29th January 2012… Today was a very special day indeed.
On the other side of the world, my name and my life was discussed in the Board Meeting of the prestigious Explorer’s Club based in New York and I have now been voted in as a member. A true honour indeed.
And what a day to be stood where I was to receive this news- on the edge of Antarctica, according to Herzog… at the end of the world. For me I was stood in a childhood dream.
I placed my frozen fingers on the wooden door frame and ran my hand down the old weathered grain. The chilly wind licked my ears and toes.
The head’s of the original nails, posed no threat, having been flattened by the relentless grinding of the Katabatic winds for the past 100 years. The hut had been made from parts brought in from Australia. I was stood at the door to Sir Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expedition Hut… Discovery Hut in fact.
A lifetime dream… tick.
There was no pinching needed… the pins and needles in my hand as they became ischaemic with the first warning signs of frostbite, were enough to know I wasn’t dreaming.
Outside lay a mummified, putrid seal that had been in a stage of processing by the expedition party.
Nearly 100 years to the day, I was stood at the door to history. My mind skipped through the many stories, lectures, essays and so on that I had read on that fateful journey- not only of the expedition party, but also the supply party also.
A shovel with hay greeted me immediately inside. I remembered the ponys.
When Scott had met Nansen, he had discussed his planned method for attaining the South Pole. Nansen was very well experienced, spending a long time in the Arctic, with the Eskimo (now Inuit).
Nansen, loyal to his own pupil Amundsen, had said to Scott, that he would be mad to go. Scott had replied that he would not fail as he had, ‘ponys, machines and dogs’. Nansen replied in his thick wise, Scandinavian accent, ‘If I was going, I would only take Dags, Dags and Dags.’
I stepped inside the hut and stepped back 100 years. It was dimly lit by the midnight sun, through windows put in by Scott’s men.
Colman’s mustard, and Cognac, and more. Expedition supplies lay strewn throughout the hut. Tins, beakers, science and dog food. All under one roof.
I wondered whether my Siberian Husky Puppy back home, Mishi, would eat an 100-year-old dog biscuit or whether perhaps she would even appreciate it like we would a vintage wine. Certainly, the latest news from home is that she had eaten my partner’s mother’s Yucca plant. And her sister’s shoes too.
I looked at the wall… many other expedition groups had passed through the hut over the past 100 years. On it lay the signature name, ‘Wild’. Wild, was another of my heroes and an inspiration to overwinter here through the worst weather the world has to offer here. He had buried Shackleton on South Georgia when they returned in 1921/2 Shackleton-Rowett expedition … he saw a job through to its end.
Dr Wilson was one of the main reasons I came to Antarctica – sharing his passion for Science. He had dragged over 15kg of science until his last breath, which he had taken lying besides Scott in their tent on the return journey from the Pole.
This all shadowed another achievement earlier in the day and my purpose for being in McMurdo, known to locals as ‘McTown’. I had done my first filling… ‘in dental school’ on a false tooth. Success.
Before leaving, I signed the Hut’s visitor’s book, a few lines after Falcon Scott had… Falcon Scott was Captain Robert’s grandson and visited the hut just a short-time before I had.
In respect of Oate’s bravery and sacrifice for his colleagues, I left my name, and the simple the message, ‘I’m going inside (the hut), and I will be sometime.’
It was a good day. It was the best day.
Link to the Explorer’s Club British Chapter’s Website, Member Dr Alexander Kumar