Live Donkey or Dead Lion?

Socks hanging in Robert Scott's Terra Nova hut

(Dana) December 21: we visited Robert F. Scott’s hut from his 1911 Terra Nova expedition and Ernest Shackleton’s hut from his 1908 Nimrod expedition — base camps for the explorers’ forays to the South Pole. Inside, we were as close to history as you can get. These aren’t just artifacts from that era, these are Scott’s and Shackleton’s actual items from their expeditions in their actual locations. This is the Heroic Era of exploration. Only a century ago…just outside the boundary of living memory.

Amazingly, these are two original dwellings of the first human inhabitants of this continent. Because Antarctic history is so recent, we know exactly where the first human dwelled and remarkably, can visit the actual dwellings — definitely not the case for the other 6 continents!

The huts are maintained brilliantly by the Antarctic Heritage Trust based in New Zealand. I almost can’t believe that they let us bumble around in there. I marvel at how the explorers survived: tattered wool clothing, reindeer sleeping bags, seal blubber primus stoves. Boxes and boxes of rations still line the shelves. And with no humidity, mutton still hangs on hooks perfectly preserved. The dog sledges. The long skis. The seaweed insulation. The scientific equipment for their experiments. Ponting’s actual darkroom. The smell of history: sweat, dirt, smoke and blubber. What a privilege to have been here.

In 1908, Shackleton turned back less than 100 miles from his lifetime goal –first to attain the South Pole. He turned back 100 miles short, knowing that he and his men only had enough food to return to this exact hut. He later hoped his wife would prefer “a live donkey to a dead lion.” Just 3 years later, Robert F. Scott was successful in his quest, only to find that Norwegian Roald Amundson had beaten him by 35 days. But more tragically, he never reached the Terra Nova hut. He and his team ran out of food only 10 miles from a cache of supplies.

A full day face-to-face with history. Can’t help but wonder whether I would have chosen to be a live donkey or a dead lion.

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One Response to “Live Donkey or Dead Lion?”

  1. HEY GUYS LOOKS LIKE YOU ALL ARE HAVING SUCH A GREAT TIME TOGETHER AGAIN ANY WAY I JUST WANTED TO SAY OPEN FIELDS IS IN TWO WEEKS AND WE ARE SO CLOSE TO WRAPING IT UP. I HOPE YOU GET THE VIDEO. ANY WAY I JUST WANTED TO SAY THAT I GOT A LEAD IN THE SPRING PLAY SO I WILL GET YOU TO SEE THAT.ENOUGH ABOUT ME!!!! HOW ARE YOU? I MISS YOU ALL AND I HOPE YOU ALL STAY SAFE NOW AND THROUGH THE WHOLE TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    SINCERELY,
    OLIE