23 January, 1997
1/23/97 9:34 PM Today was a day of heroes. At 11:30 AM the Kiwis took us out to Cape Evans by helicopter. Cape Evans is where Scott built the Terra Nova Hut. This was the home of Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans before they marched to their deaths. They, along with Scott's other men lived there for one summer and a winter. Scott and the others were dead by the second summers end. Since they failed to be first at the Pole, they died thinking of themselves as failures. Tragic. It was also from this hut that Bill Wilson, Bertie Bowers, and Cherry-Garrard made the Worst Journey in the World (the title of Cherry-Garrard's book). This journey ranks among the most harrowing tales of exploration ever endured. All of these men, all heroes, lived, worked and, for some, died in Antarctic exploration. It is hard to express the feelings that came over me as I stood inside there hut. One thing I know for certain, if I had lived at that time I could not have stood among them. They were a breed that many men like myself wish we could equal, but know that such heroism exists in only a few, all the rest, including myself, could only stand with Walter Mitty. I know I've said it before in these journals, but it needs to be said again and again---it humbles me to continue the research these men started; to actually stand in their shadow. What an honor. Our tour of the Scott Hut was conducted by Kiwi meteorologist and author, David Harrowfield. David, known as the Duke, is one of those men you like instantly. An improbable character, Dickensian to the boot, a delight to chat with. David had spent the last twenty-two years working in Antarctica and writing about it. He could have fit in beautifully with Scott's men. After looking around Evans we sat down on a bench to have lunch with the Kiwi's that were working to restore the Hut. The conversation was delightful. Around two the Kiwi helicopter returned to take us to Royds. Shackleton! Like I said, this was a day for heroes. Shackleton made an amazing attempt to reach the Pole during the summer of '07-'08. He came within a little more than 90 miles of his goal! I recall he said words to the effect, "My wife would prefer a live goat to a dead hero." So would mine. Shackleton's greatest claim to fame came in the absolute failure of the Endurance expedition. After his ship, the Endurance, became stuck in the ice and was smashed to pieces. Shackelton and his men somehow made it to safety WITHOUT THE LOSS OF A SINGLE LIFE. The journey ended with an open boat crossing by Shackleton and a few of his men to a far off whaling station. After crossing snow covered mountains, Shackleton found help. The book entitled Endurance is a classic among adventure tales. Also with Shackleton was Mawson. Hmm, if you don't know the story about Mawson, you'll have to look it up---I'm not going to tell you. Find a copy of Mawson's Will and you are in for one of the most exciting reads of your life. There, you have your reading assignment, so stop reading this stupid journal and go to the good stuff. Wait a minute. Did I mention the penguins and Stephani and Sophie. More of my heroes (not the penguins, but Stephani and Sophie). Stephanie Zador of Alaska and Sophie Webb of California have been living in a tent at Royds for some time. They are studying the penguins there. How do you study penguins? Lot's of ways. One way is to catch them and tag them with a bar code. What kind of information do you think they might get. Another way is to study their diets. Penguins feed in the ocean, so you can't see what they are eating. How do you study their diets? In the old days they would kill them and cut them open. They don't do that any more. So how do you go about it? Ask Stephani and Sophie. Here's how it's done. First, catch a penguin. Second, force feed it lots of water. Third, turn it upside do sorry to interrupt but the machine is needed for some quick takes. 1/24/97 6:50 PM sorry I did not finish that last journal entry at such a critical spot but we did not finish with the photos until 2:00 AM this morning. Right now I am doing one of the coolest things I have ever done. I am completing my journal entry on heroes in Scott's Discovery Hut. The Hut is usually only open for small group tours but researchers can get a key to go through the building alone. I'm a researcher, I've got a key, and I am alone in the Hut. ...let's see we were talking about two of my heroes, Stephanie and Sophie , and a penguin had been turned upside down. This causes the penguin to vomit up whatever it had been eating. as you may have guessed this is not an entirely pleasurable experience to the researcher of the penguin. The penguin loses a meal and the researcher gets a bag full of half digested sea food and a splashy bonus on the hands face, and any other exposed area. This may sound cruel, but it does not injure the penguin and a lot is learned from it. Such research can tell us what food the penguin eats, what food is available to the penguin, are certain foods being depleted by over fishing and so on. Before concluding the "day of heroes"entry I want to describe the interior of the "Discovery " Hut, where I'm sitting now. This hut is not as well furnished as the others ad has been vandalized by visitors over the years. For many years anyone could enter it and some took away "souvenirs" (that's a polite way of saying, "The stupid and the inconsiderate and the immoral stole from the Hut ) . I'm sitting on a raised platform that is supported by several wooden boxes. Directly in front of me is a copper cooking pot. From where I'm sitting I can see a makeshift stove, a large box of biscuits, a can of split peas, a bottle or cognac, and every explorers favorite---pemmican. On the e other side of the room is a pile of 100 year old seal meat (mmm good). There is some food left in one of the pots on the stove, but I cannot tell what it is. I don't think tasting it would give any clues either. This hut has tremendous historical value because it was used y Scott on both of his expeditions and by Shackelton on two of his expeditions. This is certainly another wonderful experience for me!Return to Bill Philips' Page
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