February has been brutal. The average daily temperature around here is running about 14 degrees below normal--and it is not like February has a comfortable "normal." This morning it was in the 20s below zero. So, as solace, let's turn to our polar collections. Cold is relative.
Amongst the many amazing manuscripts in our Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration is Clements Markham's six-page hand written proposal to the Royal Navy to create The Antarctic Manual to serve expeditions bound for the last uncharted continent. Based on the Arctic Manual of 1874, it was to provide practical advice for conducting scientific experimentation in the South. The final product contains frank admissions of its limitations. The introduction to the "Climate" section by Robert Falcon Scott begins, "The meteorology of the Antarctic regions is practically unknown to science...." Scott would, of course, later become all too familiar with the area's climate in his tragic Terra Nova expedition (1910-1913) where he froze to death on his return from the South Pole.
As we shiver and complain of cars that won't start, ice dams on our roofs, and frozen pipes, it is somewhat comforting to read of winters "with a general temperature of -30 C. to -50 C." Humm, it seems almost balmy outside now.
To see Markham's proposal, ask for Stef Mss-274. For the completed manual, ask for Stef G860.R8.