The South Polar Times

28th January 2005 at 00:00
(Photograph) - In 1895, the Sixth International Geographical Congress, hosted by the Royal Geographical Society, noted that "the exploration of the Antarctic regions is the greatest piece of geographical exploration still to be undertaken".

On Christmas Eve, 1901, the SS Discovery sailed from New Zealand bound for Antarctica, hoping to uncover the region's secrets. Led by Commander Robert Falcon Scott, the British National Antarctic Expedition aimed to find out whether Antarctica was a continent or an archipelago and to investigate the region's environment, flora and fauna.

The team included meteorologist and pianist Lieutenant Charles Royds, chief engineer, inventor and photographer Reginald Skelton, and vertebrate zoologist and artist Edward Wilson. While serious science was the main aim of the expedition, the members also found time to produce a magazine during their two-year stay recording the lighter side of expedition life.

Entitled The South Polar Times and edited by Ernest Shackleton, the magazine ruminated on such themes as the difficulties of getting dressed in a tent without being showered in icicles; the results of shove ha'penny contests and toboggan races; attempts to grow mustard and cress to supplement the team's diet with fresh food; the difficulties of catching albatross for closer examination; and the first balloon flight in the Antarctic.

The men illustrated the letters, articles and poems with line drawings and watercolours, bringing their Antarctic experiences to life. One entry by Edward Wilson, dated Wednesday April 23, reads: "The 'South Polar Times', first number, was presented to the Captain after dinner, and I think was thoroughly appreciated by everyone, even those who appeared in the caricatures. Only one copy has been produced and this has been made as complete and perfect as possible under our circumstances, in the hope that the whole thing may be thoroughly well produced with all the illustrations when we get home."

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