George Murray Levick

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George Murray Levick aboard Terra Nova in 1910.

George Murray Levick (1876–1956) was a British Antarctic explorer, and founder of the British Exploring Society (formerly British Schools Exploring Society).

Early life[edit]

Levick was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, the son of George Levick and Jeannie Sowerby. After a short medical career, he joined the Royal Navy in 1910.

Terra Nova Expedition[edit]

Adélie Penguins on the ice foot at Cape Adare. Photo by George Murray Levick, 1911 or 1912.

He was quickly given leave of absence to accompany Robert Scott on his ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition. Part of the Northern Party, Levick spent the austral summer of 1911–1912 at Cape Adare in the midst of an Adélie Penguin rookery. As of June 2012, this has been the only study of the Cape Adare rookery (the largest Adélie Penguin colony in the world) ever performed and he has been the only one to spend an entire breeding cycle there.[1] His observations of the courting, mating, and chick-rearing behaviours of these birds are recorded in his book Antarctic Penguins.[2] His notes about the penguins' sexual habits, which included sexual coercion, sex among males and sex with dead females, were deemed too indecent for publication at the time; they were rediscovered and published in the journal Polar Record in 2012.[3] The discovery significantly illuminates the behaviour of a species that is an indicator of climate change.[3]

Prevented by pack ice from embarking on the Terra Nova in February 1912, Levick and the other five members of the party (Victor Campbell, Raymond Priestley, George Abbott, Harry Dickason, and Frank Browning) were forced to overwinter on Inexpressible Island in a cramped ice cave. Apsley Cherry-Garrard described the difficulties endured by the party in the winter of 1912:[4]

They ate blubber, cooked with blubber, had blubber lamps. Their clothes and gear were soaked with blubber, and the soot blackened them, their sleeping-bags, cookers, walls and roof, choked their throats and inflamed their eyes. Blubbery clothes are cold, and theirs were soon so torn as to afford little protection against the wind, and so stiff with blubber that they would stand up by themselves, in spite of frequent scrapings with knives and rubbings with penguin skins, and always there were underfoot the great granite boulders which made walking difficult even in daylight and calm weather. As Levick said, "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."

On his return, Levick served in the Grand Fleet and at Gallipoli in World War I, 1914–1918.

After his retirement from the Royal Navy he pioneered the training of blind people in physiotherapy against much opposition. In 1932, he founded the Public Schools Exploring Society, which took groups of schoolboys to Scandinavia and Canada, of which he remained President until his death in June 1956.

Second World War[edit]

In 1940, he returned to the Royal Navy, at the age of 64, to take up a position, as a specialist in guerilla warfare, at the Commando Special Training Centre at Lochailort, on the west coast of Scotland. He taught fitness, diet and survival techniques, many of which were published in his 1944 training manual Hardening of Commando Troops for Warfare.


At the time of his death, Major D. Glyn Owen, Chairman of the British Exploring Society wrote:[5]

A truly great Englishman has passed from our midst, but the memory of his nobleness of character and our pride in his achievements cannot pass from us. Having been on Scott's last Antarctic Expedition, Murray Levick was later to resolve that exploring facilities for youth should be created under as rigorous conditions as could be made available. With his usual untiring energy and purposefulness he turned this concept into reality when he founded the Public Schools Exploring Society in 1932, later to become the British Schools Exploring Society, drawing schoolboys of between 16 and 18½ years to partake in annual expeditions abroad into wild and trackless country.


  1. ^ "Shock at sexually ‘depraved’ penguins led to 100-year censorship". The Week. 10 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Levick, G. Murray (1914). Antarctic Penguins: a study of their social habits. New York: McBride Nast and Company. 
  3. ^ a b McKie, Robin (9 June 2012). "'Sexual depravity' of penguins that Antarctic scientist dared not reveal". 
  4. ^ Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (1922). The Worst Journey in the World. London: Constable and Company. 
  5. ^ British Schools Exploring Society Annual Report, 1956.