Pictures From the Terra Nova Expedition
by Dr. E. A. Wilson
Dr. E. A. Wilson was the expedition doctor on the Terra Nova expedition and was one of the South Pole Party who never returned. He was also a water-colour artist of some skill and made made drawings and paintings of the journey.
These colour pictures add a new dimension to Scott's expedition as they place the men in a real world almost exactly like ours. Mostr of Antarctica is completely timeless and the Antarctica that Scott and the other early explorers experienced is exactly the same today except for a few areas of habitation. It can be too easy to look at the often grainy black and white photographs of the time and imagine their world was very different to ours, it wasn't so different really and the landscape and wildlife in particular are exactly the same.
All of these pictures were first printed in "Scott's Last Expedition", 1913.
Iridescent clouds looking north from Cape Evans
Cape Evans is where the expedition hut was built, in clear conditions Antarctic skies provide spectacular sunsets particularly as the snow and ice reflect the colours extending and intensifying the experience. These clouds are known as Polar Stratospheric or nacreous clouds.
A sunset from Hut Point, April 2nd, 1911
Antarctica can be an unreal place like no other you have ever experienced. I can imagine myself in this scene with Wilson and the two figures, you look around in awe and then down at where you are walking to jolt yourself back to reality in case you misplace a step and fall. Then it's look back up again with a realization that all around you is reality too.
Scotts' teams manhauled sledges, two or three men would be attached to the sledge with canvas harnesses and then lean forwards to pull. It's not so bad as it appears and a huge amount of equipment can be carried in this manner. While not as efficient as travelling with a dog team, there are compensations, mainly that dogs don't need to be considered when stopping and it is very easy to unclip and suddenly become completely unencumbered.
"Birdie" Bowers reading the thermometer on the ramp, June 6th, 1911
Lieutenant Henry Robertson Bowers known as "Birdie" for the size and shape of his nose was one of the hardest working and most dependable of Scott's men. He is pictured here taking a temperature reading from an exposed thermometer near to the Cape Evans hut. Bowers was one of Scott's South Pole Party.
Cave in the barrier, Cape Crozier, Jan. 4th, 1911
An ice cave formed probably from a combination of deformities of the ice flowing from the land as part of an ice shelf and an under-ice meltwater stream leading to cave-ins above. The ice here has met the sea while still attached to the land. Two snow petrels are seen flying over, these are typical Antarctic sea birds found almost anywhere there is some open water within a few hours flight.
Antarctica has a great many optical phenomena of rings and bright areas of light at particular angles from the sun or moon. These are usually caused by the presence of ice crystals in the atmosphere. They are similar to rainbows in that they are dependent on the relative angles of the sun/moon and the viewer. If you can manage to drag yourself outside on a bitterly cold night such as this must have been, you can be rewarded with some magnificent atmospheric effects.
Paraselene, June 15th, 1911
A paraselene is a bright spot on the halo of the moon, sometimes appearing as large and bright as to be another mock moon. In Wilson's picture above the paraselene is therefore the upwards curved arc on the inner halo. It is another example of an optical phenomena encountered not frequently, but neither rarely in Antarctica. June the 15th when this was observed and later painted is just a week away from midwinter's day and is at a time of permanent 24 hour darkness.
The great ice barrier - looking east from Cape Crozier
The Great Ice Barrier is the edge of the ice shelf that extends for hundreds of miles. It is where the glaciers that flow from the Antarctic land mass begin to float on the sea providing a cliff of ice with only very rare places where a landing is possible. These ice-cliffs prevented the early explorers of Antarctica from making landfall, they would sail for days in awe of the height an extent of the ice.