LEVICK (GERORGE MURRAY) An important autograph manuscript describing the plight of the Northern Party from their first realising the possibility of not being picked up by Terra Nova, and through the first couple of months that it took to create a proper shelter and establish the routine that enabled all six men to survive seven months in an ice cave
Lot 140
LEVICK (GEORGE MURRAY) An important autograph manuscript describing the plight of the Northern Party from their first realising the possibility of not being picked up by Terra Nova, and through the first couple of months that it took to create a proper shelter and establish the routine that enabled all six men to survive seven months in an ice cave
£20,000 - 30,000
US$ 33,000 - 50,000
Lot Details
LEVICK (GEORGE MURRAY)
An important autograph manuscript describing the plight of the Northern Party from their realising the possibility of not being picked up by Terra Nova, and through the first couple of months that it took to create a proper shelter and establish the routine that enabled all six men to survive seven months in the ice cave, manuscript on feint-ruled paper, 21 pages in pencil and a final leaf in ink, 3 leaves with drawings in pencil, 4to, 1912; autograph manuscript written in the ice cave in praise of tobacco and smoking, manuscript on paper, 3 pages in pencil, edges soiled by greasy fingerprints, both 4to, 1912

Footnotes

  • AN EPIC NARRATIVE OF HEROIC SURVIVAL ON THE ANTARCTIC WRITTEN BY ONE OF THE PARTICIPANTS. The trials faced by the Northern Party rank alongside the more heralded march for the South Pole, and the journey to Cape Crozier as one of the truly great stories of the expedition. Often overlooked, as there is no printed narrative of the Northern Party comparable with Cherry-Garrard's "Worst Journey" or Scott's "Last Expedition", this manuscript eye-witness account brings the dangers and difficulties faced by those laid up in an ice cave fully into focus.

    In January 1911 Victor Campbell led the Eastern Party carry out some work in King Edward VII Land. When returning westwards they found Amundsen and Fram at the Bay of Whales, and returned immediately to Cape Evans to report the surprising and unsettling news. The Eastern Party, now became the Northern Party and on 11 February sailed north in Terra Nova along the coast of Victoria Land, before being landed at Cape Adare where a new hut was erected in proximity to those of Borchgrevink. It was here that Levick carried out much of the work that resulted in his book Antarctic Penguins (1914). Terra Nova returned to Cape Adare from New Zealand January 1912, and transferred the party 250 miles father south to Evans Coves, with a view to picking them up again in a few weeks time. As the days overdue turned to weeks the Northern Party realised that with hardly any provisions or shelter they had to prepare to survive an Antarctic winter, or die. The main manuscript in the lot describes how this was achieved, not by endurance alone, but also successful management of detail, for much of which Levick can take the credit.

    As the party awaited the ship the weather deteriorated, and remained unusually wild throughout the winter months of 1912. Rationing was soon in operation and on 29 February when "the sun shone for a few hours during which we got our sleeping bags etc. out of the tent", they had spent "the past thirteen days in our bags". In the discussion as to what form of shelter should be built Levick favoured something similar to that built by Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard at Cape Crozier. Campbell, making a judgement vital to the survival of the party, chose instead "a burrow in a snow drift". This was to become the ice cave on Inexpressible Island. Campbell divided the party into two, one group led by him to work on the igloo, and Levick with Abbott and Browning to hunt seals and keep a lookout. A week later, and still in battered tents, the weather had prevented the killing of seals for food or work on the igloo. The diet of sealmeat was already a concern to Levick, and crucially he records afterwards "If at this time we could have known that the ship was not coming, and turned our whole minds to the problem we were to face, I am sure we should have been the happier for it". 7 March was the day set as the last on which Terra Nova could be expected, but blizzards meant that opportunities for working on the igloo were very limited. In the meantime Levick constructed his Oxo Tin Lamp which also doubled as the blubber stove for the entire seven months. By 17 March "We have abandoned all hope of the ships' coming now...Abbott, Browning and I have killed and butchered 8 seals, and we have killed about 100 penguins...I think we ought to have twenty seals to last us till the spring...it is going to be a queer time for us through the dark months". On 18 March Levick's tent ripped, and the following day it collapsed with the men inside "the effect of being under a fallen tent in that hurricane produced a helpless suffocating sensation, which required, on my part at any rate, a very strong effort to suppress". The next day Levick, Abbott and Browning struggled over the join the other three at the igloo site. " Then came the problem of how we were going to sleep, and we settled that each of Campbell's party should take one of my party into his bag with him. It was a fearfully tight fit...I paired with Campbell...at first we thought it a great joke, and had a sing song...then things gradually began to cool down, and our spirits flag...Each felt that the other was taking up an unreasonable amount of room...". The next day Levick and his party went back to the tent for their bags, and sledged back such supplies as they could. By 28 March the igloo was still not completed, but they were more organised, and more comfortable in so far as that was possible. Levick describes the method of construction, the lining of the cave with cut snow blocks and gives a drawing to show the layout and where each man slept. The routine became days in sleeping bags, punctuated by food which was invariably 'hoosh'. But there were civilizing diversions "I started reading to the party in the evenings. Our library consisted of "David Copperfield" "Simon the Jester" the Life of R.LS. and Boccaccio's Decameron. I started on David Copperfield and read a chapter every night". The smoking manuscript highlights another, and very important diversion "Now pipes and tobacco have for hundreds of years soothed and cheered the heart of Man, but I do not believe that the blessings of the precious plant have ever been felt and appreciated more than they are now being felt and appreciated by us; and by way of lighting a fire at its little altar, share [sic] determined to set forth my meditation on the subject, and embody them in this book. What is the secret of all the pleasure we get from a pipe of good tobacco? I lie here in my sleeping bag and gaze into the darkness which is relieved somewhat by a little blubber lamp, whose smokey flame casts fitful shadows and little dancing points upon the roughly hewn walls of our ice cave...".

    Atkinson at Cape Evans, knowing the plight of the Northern Party had set out on 17 April with a relief party, but was driven back by weather and unfavourable ice. The question of the Northern Party arose once more, when at the end of winter Atkinson and the entire company debated whether their first search should be for Scott (who they knew had been dead for at least six months), or the Northern Party. The ice going north was still a problem, and it was reasoned that if the Northern Party had survived, they were over the worst and could well be picked up by Terra Nova. On 30 September 1912 the Northern Party set out for Cape Evans and, incredibly in view of their physical condition, managed the perils of the journey including the Drygalski Ice Tongue, to arrive back to the base camp on 7 November, after ten months of effectively living off the land, They were met by the news that Scott and his group had perished. The Northern Party's survival perhaps seemed a small thing at Cape Evans, when weighed in the scales against the loss of Scott and the others. Now everyone only awaited the details from the search party, who found the Tent on 12 November, and returned with the news to Cape Evans on 25 November. One imagines that Atkinson was fairly amazed to find the Northern Party alive and recovering from their ordeal. Campbell outranked Atkinson and became the commander of the expedition. Terra Nova retrieved the party's geological specimens from both Cape Adare and Evans Cove in January 1913. The lot also includes 3 pages of laboratory notes by Levick and two photographs of him in full polar gear.

    Provenance: Murray Levick, and by descent; Christies, 18 April 2000.
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