Photographer's notebook from Captain Scott's last Antarctica expedition found
A notebook containing recorded details of plates shot by explorer George Murray Levick during Captain Scott’s final expedition has been found and pieced back together by the Antarctic Heritage Trust of New Zealand. Discovered during summer months in melted snow outside the hut that was Scott's base in 1911 during the British Antarctic Expedition, the notebook is said to contain pencil-written details of 'the dates, subjects and exposure details for the photographs he took during 1911 while at Cape Adare' with some of the notes relating to images known today and archived by the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.
Soaked through and somewhat disintegrated, the pages of the notebook were stuck together and had to be individually repaired using Japanese tissue. As the pages were no longer attached to the spine of the book, conservators were able to easily digitize them on a flatbed scanner before rebinding them into their original form and order.
The British Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Terra Nova Expedition after one of expedition’s ships, aimed to be the first to reach the South Pole. While expedition leader Captain Robert Falcon Scott and a party of four others successfully reached their destination on 17th January 1912, they found they had been beaten by Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian team, which preceded them by 34 days. Scott and his team died on their way back from the Pole, but Levick had been part of 'The Northern Party' that was safely based at Cape Adare at the time, conducting zoological research.
As well as photographing extensively, Levick was one of the expedition’s surgeons and a zoologist. While in Cape Adare he made the first year-round study of the world’s largest Adelie penguin colony and later wrote a book based on his experiences, Antarctic Penguins. His notes on the sexual behavior of the penguins, which included violent assault, homosexuality and necrophilia, were considered too indecent for the times, and didn’t come to light until published in the journal Polar Record in 2012.
When the Terra Nova was prevented by ice from collecting Levick from Evans Coves he was forced to remain there for seven months in an ice cave he excavated with five others, living on rations designed for four weeks, supplemented with seal and penguin meat.
Levick's restored notebook has now been returned to Cape Evans to take its place with over 11,000 other artifacts at Scott’s Hut. For more information on the notebook visit the Antarctic Heritage Trust website.
The Trust has also produced a short video of the conservation process, take a look below.