London: Constable and Company Limited, 1929. Second Edition, Reissued. Hardcover. This is the 1929 reissue of “one of the undisputed classics of exploration literature”. After the 1922 first edition came a 1923 “Second Edition, with small corrections and the omission of certain plates”, followed by this 1929 reissue in medium blue cloth with gilt spine print. This two-volume set approaches very good condition. The bindings are tight with sharp corners and a slight forward lean to Volume I. The boards are bright, the spines lightly toned, the spine gilt distinct. We note modest wear and a hint of fraying at the spine ends and minor shelf wear to corners. The contents are clean with light spotting to the first and final leaves. The page edges show only mild age-toning. All tipped in plates are present.
The Volume I front free endpaper features a touching “May 1930” gift inscription to “Harry Botterell on the occasion of his receiving the degree MD”. “Harry Botterell MD” is inked on the Volume II front free endpaper. Edmund Harry Botterell (1906-1997) became a noted neurosurgeon and eventually Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, where Botterell Hall was named in his honor. Botterell received the Order of the British Empire for his World War II service and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor.
At 24, Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1886-1959) was the youngest member of Robert Falcon Scott’s fatal Terra Nova Expedition (1910-1913) which, among other objectives, sought to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole. Born to wealth, the young Cherry “sought meaning and direction” and “He found both when he met the inspirational scientist, Bill Wilson, through whom he obtained a place on Scott's expedition.” Acutely myopic and bespectacled and with no previous exploration experience, Cherry was an unlikely Expedition choice. His “pluck, charm and unflagging enthusiasm” led crewmates to bestow the nickname “Cheery.”
During the winter of 1911, Cherry, along with Wilson and Lieutenant Henry Bowers made a trip to Cape Crozier to collect Emperor penguin eggs for what became the Natural History Museum in London. “Cherry, Wilson and Birdie Bowers hauled 750 pounds of equipment 67 miles each way through the dark Antarctic winter to obtain emperor penguin embryos, never before seen by anyone except the penguins themselves. They nearly died in temperatures dropping to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes marching as little as a mile and a half in a day...” Cherry’s clothing froze. His teeth shattered. “It was as if three men in mere terrestrial garb had been tossed into howling outer space.” But they survived, forming an intense bond.
When they parted, Cherry did not know that when he next saw them, they would be lying dead at their last camp with Scott, whom they accompanied on the final push to the South Pole. Cherry set out towards Scott with food supplies, accompanied only by a dog team and its Russian boy driver, but, through no fault of Cherry’s, the effort failed. A 1959 obituary said, “Cherry-Garrard could never forget the expedition and subconsciously, against all reason, felt that he should have gone on alone to try to meet his friends, which would only have added two more deaths to the tragedy.”
Cherry’s health and spirit were permanently impaired, but this did not prevent his writing this remarkable account of his experience – a story that is gripping and humane and even tinged with humor: “Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.” In writing he had the encouragement and support of his neighbors, George Bernard Shaw and his wife, and it was reportedly Shaw who chose the title. “… he did not set out to write another hagiographic tribute. He wrote in order to tell a true story… he correctly understood that ultimately it was ''the spirit of the men, 'the response of the spirit,' which is interesting rather than what they did or failed to do.''. Item #004699