Credit: Alasdair Turner

By Sue Bassett

During the decade of work by the Trust’s on-ice conservation teams, many personal insights have been gained into the lives of the early expeditioners. Some of the paper items from Captain RF Scott’s hut at Cape Evans provide good examples.

In addition to a range of adventure stories and military novels, there are a surprisingly large number of paperback romances … and, judging by the degree of wear and sooty fingerprints, they were rather well read!

The stories seem to reflect the sensibilities of the era and are of variable quality – although almost all seem to feature prolonged bouts of blushing between the chief protagonists. One of the best (or worst) involves a hero called Dr Love who finds he has feelings for an impoverished actress and resolves to free her from the profession. The end pages are unfortunately missing, so we can only hope that it ends as a proper romance should.

Many of the magazines, too, combine stories of popular interest with the frivolous and banal (not to mention articles on fashion for the ladies). To Scott’s men, who often had to survive gruelling conditions, such throwaway reading matter was likely valued as a diversion. Along the same lines are two scrapbook-style montages tacked to the wall in the officers’ sleeping area. One comprises a wonderful selection of images—all cut from magazines—mainly of women with big hats, parasols and big hair, all surrounding a large central image of a very well-fed cat. The other, a firm favourite of ours, is a collection of cut-out pictures of dogs pasted to the back of a plywood crate lid … presumably by someone very fond of man’s best friend and perhaps also missing his pooch back home.


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