British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13
Edward W. NELSON. A menu in the shape of an emperor penguin for the Midwinter's Day dinner, Cape Evans, 22 June 1912, pen and bodycolour on card, approximately 50 x 21cm, two cardboard supports on verso, signed on verso by all those present, namely Atkinson (with initials), Debenham (twice), Nelson (twice), Dmitri (in Cyrillic characters, also in Roman script as 'D Geroff Rossian [sic]'), Wright, Crean, Lashly, Gran, Keohane, Cherry-Garrard, Williamson, Hooper, Archer (slight soiling and smudging, more extensive on verso). Provenance. Surgeon E.L. Atkinson, RN; by descent; private collection.
The Midwinter's Day dinner was a rare bright spot during the dark days of the expedition's last winter, with the fate of both the Polar Party and the Northern Party still uncertain: 'On the 19th preparations were begun for our celebrations of Midwinter Day on June 22. Debenham was busy making the slides for a lantern lecture. Gran and Williamson were busy behind a blanket making a Christmas tree... On June 22, Midwinter Day, Cherry-Garrard, our editor, presented us with another number of the South Polar Times, and the remainder of the afternoon was spent as a holiday... The whole hut was decorated with the Christmas tree, sledging flags, and some red bunting. A large white ensign was hung over all as a canopy. Nelson presented each member with a very pretty menu card. These were cut out of cardboard and painted to represent Adélie penguins' (E. L. Atkinson, 'The Last Year at Cape Evans' in Scott's Last Expedition, pp.325-6). The dishes included Croute Erebus, Noisettes d'Agneau Darwinian and Charlotte Russe Glacé à la Beardmore. The present menu, visible in the middle of the table in a photograph of the occasion (see illustration), was evidently the master copy, and was kept by Atkinson (the senior officer).