March 18, 2010

Friday, 18 March 1910


Earlier in the year Scott had hired Cecil Meares as dog expert. Meares, the son of a major in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, was a wanderer and adventurer, an expert on eastern Siberia and Manchuria who spoke Russian, Chinese, and Hindustani, had made a number of journeys by dog including one of some two thousand miles across Siberia to Cape Chelyuskin on the Arctic Ocean, and had been recommended to Scott by someone at the Admiralty.

From Nikolayevsk in Siberia, Meares wrote, "I have been kept very busy collecting dogs, trying teams & picking out one or two dogs and making up a team & trying it on a run of 100 miles & throwing out the dogs which do not come up to the mark.... I expect to be back in Vladivostock [sic] by the middle of June where I will collect the ponies.... It is a very long contract indeed to choose all these animals & carry them down to Australia single handed." [1]

Meares eventually collected thirty-four dogs there in Nikolayevsk, and persuaded a Russian dog-driver, Dimtri Gerov, to join the expedition as his assistant; they then travelled to Vladivostok, where they selected the ponies. Per Scott's instruction, Meares purchased only white ponies, as on the Nimrod expedition Shackleton had noted that the dark ponies succumbed first. As white ponies were only a small percentage of those available, Meares, who did not claim to be an expert on horses, was severely limited in choice. Anton Omelchenko, a Russian jockey Meares hired, reported afterwards that the horse dealer left "with a plenty big smile". [2]


[1] Cecil Meares, letter to his father, 18 March, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.387-388.
[2] Anton Omelchenko, in Frank Debenham, diary, 18 June, 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.325.

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