DISCOVERY EXPEDITION 1901 – THOMAS VERE HODGSON Autograph letter signed ("T.V. Hodgson"), the marine biologist on the Discovery, to Miss Symms, 1904: with a pictorial postcard and other ephemera

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Lot 178
DISCOVERY EXPEDITION 1901-1904 – THOMAS VERE HODGSON
Autograph letter signed ("T.V. Hodgson"), the marine biologist on board the Discovery, to Miss Symms, written after the release of the ship from the ice in 1904, postmarked Portsmouth, [month indistinct but likely September], [19]04; with a pictorial postcard showing the Discovery

Sold for £ 1,275 (US$ 1,528) inc. premium
DISCOVERY EXPEDITION 1901-1904 – THOMAS VERE HODGSON
Autograph letter signed ("T.V. Hodgson"), the marine biologist on the Discovery, to Miss Symms, the first part written on the voyage back to New Zealand after the release of the ship from the ice a few weeks earlier, jokingly asking "...Does your Mother know we are out? We managed it this time...", but pragmatically admitting that "...the years delay has taught us a lot more about the vagaries of ice...", speaking of provisions ("...We have been living entirely on Seals, Penguins & Skuas for nearly two years & find all of them very good, just now, being at sea we are back again on Fanny Adams but we much prefer our former diet..."), the landscape ("...Antarctic regions are nothing like so black as they are painted, nor yet as white... large areas are swept & kept completely bare. Most snow falls in the summer & then locomotion is at its worst..."), extremes of temperature ("...-70 is not unpleasant... infinitely superior to -10 in a breeze..."), his work ("...I have managed to secure a pretty fair collection of submarine beasts... obtained by knocking holes through the ice every day... huge shelters round the holes... protect us from the wind..."), the second instalment written from New Zealand with the ship awaiting a refit ("...We had rather a boisterous voyage up & put into the Auckland islands to clean up for civilisation..."), 3pp., on 'Discovery Antarctic Expedition 1901' headed notepaper, 8vo (203 x 125mm.), [no place], March 1904; with a picture postcard published by the New Zealand Canterbury Times depicting 'The spot where the Discovery was frozen in for two years, taken a few minutes after the release of the ship', sent to Miss Symms and inscribed ("Many thanks for your letter – will write later. Aroha na to tino hoa. T.V.H"), 85 x 138mm.), postmarked Portsmouth, [month indistinct but likely September], [19]04 (2)

Footnotes

  • 'DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW WE ARE OUT? WE MANAGED IT THIS TIME': THE MARINE BIOLOGIST ABOARD DISCOVERY SPEAKS OF HIS EXPERIENCES AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM THE ICE

    Thomas Vere 'Muggins' Hodgson (1864-1926), his relief evident, writes to a friend in March 1904 shortly after the Discovery was finally released on 16 February after two years trapped in the ice of McMurdo Sound. Hodgson took the post of marine biologist aboard the Discovery after Scott's first choice, William Speirs Bruce, decided to join the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition. He had already had Antarctic experience, having been a member of Carsten Brochgrevink's Southern Cross Expedition of 1898-1901 and, at 37, was the oldest member of the crew, with Sir Clements Markham describing him as having a '...polished bald head, sometimes needing a skull cap, but otherwise apparently strong and healthy...' (Sue Blackhall, Scott of the Antarctic: the Legend 100 Years On, 2012). He developed the sampling methods described here and achieved pioneering work aboard the Discovery, being the first to describe the abundant and diverse communities on the Antarctic's deep sea floor in his 1907 report On Collecting in Antarctic Seas, thus laying the foundations for the scientific achievements of the Terra Nova and subsequent expeditions. Cape Hodgson in the Ross Archipelago is named in his honour.

    It would appear that Miss Symms, the recipient of his letter and postcard, after her examination success at Cambridge, took a position at St. Elphin's School, Warrington, a boarding school for daughters of the clergy (closed in 2005), and Hodgson's postcard was redirected to the school's new home in Darley Dale near Matlock where it moved to in 1904. A letter, envelope and press cuttings included in the lot indicate that the letter and postcard were purchased by the present owner's father from M. M. Leakey of Oxford in 1946.
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