This past spring, fifty-one Dartmouth students in Ross Virginia’s Spring 2016 “Pole to Pole” class shared their research to produce an exhibit at Rauner Special Collections Library exploring the British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and the Antarctica of his time. The exhibit, a learning collaboration with our staff, is installed in the Class of 1965 Galleries exhibit space here in Webster Hall from June 28th until September 2nd. Because of the quantity of excellent materials and insights that the students provided, it wasn't possible to include them all in the physical exhibit. Instead, over the next three Fridays, we will be posting the exhibits that weren't. We'll include images and ideas that were submitted by the students but that ultimately didn't make the cut for one reason or another.
The 1901-04 British National Arctic Expedition, later known as the Discovery expedition because of the name of the research vessel, was the first major Antarctic expedition in which Shackleton participated. One approach taken by the students was to focus on the printed materials related to the voyage and the perspective they provided about the expedition. For example, Shackleton was in charge of entertainment and morale aboard ship, and was the editor of a regularly issued newspaper that was printed and distributed while the crew were in winter quarters. The newspaper contained an Events of the Month page as well as humorous and original works of prose and poetry, such as the "Observations" poem, which mocked the lofty expedition objectives handed down from the Royal Geographic Society.
However, the paper also related the details of various exploratory journeys and scientific endeavors that were undertaken while on the ice, such as the harrowing southern sledge journey that ultimately resulted in Shackleton's departure from the expedition due to poor health. Scott's decision to pursue the scientific and exploratory goals of the mission often came at the expense of his crew's health, and Shackleton's decision on a later expedition to prioritize the lives of his men over the goals of the expedition was doubtless influenced by his experience under Scott's command.
Other publications, both before and after the actual expedition, describe the preparatory work that was done for the journey. To this end, the efforts and support of the Royal Geographic Society, led by Sir Clement Markham, were of special notice. Markham spearheaded the creation of The Antarctic Manual in 1901, meant to prepare the officers and crew of the Discovery for what lay ahead. The RGS did more than ready the explorers before the trip; it also contributed funds to rescue them once the Discovery became trapped in the ice. A later publication, Albert Armitage's Two Years in the Antarctic, describes the process by which food rations were decided upon by Dr. Reginal Koettlitz, the expedition's primary physician. The list provides for three years with the intention of "procuring as great a variety of foods as possible."
All of these texts provide a valuable perspective on the Discovery expedition; although we were not able to include them in the final physical exhibit, they expose a further, valuable layer of complexity to the events and circumstances surrounding the voyage.
Material selection and exhibit conceptualization by Amelia Ali '19, Lauren D'Amico '19, Madison DeRose '18, Charlotte Gross '16, Evan Read '16, Juliana Wheaton '19, and Maya Wilcher '16.
To see The South Polar Times, ask for Stefansson G850 1901.D7 v.1-2.
For The Antarctic Manual, see Stefansson G680 .R8.
For Armitage's Two Years in the Antarctic, look at Stefansson G850 1901 .D62.
To learn more about the physical exhibit, including its contents and accompanying labels, visit the exhibits page.