Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Antarctic artefacts on display at Fairlynch and Bonhams

The photo above of Scott's Northern Party is one of the items being auctioned in London on 30 March 2012 by Bonhams. Seen left to right are: Harry Dickason, Victor Campbell, George Abbott, Raymond Priestley, Murray Levick and Frank Browning.  The six men are standing outside the entrance to the ice cave in which they have just spent the 1911-1912 Antarctic Winter in darkness. The photo was taken on 24 September 1912. Photo credit: Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

The tragic death of Scott of the Antarctic and his four companions a century ago has stirred massive interest in the 1910 – 1913 'Terra Nova' expedition. Both the personalities of those early polar explorers and the equipment that they used - primitive by today's standards - have raised questions ranging from the nature of their heroism to the value of the scientific observations that they recorded.

Keen interest from visitors and high commendation from polar experts at Fairlynch's exhibition 'Survival!' last year were among some of the reasons which prompted the Museum to extend it for a second year in 2012.

As the naval surgeon and zoologist on Scott's expedition, Murray Levick found himself as second-in-command of the six-man Northern Party. The group found itself marooned on pack ice on what they called Inexpressible Island from February to September 1912. In freezing hurricane conditions they were forced to abandon their tents and take shelter in a cramped ice-cave that they constructed. The model pictured above is one of the exhibits featured in the Fairlynch display.

There they spent the seven months of an Antarctic winter in pitch darkness before being able to make their 230-mile trek back to base over 37 days of gruelling terrain. 

Important Scott exhibitions take place this year in Plymouth, Cardiff, Cambridge and London but it's believed that ‘Survival!’ is the first concerned primarily with the achievements of the Northern Party. The Fairlynch exhibition has aroused special interest in East Devon because Levick settled in Budleigh in retirement. Many of the items owned by him and shortly to go on display have never been seen by the public.

The Northern Party's survival owed much to Levick's care and medical knowledge. On one occasion the men were nearly asphyxiated when they were overcome by fumes from the stove in their ice-cave. It was Levick who saved them in the nick of time.

The world was largely unaware of this feat of endurance until recently, but publicity highlighting the Scott centenary, including the recent publication of two books about the Northern Party, has focused attention on Levick and his companions.

 Fairlynch's model 'George' is kitted out in Antarctic explorer's gear as Levick and his companions would have been. To the left are Levick's ski-poles. His skis are also on display in the Museum

Their heroism in withstanding that horrific Antarctic experience a century ago will receive further recognition this month with the auction in London of a collection consisting of some of Levick's personal belongings, including striking photographs, documents and drawings which give an insight into how the Northern Party survived.

The collection, which is held by a private owner is due to be sold at Bonhams in London for an estimate in excess of £40,000 on 30 March 2012.

Click on http://www.bonhams.com/to see details of the collection.

Fairlynch's 'Survival!' exhibition opens a week later on Friday 6 April at 2.00 pm.

So if your bid for one of those rare items at the London auction fails you can still come to the Museum and gaze in wonder and at leisure on how those early polar explorers succeeded in battling against such nearly impossible odds. 

The Museum will remain open until the end of September. For full details please see the website's home page.  The Longest Winter – Scott's Other Heroes, the acclaimed book by Meredith Hooper about Levick and the Northern Party, is on sale at Fairlynch Museum.  The author has accepted an invitation to speak at this year's Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival http://www.budlitfest.org.uk/

This post links to one at http://www.devonmuseums.net/Antarctic-artefacts-on-display-at-Fairlynch-and-Bonhams/Latest-News/Fairlynch-Museum/Museum-News/

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