A collection of letters and ephemera pertaining to Louis Bernacchi BY DESCENT
Lot 66*
BERNACCHI (LOUIS) Papers of Louis 'Bunny' Bernacchi, physicist on Scott's Discovery Expedition
Sold for £13,750 (US$ 22,452) inc. premium

Lot Details
A collection of letters and ephemera pertaining to Louis Bernacchi BY DESCENT
BERNACCHI (LOUIS)
Papers of Louis 'Bunny' Bernacchi, physicist on Scott's Discovery Expedition, comprising: (i) autograph letter signed by Clements Markham to Bernacchi, with signed continuation, asking him to arrange to have supplies shipped to the Discovery ("...I have just received a telegram that the 'Discovery' arrived this morning all well, but that, owing to the delay, Captain Scott intends to proceed direct to Lyttleton [sic], without touching at Melbourne... Dr Gregory has a sum of £700 belonging to the Expedition Fund, to have huts made at Melbourne. See if they have been ordered and are ready... You have my authority to draw on the credit given to Capt Scott at the Bank at Melbourne. There will be a very large accumulation of letters for the 'Discovery' at the Melbourne Post Office. You should see that all letters are sent on to Lyttleton by the first opportunity... You should yourself proceed to Lyttleton with the stores. You will have the instruments in your special charge... The dogs, I trust, have long since been sent from Melbourne to Lyttleton..."), on headed National Antarctic Expedition paper, 4 October 1901; (ii) group of four shipping notes for goods to be supplied to the Discovery at Melbourne, as per Markham's letter above, including one for scientific instruments by Negretti & Zambra ("...In accordance with your instructions at our Regent St house, we constructed two small Thermometers 0o/-15o C, and sent them to Kew. When the Authorities returned them, we discovered to our regret that our foreman had pointed them 2o wrong, and as we did not wish such thermometers, which would have been practically useless to you, sent out, we have made two more. As you will understand, the time did not permit us to send them to Kew for verification..."), 17 September to 13 November 1901; (iii) two autograph letters signed by William Colbeck, to Bernacchi and his brother Roderick, about Bernacchi's To The South Polar Regions, Expedition of 1898-1900 (1901), describing the Southern Cross Expedition on which they both served ("...our late esteemed (?) chief has been slating Louis & I for all he is worth over in Norway...") and looking forward to their being reunited on the Discovery Expedition, on which he hopes to be appointed to command the Morning ("...such a bally old wreck, she looks as tho' she'd stand anything. I have heard nothing definite with regard to my going out in command of her, but I hope to secure the appointment & to meet you all in the Sunny South before long..."), one envelope addressed to Bernacchi at the Observatory, Melbourne, 26 September and 23 October 1901; (iv) two autograph letters signed by Bernacchi to his brother Roderick in Sydney, NSW, on Discovery paper ("...A lady here... is making me a most beautiful silk sledging flag... 4ft long, at the base the navy flag, white with red cross, the other part a dark blue with the constellation of the 'Southern Cross' in the centre... underneath a Maori motto meaning 'Seek, seek, & ye shall find' I trust it will fly over the magnetic pole & further south than hitherto attained... Some ladies have decorated my cabin on board which is the one next to Capt Scott & which is now a dream of luxury & comfort... Scott is an able man & is immensely popular..."), 15 and 22 December 1901; (v) two exceptionally long autograph letters signed by Bernacchi to his parents, on Discovery paper, giving a detailed account of his penultimate and last winters in Antarctica, including his Barrier sledge journey, the scientific achievements of the expedition, his editorship of the South Polar Times and the relief expedition ("...All these shorter journeys were done without dogs as also the long western journey of 56 days under Lt Armitage. Each man having something like 200lb to drag. This is the old Arctic style & a heartbreaking one it is. Capt Scott, with Dr Wilson & Lt Shackleton set out on their long south trip on November 2nd... Shackleton was reduced hors-de-combat & from their farthest point south (82o, 1'7), the Captain & Wilson had to pull the sledges alone while Shackleton could only just manage to walk alongside, for by this time all the dogs were dead. The discovery of such an immense tract of high land to the south is of great geographical interest, & something much more tangible than merely reaching a high latitude. The present record will take some beating, for the path to the Pole is beset with great difficulties... I must say I dread another of these long, dreary, & bitterly cold winters. I am sure you cannot conceive how desolate & lonely it is down here. However I dare say we shall get through it all serene for there is not the slightest discord on board. Capt Scott a very good fellow..."), in all 46 pages, 8vo, Winter Harbour, 77o 51' South, and Discovery, 8 February 1903 and 31 March 1904; (vi) autograph letter signed by Bernacchi to his brother Dick, opening: "Just at present I am feeling about as cheerful as the Catacombs. There is still about 6 Miles of solid winter ice between us & the open sea & as it is now so late in the year (16th Feb.) it is doubtful whether we shall get out this year. The 'Morning' will have to leave us in a few das as the temperature has already fallen well below zero...", the letter providing a different perspective than that contained in letters to his parents ("...I am tired of being a kind of Polar Ulysses &, on my return, must find a Penelope & settle down..."), on Discovery headed paper (plus blank headed sheet), 6 pages, 8vo, Winter Quarters, McMurdo Sound, [16] February 1903; (vii) autograph letter signed by Markham to Bernacchi, the signed envelope addressed to "Lewis C. Bernacchi Esq F.R.G.S./ Antarctic ship 'Discovery'/ c/o Captain Colbeck R.N.R., F.R.G.S./ Antarctic S.Y. 'Morning',/ Hobart/ Tasmania", comprising an encomium on his work ("...You will be the only person who ever passed three winters in the Antarctic Regions, and there are certainly very few who have done such diligent painstaking work for science in the face of such tremendous difficulties... The specimens sent home by the 'Morning' I sent to the Hydrographer provisionally. But it will be Captain Scott to decide what is best to be done with the whole of your invaluable collection of magnetic observations... Your diligence, in the midst of so many hardships and difficulties deserves the highest commendation. Your constancy to the magnetic work deprived you to some extent of the interest you would have derived from sledge travelling; yet you had a trip with Armitage over the ice barrier in Feb 1902, and an 8 day journey to Brown and Beach Islands from 24 Sept to 2 Oct... I have read your capital article in the 'South Polar Times' on the magnetic instruments..."), September 1903; (viii) Christmas card signed by Scott, Shackleton, Wilson, Bernacchi, Armitage, Royd and other members of the Discovery Expedition [before 1904]; (ix) autograph letter signed by William Colbeck to "Dear old Bunny", on SY Morning headed paper, complaining of "the infernal blundering of someone at Whitehall" that has delayed the disembarkation of the Morning, Devonport, 16 October 1904; (x) two autograph letters signed by Reginald Koettlitz, physician on the expedition, to Bernacchi ("...I am quite of the same mind as you with regard to disgust as to the way we of the scientific staff have been treated, as well as the unfairness of the contrast between Captn Scott's treatment and ours..."), 18 October 1904 and 10 August 1905; (xi) original receipted invoice submitted to Bernacchi for "a solid silver finely Modelled Statuette of a Man with Sledge in Antarctic Costume Complete on Oak Pedestal from the Ship Discovery with Life Buoys on either side & inscription plate engraved with inscription/ £30", on headed paper of the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company Ltd of 112 Regent Street, receipt on penny duty stamp, 7 November 1904; (xii) two autograph letters by Markham to Bernacchi, written immediately after the expedition, advising him not to break the embargo agreed with Scott's publishers and expressing gratitude for the commemorative statuette ("...I feel I did not at all adequately express what I felt when Scott made that present to me at the Albert Hall in the names of the offices and men. I value such a gift more highly than any honour that could be bestowed on me by the highest in the land, and I was most deeply touched..."), 19 November and 3 December 1904; (xiii) autograph letter signed by Reginald W. Skelton, Chief Engineer on the expedition, to Bernacchi ("...your flag should be returned here... I don't quite see how I can let you have the negatives, – because they my be wanted at any minute, & I have no permission from the Skipper..."), on National Antarctic Expedition headed paper, 21 December 1904; (xiv) autograph letter signed by Charles [Royds], to Bernacchi, raising subscriptions for a wedding present to Skelton and one to Scott "costing £6-3-0 & with a suitable inscription", 25 December 1904; (xv) three autograph letters by Markham to Bernacchi, about delivery of the statuette, a lecture to be given by Bernacchi on the expedition and his pay; plus statement of his account while on the expedition, 22 and 24 January and 5 February 1905; (xvi) printed ephemera etc., including the official commemorative illustrated postcard, bearing the Discovery Expedition postmark, posted from the Discovery at the last port of call before sailing for the South Pole, addressed by Bernacchi to his brother in Sydney, postmarked 23 December 1901; printed verses sung at the Savage Club in Scott's honour, 6 July 1901; Colbeck's Christmas card for 1904 showing the Morning; printed verses marking the Southern Cross Expedition's stopover at Hobart, etc., corner of the Scott Christmas card torn, other minor wear and occasional worming, but overall in good condition

Footnotes

  • 'YOU WILL BE THE ONLY PERSON WHO EVER PASSED THREE WINTERS IN THE ANTARCTIC REGIONS': PAPERS OF THE PHYSICIST ON SCOTT'S DISCOVERY EXPEDITION AND THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN TO WORK IN ANTARTICA. Louis Bernacchi (1876-1942) had served on Borchgrevink's pioneering Southern Cross Expedition of 1898-1900 which, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, earned him the distinction of being the first Australian to work and winter in Antarctica. He went on to achieve even greater distinction as physicist on Scott's Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904: 'he was regarded as a tireless and energetic observer and a "cheerful and loyal friend" to all the party. His scientific writings and Scott's published views testify to the value of his work, and he was awarded the Royal Geographical Society and the King's Antarctic medals as well as the French Cross of the Légion d'honneur' (ADB). Although close to Scott, who was best man at his wedding, he was prevented by family commitments from taking up Scott's invitation to join him on his second expedition.

    The present archive is outstanding for the material that relates to Bernacchi's time on the Discovery Expedition, especially the papers concerning his role in equipping the expedition and the long journal-letters describing the last two winters: of especial note, perhaps (coming as it does from an ardent admirer of Scott) being his remark with regard to the southern journey undertaken by Scott, Wilson and Shackleton that, being made without the benefit of dogs, it conforms to "the old Arctic style & a heartbreaking one it is". The silver statuette that features in some of the later letters and for which the original receipt is present is the one presented to Markham by members of the expedition at a private gathering held before the official reception at the Albert Hall on 7 November 1904. It appears in George Henry's portrait of Markham at the RGS and the photograph by Elliot & Fry reproduced in the ODNB, and is now at the National Maritime Museum.

    Provenance: by descent to the vendor.

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