FRANK DEBENHAM (1883-1959)
Autograph journal signed, 'Diary of Western Journey Jan - Feb - March 1911 and of stay at Hut Pt with Depôt party Mar 14th - April 13th 1911 Original copy F. Debenham In patent Antarctic binding this style @ 10,000 cigarettes', in fact 24 January - 9 April 1911, in pencil, including approximately 23 sketched maps and geological plans, 12 views of landscapes, interiors and sketches of objects, and a caricature of '[P.O.] Evans reading at night in Discovery Hut Mar 3rd 11', approximately 150 leaves, 8vo (rectos only; partially numbered 1-100), a few blanks and possibly a lacuna between ff.81 and 82 (occasional soiling and a few tears but in good condition), gathered with pink lace (last few leaves detached).
The journal begins with Debenham's early sledging experiences, including a visit to the Discovery hut, and the departure of the Terra Nova. The main body of the description is of the Western Geological Party, consisting of Debenham, Thomas Griffith Taylor, Charles Wright and P.O. Edgar Evans: Debenham records the universal experiences of sledging -- the extremes of weather, the physical discomforts and the joys of meals, a smoke, the scenery, a good day's sledging; the journal is particularly attentive to landscape, and the frequent pencil sketches of physical features are part of an ongoing speculation about Antarctic geology. Debenham's is a markedly humorous account, alive to the national characteristics of a party containing a Welshman, a Canadian, an Anglo-Australian and an Australian (Debenham himself). In particularl, Debenham responds with delight to the comedic character of Taff Evans, 'an ideal sledging companion': on a particularly bad day 'Evans' worst curse was called for "May the curse of the 7 blind beggars of Egypt rest upon you"'; in broken territory 'Evans has the most frequent falls and after one he peers out of his hole at me to see if I'm laughing & that always breaks me up'. The second half of the journal describes the long wait at Hut Point of a rather crowded group of sixteen expedition members for the sea ice to form so that they could return to Cape Evans. The hut is cramped but congenial -- 'Everything very greasy but moderately comfortable' -- and although Scott is markedly tetchy -- 'Gran very bad attack of cramp, Owner [i.e. Scott] wild'; 'these fierce winds puzzle and provoke the Owner' - the time is spent happily enough in experiments with blubber lamps (Debenham sketches the various characteristic solutions) and cuisine ('the criticism [is] candid') and discussions of various sorts, including 're Amundsen's chances, general opinion that he has a very good one especially as our depot journey has not been very successful as regards transport'.
Debenham's Antarctic diaries were published in 1992 as The Quiet Land, ed. June Debenham Back: the section corresponding to the present journal is described as 'almost a copy ... but with occasional additions and explanations'. In that version he summarises the purpose of the Western Geological Party as being 'to make a more detailed scientific examination of the Royal Society Range region than had hitherto been attempted. No geological party had been along the coast up to the Koettlitz Glacier, nor down Dry Valley'. Frank Debenham was one of three geologists on the Terra Nova expedition; he conceived the Scott Polar Research Institute, and from 1926 was its first director.