and can be still found in penguin fat. A suggested explanation for this is that 1960s airborne particles became trapped in Antarctic glaciers and now as the ice sheets melt, the chemical is released back into the environment.

Now the same problem has been discovered with plastics and other chemicals.

In relation to plastics, researchers have found recently that water and snow collected in the Antarctic contain microplastics such as microfibers/ microbeads.

MICROFIBERS are finer than a human hair and are found, blended with synthetic or natural fibers, in clothes, knitwear and carpets. They get into the ocean through litter and are virtually indestructible. Some young fish have been found to prefer tiny particles of plastic to their natural food sources, effectively starving them before they can reproduce. MICROBEADS are tiny particles of hard plastics that are used in cosmetics, for instance as an abrasive in skin cleaners. These are flushed down the drain after use, instantly forgotten, but lasting for decades.

In relation to chemicals seven of nine snow samples contained concentrations of perfluorinated-alkylated substances (PFAS). These are stain, water and grease repellent chemicals that are found in a wide range of consumer products which have, apparently, been linked to problems in animal reproduction They reach the Antarctic in rain and snow (as did DDT).

Plastics and chemicals are now generally recognized as one of our biggest environmental threats. But in spite of well -publicized solutions adopted by many countries, it remains an enormous challenge.

 

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PROTECT ANTARCTICA?

An agreement was reached in 2016 by delegates from 24 countries and the

European Union, that the Ross Sea would become the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA). It is an area of 1.57m sq. km (600,000 sq. miles and will protect the area from commercial fishing for 35 years – of particular importance is the industrial-scale krill fishing which decimates the main food supply for many larger animals.

The Ross Sea, its shelf and slope are home to 38% of the world’s Adélie penguins, 30% of the world’s Antarctic Petrels and around 6% of the world’s population of Antarctic Minkie Whales. The fishing-free zone would protect these species and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Ross Sea marine protected area came into force on 11/12/2017.

Naval ships are monitoring the area.

This is a most important development for the future protection of the area. Edward Wilson and his colleagues would have approved.