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Scott's Last Expedition

Wednesday, May 31st 1911

The sky was overcast this morning and the temperature up to -13ยบ. Went out after lunch to ‘Land’s End.’ The surface of snow was sticky for ski, except where drifts were deep. There was an oppressive feel in the air and I got very hot, coming in with head and hands bare.

At 5, from dead calm the wind suddenly sprang up from the south, force 40 miles per hour, and since that it has been blowing a blizzard; wind very gusty, from 20 to 60 miles. I have never known a storm come on so suddenly, and it shows what possibility there is of individuals becoming lost even if they only go a short way from the hut.

To-night Wilson has given us a very interesting lecture on sketching. He started by explaining his methods of rough sketch and written colour record, and explained its suitability to this climate as opposed to coloured chalks, &c. – a very practical method for cold fingers and one that becomes more accurate with practice in observation. His theme then became the extreme importance of accuracy, his mode of expression and explanation frankly Ruskinesque. Don’t put in meaningless lines – every line should be from observation. So with contrast of light and shade – fine shading, subtle distinction, everything – impossible without care, patience, and trained attention.

He raised a smile by generalising failures in sketches of others of our party which had been brought to him for criticism. He pointed out how much had been put in from preconceived notion. ‘He will draw a berg faithfully as it is now and he studies it, but he leaves sea and sky to be put in afterwards, as he thinks they must be like sea and sky everywhere else, and he is content to try and remember how these should be done.’ Nature’s harmonies cannot be guessed at.

He quoted much from Ruskin, leading on a little deeper to ‘Composition,’ paying a hearty tribute to Ponting.

The lecture was delivered in the author’s usual modest strain, but unconsciously it was expressive of himself and his whole-hearted thoroughness. He stands very high in the scale of human beings – how high I scarcely knew till the experience of the past few months.

There is no member of our party so universally esteemed; only to-night I realise how patiently and consistently he has given time and attention to help the efforts of the other sketchers, and so it is all through; he has had a hand in almost every lecture given, and has been consulted in almost every effort which has been made towards the solution of the practical or theoretical problems of our polar world.

The achievement of a great result by patient work is the best possible object lesson for struggling humanity, for the results of genius, however admirable, can rarely be instructive. The chief of the Scientific Staff sets an example which is more potent than any other factor in maintaining that bond of good fellowship which is the marked and beneficent characteristic of our community.

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