June 22, 2011

Thursday, 22 June 1911


Midwinter's Day at Cape Evans, photographed by Ponting, 22 June, 1911. Seated from left, Debenham, Oates, Meares, Bowers, Cherry-Garrard, Scott at the head, Wilson, Simpson, Nelson?, Lt. Evans, Day?, and Taylor. Standing at left, Wright and Atkinson; at left, Gran. [1]

To mark Midwinter's Day, Scott wrote, "I screwed myself up to a little speech which drew attention to the nature of the celebration as a half-way mark not only in our winter but in the plans of the Expedition as originally published. (I fear there are some who don't realise how rapidly time passes and who have barely begun work which by this time ought to be in full swing.)

"We had come through a summer season and half a winter, and had before us half a winter and a second summer. We ought to know how we stood in every respect; we did know how we stood in regard to stores and transport, and I especially thanked the officer in charge of stores and the custodians of the animals. I said that as regards the future, chance must play a part, but that experience showed me that it would have been impossible to have chosen people more fitted to support me in the enterprise to the South than those who were to start in that direction in the spring. I thanked them all for having put their shoulders to the wheel and given me this confidence.

"We drank to the Success of the Expedition."

Everyone gave a short speech in turn, and then the table was upended and chairs set out for a show of Ponting's slides of the expedition.

"After this show the table was restored for snapdragon, and a brew of milk punch was prepared in which we drank the health of Campbell's party and of our good friends in the Terra Nova. Then the table was again removed and a set of lancers formed.

"By this time the effect of stimulating liquid refreshment on men so long accustomed to a simple life became apparent. Our biologist had retired to bed, the silent Soldier bubbled with humour and insisted on dancing with Anton. Evans, P.O., was imparting confidences in heavy whispers. Pat Keohane had grown intensely Irish and desirous of political argument, whilst Clissold sat with a constant expansive smile and punctuated the babble of conversation with an occasional 'Whoop' of delight or disjointed witticism. Other bright-eyed individuals merely reached the capacity to enjoy that which under ordinary circumstances might have passed without evoking a smile." [2]

Bowers' midwinter tree. [3]

"After dinner we had to make speeches," Cherry remembered, "but instead of making a speech Bowers brought in a wonderful Christmas tree, made of split bamboos and a ski stick, with feathers tied to the end of each branch; candles, sweets, preserved fruits, and the most absurd toys of which Bill was the owner. Titus [Oates] got three things which pleased him immensely, a sponge, a whistle, and a pop-gun which went off when he pressed in the butt. For the rest of the evening he went round asking whether you were sweating. 'No.' 'Yes, you are,' he said, and wiped your face with the sponge. 'If you want to please me very much you will fall down when I shoot you,' he said to me, and then he went round shooting everybody. At intervals he blew the whistle." [4]

Midwinter's Day at Cape Adare, photographed by Levick. [5]

At Cape Adare, Campbell's usually-strict rationing of alcohol was waived for the occasion, and champagne, brandy, and crême de menthe accompanied the celebratory dinner, with cigars and crystallized fruit, followed by songs, paper hats, and parcels from home.


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 June, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[4] Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, ch.7.
[5] Scott Polar Research Institute.

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