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The Antarctic Journals of Reginald Skelton: Another Little Job for the Tinker

Biography / Memoir

By: Judy Skelton

232 pages, Photos, maps, illus

Reardon Publishing

Hardback | Dec 2004 | #168600 | ISBN: 1873877684
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £73.00 $95/€83 approx

About this book

Reginald Skelton was the Chief Engineer aboard RSS Discovery, accompanying Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his first expedition to the Antarctic from 1901 to 1904. His diaries, edited by his granddaughter Judy, give a fascinating and absorbing account of the dramas, tragedies and adventures encountered by Scott and his men during their two years based at Hut Point. They are published as an almost exact facsimile of the original seven volumes, with previously unseen family photos as well as numerous snapshots of the expedition taken by Skelton himself who was the official photographer.

The diaries start with an account of the construction of the Discovery in Dundee in 1900, continuing with regular entries over the next four and a half years. He gives a personal slant to all the major achievements including the first balloon flight over Antarctica, the first sighting of an Emperor penguin colony and the reception marking Scott, Wilson and Shackleton's safe return from their Furthest South. Interspersed with his acerbic comments and personal anecdotes are extracts from The South Polar Times, sketches by the ship's surgeon and artist, Dr Edward Wilson, as well as maps and diagrams.

An absolutely essential addition to any Polar enthusiast's library.


Introduction 8; Editor's Note 14; Part 1: Dundee to Antarctica (1900 to 11th January 1902) 15; In which: Discovery is built, provisioned and feted before setting sail for the unknown south; the expedition reaches the Antarctic continent five months later having visited Madeira, South Trinidad, South Africa, Macquarie Island and New Zealand en route for coaling, reprovisioning, repairs and scientific purposes, being met everywhere with generosity and hospitality. Part 2: In the Ross Sea (12th January to 10th March 1902) 43; in which: Discovery steams south in search of a safe winter haven; land is discovered on the far side of the 'Great Ice Barrier', the ship reaching further East than any previous expedition; the first Antarctic flight is made by hydrogen balloon; the expedition establishes Winter Quarters in McMurdo 'Bay' to the South West of Ross Island; a number of preliminary sledging journeys are undertaken. Part 3: The Fading of the Light (10th March to 30th April 1902) 64; In which: the Cape Crozier party fails to reach the message post and the return of Barne's party ends in tragedy; the ship is frozen in and preparations are made for winter; the engineering department is kept very busy, not least by the troublesome windmill intended to light the ship through the months of darkness; the 'Great Emperor penguin hunt' provides good sport; and spirits are raised with the first issue of the 'South Polar Times'. Part 4: The First Winter (1st May to 31st August 1902) 82; In which: the windmill is finally blown to smithereens, to the relief of the engineering department; all types of scientific endeavour continue, only suspended in the wild worst of weather; Bernacchi and Skelton almost perish in a blizzard within a quarter of a mile of the ship; many forms of entertainment are devised to while away the time on board; all hands take exercise outside when they can and experience the magic of the aurora and the profound silence of calm moonlit days; preparations begin for the forthcoming sledging season. Part 5: Sledging Near and Far (1st September to 29th November 1902) 106; in which: the expedition's sledgers develop their skills, through numerous short reconnaissance and depot-laying outings, in preparation for the epic journeys to come later in the season; Royds' party succeeds in reaching the Cape Crozier message post with information of Discovery's whereabouts for the relief ship; Skelton, with Evans and Quartley, discovers the first Emperor penguin colony seen by humans and takes the first photographs of Emperor chicks; Scott's party start on their journey to explore as far South as possible; Armitage organises sports to celebrate the King's birthday. Part 6: Discovery of the Polar Plateau (27th November 1902 to 19th January 1903) 135; in which: Armitage's 12-man party, including Skelton, set out for the Western Mountains; having ascended the Blue Glacier, they find further progress blocked by high mountains and are obliged to negotiate a steep descent to the Ferrar Glacier; a number of seal carcases are found at mystifyingly high altitudes; a plateau is reached at 9,000 ft; Armitage and the fitter members of the party venture as far across the plateau as time allows, but their hope of finding its far side is not fulfilled; all then return to the ship with one man, Macfarlane, seriously unwell. Part 7: Relief, but no Escape (19th January to 23rd September 1903) 158; in which: Discovery rejoices at the arrival of the relief ship Morning, bringing mail, coal and other provisions; Scott, Shackleton and Wilson return from their furthest South journey, no dogs having survived; all efforts to free Discovery from the ice fail and her ship's company face a second year in Antarctica; Morning returns to New Zealand with ten of Discovery's men, including Shackleton who is invalided home, his place in the Ward Room being taken by Mulock of the Morning; food supplies are augmented by catching seals, skuas and fish; Skelton sets up acetylene lighting, the winter passing quietly with scientific work and sledging preparations continuing as before. Part 8: Final Sledging, then Home Again (23rd September 1903 to 8th September 1904) 186; in which: Skelton accompanies Scott on a second Western journey but is obliged to return prematurely when two members of the party are taken ill; human efforts to free Discovery, before and after the relief ships Morning & Terra Nova arrive, fail until a swell breaks the ice up; all three ships set sail for New Zealand, stopping briefly at the Auckland Islands where the ship is cleaned up and repainted, and the ship's company enjoy good hunting; Discovery spends two months in New Zealand, during which time Skelton becomes engaged to Sybil, before voyaging home via South America, the Falkland Islands and the Azores. Acknowledgements 223; Discovery Ship's Company in the Antarctic 224; List of Illustrations 226; Index 230

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