WILSON (EDWARD ADRIAN) Edward Wilson’s autograph manuscript of his report on the celebrated winter j
Lot 11
WILSON (EDWARD ADRIAN) Edward Wilson’s autograph manuscript of his report on the celebrated winter journey to the Emperor Penguin rookery at Cape Crozier ‘General Account of Journey from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier June 27. 1911 to Aug. 1. 1911’,
Sold for £132,000 (US$ 166,630) inc. premium

Lot Details
WILSON (EDWARD ADRIAN) Edward Wilson’s autograph manuscript of his report on the celebrated winter journey to the Emperor Penguin rookery at Cape Crozier ‘General Account of Journey from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier June 27. 1911 to Aug. 1. 1911’,
Edward Wilson's autograph manuscript of his report on the celebrated winter journey to the Emperor Penguin rookery at Cape Crozier 'General Account of Journey from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier June 27. 1911 to Aug. 1. 1911', manuscript on paper, in ink, 40 closely written pages, signed at end, interspersed with 4 pencil sketches, several pencilled notes added by Captain Scott in margins, secured by a metal hasp in the top left-hand corner, preserved in the original loose paper wrapper, titled on the upper cover as above, spine of wrapper slightly defective, 8vo (330 x 205mm.), Cape Evans, 1911


  • One of the greatest of all polar feats, not withstanding the competition.

    Edward Wilson’s (‘Uncle Bill’ to his Antarctic companions) Report of the Cape Crozier Party refers to the journey made famous by Apsley Cherry-Garrard as The Worst Journey in the World and described by Captain Scott as …”one of the most gallant stories in Polar History… It makes a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling”.

    It is believed to be the most important manuscript relating to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration to come for sale in the last twenty years or more and almost certainly the only manuscript of its level of importance not now in institutional hands.

    When writing up his account of work in the Antarctic Spring 1903 at Cape Crozier, Wilson set out the difficulties likely to be encountered on a Winter journey that would have to be made overland across the foot of the Ross Ice Sheet where it meets Ross Island, under the lee of Mt. Erebus and Mount Terror. In 1903 Wilson had reached Cape Crozier in the summer and found that the Emperor Penguin chicks had hatched. The calculation made for 1911 was that by arriving at the end of July there would be eggs, not chicks, that could be collected and the embryos studied, for what Wilson hoped would be important information about a species that he considered one of the most primitive of all birds.

    A journey during the darkness of the Antarctic Winter had never been attempted before and Scott was uncomfortable about the risk, but on 27 June Wilson, with ‘Birdie’ Bowers, Apsley Cherry-Garrard and two sledges, left the hut at Cape Evans and set off over the sea ice to Hut Point and Cape Armitage, which was reached on the following day. A pencil sketch illustrating Wilson’s comments on the slope of the foot of the Barrier appears with this day’s entry. From there on conditions plummeted, frequently lower than –60F at night, the temperature bottoming out at –77F, over 100 degrees of frost. The Knoll overlooking Cape Crozier was reached on 15 July (the 70 miles from Cape Armitage having taken some 19 days). At the foot of page 18 (16 July) is appended a pencil sketch showing the lie of the land around the famous stone hut that was being constructed by Cherry-Garrard with materials collected by Wilson and Bowers. Half of page 19 is taken up with a very important pencil sketch (written description in ink), giving a plan of the hut, its roof and the way the sleeping bags were laid out. When work was started at the rookery the number of penguins was far fewer than expected and their almost manic parental zeal extended to trying to incubate pieces of ice that were of suitable size. The very long entry for 20 July includes a pencil sketch captioned ‘Ice ‘nest-egg’ mistaken for a deformed egg’. This is reproduced as a line drawing in the text of Scott’s Last Expedition (vol.2, page 40). Work at Cape Crozier was curtailed as the expedition had used more fuel than anticipated because of the atrocious conditions. The return journey with a mere three Emperor Penguin eggs was quite as hard as the outward one and on arriving back at Cape Evans Cherry-Garrard overheard Scott say “But, look here, you know, this is the hardest journey that has ever been made”.

    Wilson’s report was published in the second volume of Scott’s Last Expedition. The manuscript has a typically simple Wilson heading ‘Sledge Journey to Cape Crozier from Cape Evans June 27th 1911 to Aug. 1st 1911’. Of the pencil sketches only that of the surrogate egg was reproduced. The Report was written up in the second half of 1911, prior to Bowers and Wilson forming part of the team selected by Scott for the final push to the South Pole, and following which Apsley Cherry-Garrard was the only survivor of the Cape Crozier Party.

    On its own, Wilson’s Report conveys all the detail of the circumstances and difficulties of the expedition, and has sufficient colour for anyone with imagination. However, he frequently, and typically, stopped short of adding personal touches. The editors of Scott’s Last Expedition prevailed upon Cherry-Garrard to make available his personal diary of the expedition and extracts from this are interspersed in the printed account, leaving little to the imagination.

    In modern times The Worst Journey in the World, first published in 1922, continues to be consistently voted the best narrative of adventure and exploration of all time.

    Family, probably via Ida Wilson to the Wishaw family (Wilson’s mother)

Saleroom notices

  • It has been suggested that the pencilled notes in the margins might be in the hand of either Scott OR Apsley Cherry-Garrard.
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