Apsley Cherry-Garrard

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Apsley Cherry-Garrard during the Terra Nova Expedition.
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Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (2 January 1886 – 18 May 1959) was an English explorer of Antarctica. He was a survivor of the Terra Nova Expedition and is acclaimed for his historical account of this expedition, The Worst Journey in the World. Born in Lansdowne Road,[A] Bedford, as Apsley George Benet Cherry, the son and eldest child of Major General Apsley Cherry (later Cherry-Garrard) of Denford Park in Berkshire (later of Lamer Park in Hertfordshire where he became High Sheriff) and his wife, Evelyn Edith (née Sharpin), daughter of Henry Wilson Sharpin of Bedford.[1] He was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church, Oxford where he read Classics and Modern History. While at Oxford he rowed in the 1908 Christ Church crew which won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.

His surname was changed from Cherry to Cherry-Garrard by the terms of his great-aunt's will, through which his father inherited the enormous Lamer Park estate near Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire. Apsley inherited the estate on his father's death in 1907.

Cherry-Garrard had always been enamoured by the stories of his father's achievements in India and China where he had fought with merit for the British Defence Forces, and felt that he must live up to his father's example. In September 1907, Dr Edward Adrian 'Bill' Wilson met with Captain Scott at Reginald Smith's home in Cortachy, to discuss another Antarctic expedition; Smith's young cousin Apsley Cherry-Garrard happened to visit and decided to volunteer.[2]

Antarctica[edit]

Plaque at the birthplace of Cherry-Garrard in Bedford

At the age of 24, 'Cherry' was one of the youngest members[3] of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition (1910–13). This was Scott's second and last expedition to Antarctica. Cherry's application to join the expedition was initially rejected as Scott was looking for scientists, but he made a second application along with a promise of £1,000 (2009 approximation £50,000) towards the cost of the expedition. Rejected a second time, he made the donation regardless. Struck by this gesture, and at the same time persuaded by Dr Edward 'Bill' Wilson, Scott agreed to take Cherry as assistant biologist.[4]

Winter journey[edit]

With Wilson and Lieutenant Henry 'Birdie' Bowers, Cherry made a trip to Cape Crozier in July 1911 during the austral winter in order to secure an unhatched Emperor penguin egg. Cherry suffered from high degree myopia,[5] seeing little without the spectacles that he could not wear while sledging.[6] In almost total darkness, and with temperatures ranging from −40 °F (−40 °C) to −77.5 °F (−60.8 °C), they man-hauled their sledge 60 miles (97 km) from Scott's base at Cape Evans to the far side of Ross Island. Frozen and exhausted, they reached their goal only to be pinned down by a blizzard. Their tent was ripped away and carried off by the wind, leaving the men in their sleeping bags under a thickening drift of snow, singing hymns above the sounds of the storm. When the winds subsided however, by great fortune they found their tent lodged nearby in rocks. Cherry-Garrard suffered such cold that he shattered most of his teeth due to chattering in the frigid temperatures. Having successfully collected three eggs and desperately exhausted they began their return journey. Only progressing a mile and a half some days, they eventually arrived back at Cape Evans on 1 August 1911. Cherry later referred to this as the 'worst journey in the world' at the suggestion of his neighbour George Bernard Shaw, and gave this title to his book recounting the fate of the 1910–13 expedition.

Polar trek and recovery operation[edit]

Cherry was afterwards responsible for helping lay depots of fuel and food on the intended route of the party which would attempt to reach the South Pole, and accompanied the team that would make the attempt on the South Pole to the top of the Beardmore Glacier. Cherry was in the first group of those four who returned on 22 December 1911. On his return, Cherry took over navigation on a number of occasions using the sight of his partner until his partner became snow-blind. Without a sighted companion, Cherry managed to overcome his extreme myopia by navigating using the faint gleam of the sun.[7] On 26 February 1912, Cherry and dog handler Dimitri Gerov made one last supply run out to the 'One Ton Depot'. They waited there seven days hoping to meet the South Pole team on their return journey, although the mission was to resupply the dump and not to provide an escort for the polar party 'home' who weren't expected to reach this point for another week or two. Cherry finally turned back on 10 March 1912 in order to preserve his dog team which were short of food, and out of concern for the health of Gerov. Nineteen days later, Scott, Wilson and Bowers died 11 miles (18 km) south of the One Ton Depot in a blizzard.

By April 1912, with the Antarctic winter approaching, it was apparent to Cherry and the remaining expedition members that the South Pole team would not return. Atkinson took command, and Cherry suffering from strain was appointed record keeper and continued zoological work.[8] The scientific work continued through the winter and it was not until October 1912 that a team led by Atkinson and including Cherry was able to head south to ascertain the fate of the South Pole team. On 12 November, the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers were found in their tent, along with their diaries and records, and geological specimens they had hauled back from the mountains of the interior. Cherry was deeply affected, particularly by the death of Wilson and Bowers, with whom he had made the journey to Cape Crozier.

Later life[edit]

Cherry developed clinical depression as well as irritable bowel syndrome shortly after returning from Antarctica. His lifespan preceded the description and diagnosis of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although his psychological condition was never cured, the explorer was able to treat himself to some extent by writing down his experiences, although he spent many years bed-ridden due to his afflictions. He required repeated dental treatment because of the damage done to his teeth by the extreme cold (as related by Sara Wheeler in Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 2001). He many times revisited the question of what possible alternative choices and actions might have saved the South Pole team — most notably in his 1922 book The Worst Journey in the World. The book remains a classic, having been acclaimed as the greatest true adventure story ever written.[9] It was published as Penguin Books' 100th publication.

In 1939, Cherry-Garrard married Angela Turner (1916–2005). He chose not to have children for fear of passing down mental health issues.

Legacy: the winter journey[edit]

The igloo on Cape Crozier was discovered by the Fuchs-Hillary Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1957–58. Only eighteen inches to two feet of the stone walls remained standing. Relics were removed and placed in museums in New Zealand.[10]

The BBC Four drama-documentary The Worst Journey in the World shows the site of the igloo created by Cherry-Garrard and his two companions near the penguin breeding ground revealing the presence of original equipment left by the expedition.

The three intact penguin eggs that Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard brought back from Cape Crozier are now in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London.

Writings[edit]

In 1922, encouraged by his friend and neighbour G. Bernard Shaw, Cherry-Garrard wrote The Worst Journey in the World. Over 80 years later this book is still in print and is often cited as a classic of travel literature. Cherry also published an obituary of the expedition photographer Herbert Ponting[11] and an introduction to Edward Wilson of the Antarctic: Naturalist and Friend, a book by George Seaver on "Bill" Wilson.

Cherry-Garrard also contributed an essay in remembrance of T. E. Lawrence in the first edition of a volume edited by Lawrence's brother A.W. Lawrence T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends. (Subsequent abridged editions omit his article.) Cherry hypothesises in this essay that Lawrence undertook extraordinary acts out of a sense of inferiority and cowardice and a need to prove himself. He suggests, too, that Lawrence's writings—as well as Cherry's own—were therapeutic and helped in dealing with the nervous shock of the events they recount.

In the media[edit]

Cherry-Garrard's life is detailed in Sara Wheeler's biography Cherry.

In the film Scott of the Antarctic, Cherry-Garrard was played by Barry Letts. In the Central TV production The Last Place on Earth, Cherry-Garrard was played by Hugh Grant. In the BBC Four production The Worst Journey in the World, Cherry-Garrard was played by Mark Gatiss.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ A blue plaque in memory of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's birth was unveiled in Lansdowne Road, at the address of his birth, on Wednesday, 17 November 2010.

Citations

  1. ^ Ford 2011.
  2. ^ Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World, Carroll & Graf, 1922, p. lvii
  3. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. lvii.
  4. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. lviii–lix.
  5. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 270.
  6. ^ Smith, p. 166.
  7. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 436.
  8. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1922, p. 453.
  9. ^ National Geographic, 100 Greatest.
  10. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1970, p. 21.
  11. ^ Cherry-Garrard 1935, p. 391.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (1922). The Worst Journey in the World. Carroll & Graf. 
  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (1970) [1922]. The Worst Journey in the World. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-009501-2.  First published in 1922 by Chatto and Windus, London.
  • Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (Apr 1935). "Obituary: Mr. H. G. Ponting". The Geographical Journal 85 (4): 391. 
  • Smith, Michael (2000). An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean, Antarctic Survivor. London: Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 1-903464-09-9. 
  • Wheeler, Sara (2001). Cherry: a Life of Apsey Cherry-Garrard. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-05004-4. 
  • Ford, David Nash (2011). "Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1886–1959)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  • Brandt, Anthony (1996). "Extreme Classics: The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time". NationalGeographic.com. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  • T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends (1937)

External links[edit]