Saturday 17 June 2017

Uncle Bill's Dead Bird - and Georgie's

This fine watercolour of a dead Tree Creeper is by Edward 'Uncle Bill' Wilson, who died on Scott's ill-fated second Antarctic expedition. It was found recently in the expedition's hut at Cape Adare, buried under a deal of penguin guano and dust and quantities of papers - but in astonishingly good condition, having been thereby protected from air and light (and, of course, heat.)
 Wilson was the leader of the extraordinary 'Winter Journey', an expedition whose sole aim was to acquire some Emperor Penguin eggs, which scientists were convinced would afford evidence of the evolutionary link between reptiles and birds. This 60-mile journey was undertaken by Wilson, 'Birdie' Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard in total darkness in the depths of the Arctic winter, with temperatures falling to minus 70  Centigrade. And then a blizzard blew up and carried their tent away, leaving them stranded in their sleeping bags for a day and a half under thick snow (by sheer luck, they then found the tent, lodged in rocks half a mile away)... Cherry-Garrard later wrote a book about it all, accurately titled The Worst Journey in the World. The expedition succeeded in collecting three Emperor Penguin eggs, which survived the terrible journey back to base - only to prove that the scientists were wrong all along.
 Wilson's Tree Creeper painting reminded me of a picture in the Tate - this one, by Georgiana MacDonald...

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