British Antarctic Expedition - 1910-1913
George P. ABBOTT (d.1923). Autograph journal signed ('George P. Abbott, British Antarctic Expedition, 1910'), 1 June 1910 - 17 October 1911, a fair copy, describing the voyage of the Terra Nova, the early days of the expedition at Cape Evans and the experiences of the Northern Party at Cape Adare during the winter and the spring sledging, 116½ pages, 4to; containing also 13 drawings on loose sheets (one with part of printed 'Terra Nova' heading) in pen and ink or pencil by Abbott, signed with initials, depicting Beaufort Island and a series of tabular bergs off Cape Adare and elsewhere, and the Terra Nova and Fram in the Bay of Whales, 29 January - 21 April, May, 20 August 1911, approximately 12 x 17cm. - 13 x 21cm. (two badly foxed); three photographs of the Northern Party at Cape Adare, showing Campbell on shore with Priestley, Dickason and Browning in a boat, 'Landing stores at Cape Adare Feby 18th 1911', and the construction of the hut at Cape Adare, approximately 80 x 115mm, backed onto paper, two tipped in; a mark sheet for Abbott's course as a physical instructor, and two dried flowers; original cloth by Evans Hallewell & Co., Ludgate Hill, London (extremities rubbed, spine faded).
[And:] five rock specimens and a test-tube containing sand, with a card inscribed in the autograph of Abbott's son 'Granite with Lichen (ossnia) collected at Evans Coves Antarctica/British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913', in a tin.
Provenance. George P. Abbott; and by descent.
A seaman's view of Scott's Northern Party (see also the Levick architectural lots 188 and 189): the journal covers the outward journey, the refitting in New Zealand, the struggles through the pack ice, the setting up of the main party at Cape Evans (including the dramatic sinking through the pack-ice of one of the motor-sleds) and of the Northern Party at Cape Adare, the winter spent in the hut, and the spring sledging in the area around Cape Adare. Abbott, as the senior seaman in the party, was responsible for many of the manual tasks, and the journal illuminates in particular the range of such practical activities in an improvised existence in the Antarctic: hut-building, butchering and 'flensing' seals, the construction of light 'sledge-boats', apprentice geologising and weather-observations, ski-ing and the different sphere of the sledging trips. The journal exemplifies too the sheer contentment possible in an Antarctic winter, where gramophone concerts, occasional celebrations and rousing sing-songs alternate with a blissful pipe on the heights of Cape Adare with the aurora overhead, and the improvisation of fencing and boxing gear - the latter practised with Priestley in Borchgrevink's old hut, on one occasion to such an extent that the two combatants lost sight of each other altogether in the steam they had generated in the freezing air.
The diary is evidently a fair copy, probably made at Cape Adare: the stationery is the standard type supplied by Evans Hallewell & Co. to the expedition. No other journals by Abbott are known to have survived. His range of skills extended to photography while at Cape Adare, and it is possible that the three photographs which illustrate the diary are his own.
Petty Officer George Abbott emerges from his own and other accounts as a cheerful, practical and adaptable worker - in many ways typical of the spirit of Scott's Last Expedition. During the Northern Party's bitter winter in the ice cave at Inexpressible Island, however, it was perhaps Abbott who suffered the most: a slippery pocket knife, used in the desperate butchering of a seal in the depths of the winter when supplies were running out, deprived him of the use of three fingers in his right hand. The psychological toll was even greater, and he suffered a breakdown after his return to Cape Evans.
The rock specimens which accompany the diary are perhaps an appropriate memento of a terrible period: it was the large smooth granite boulders of Inexpressible Island, as much as the constant gale-force winds which bowled the members of the party over at every step on them, which rendered the place so insupportable. Murray Levick's wry observation was that 'the road to hell might be paved with good intentions, but it seemed probable that Hell itself would be paved something after the style of Inexpressible Island'. (2)