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'Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.' So Apsley Cherry-Garrard recalled his experience on Scott's Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica. When he first returned, Cherry-Garrard was asked to write its official history, but it soon became clear that his often uncomfortably honest account was not going to be suitable. While he always retains an English measure of reserve and is often very witty, Cherry-Garrard has no false heroism, no desire to make light of horror. His account of the appalling conditions when he journeyed to Cape Crozier with Birdie Bowers and Edward Wilson (the ‘worst journey’ of the title) to collect Emperor penguin eggs is unsurpassed. He evokes the bitter wind and cold; the oppressive darkness; the hunger and sleep deprivation. The month-long journey nearly cost the lives of all three men – that his two companions later perished with Scott at the South Pole haunted Cherry-Garrard for the rest of his life.
Gaining access to an exceptional number of letters, diaries and records, Cherry-Garrard incorporates many different perspectives on the Terra Nova expedition. This gives the book what introducer Francis Spufford, author of I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination, calls 'the quality of appearing to record something that is happening in front of us'. A poignant and vivid example is Chief Stoker Lashly's sparse diary of the nearly fatal adventures of the Second Return Party: ‘Mr Evans …wished us to leave him, but this we could not think of. We shall stand by him to the end one way or other'. For this edition we have included the meteorological log of the Winter Journey kept by Bowers, a detailed index and three specially redrawn maps. The dramatic binding reproduces one of Wilson's watercolours and the book is illustrated with photographs and artwork by expedition members, as well as recent photographs of Scott's abandoned hut. Printed endpapers show a 1913 newspaper illustration of the Polar Journey.