ALFRED B. CHEETHAM, Royal Naval Volunteer (d.1918)
Autograph diary of Alfred Cheetham, 3rd officer and boatswain on the Nimrod, inscribed inside upper cover 'Scrap Log of the Nimrod B[ritish] A[ntarctic] E[xpedition] commencing January 1st 1908', including entries for 1 January - 8 March 1908 and 1 December 1908 - 17 January 1909, describing the first voyage of the Nimrod from New Zealand to Antarctica, and the second voyage to bring Shackleton and the land party back, written in ink on lined paper, approximately 95 pages, 8vo (pages 2 - 28 numbered), lacking 1st leaf and leaves torn out at end (text begins and ends in mid-sentence, last page torn with loss of words in 12 lines), a few (unrelated) notes scribbled in a different hand, in a notebook, original black boards (spine worn).
The practical and often colourful account of an old Antarctic hand, with many indications of the seamanship needed to get the Nimrod to her destination. Cheetham's diary describes the rough passage from Lyttelton to the ice edge, 'our Nimrod receiving some very bad bruising' and 'the good little ship used to shake herself like a dog'; the arrival at Cape Royds and the serious accident to Mackintosh (the 2nd officer); the choice of site for the hut 'on an old camping ground of Capt. Scott and Doctor Wilson ... It seemed they had left in a hurry as we found several things such as a sleeping bag, tent, cooking utensil, tea and many small things'; hazardous incidents with the ponies ('Here a great struggle begun between man and beast which ended in 4 men actually lifting the horse bodily out of the water ... Chinaman none the worse a bottle of brandy was poured down his throat'); and the landing of stores and coal and other episodes on the ice. The second part of the diary describes the outward voyage under Captain Evans [previously on the Koonya] to bring the Expedition back with Christmas celebrated on board with '2 whisky, 2 port wine and a box of cigars', and the ship's arrival in the straits off McMurdo Sound, and at Cape Royds. The journal also includes numerous observations of the weather, and navigational notes.
On 6 January 1909 the crew received confirmation of Shackleton's departure for the Pole the previous October with Wild, Adams and Marshall, who 'had all gone with the same determination that if any man should take ill on the journey he should be left in a tent with his share of food, to live or die and would have to depend on his own energy'. The diary breaks off just after the rescue of McGillan and Mackintosh from their unfulfilled mission to bring the mail bag and news of the ship's arrival to the winter quarters at Cape Royds. 'They seemed to have had a terrible experience ... all at once the ice parted all round them and killer whales coming up between the floes they at once made towards the land & many times had to jump for their lives and drag the sledge after them'.
Alfred Cheetham, whom Sir Philip Brocklehurst records in his diary (see description of lot 125) as planning to return to Hull and have a coal cart, was called by Shackleton 'the veteran of the Antarctic'. He served on the Morning expedition for the relief of the Discovery in 1902-04 (and refers to Scott several times in the present diary), and also on the Nimrod, the Terra Nova and the Endurance. He died on active service in 1918.